Preparing for the summer Sea Kayak season

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There's an issue with the skill set of many leisure paddlers heading to cold Scottish waters this summer. It's not just that skills go a bit dormant over the winter but, rather, that correct training and performance may not be at the realistic level for serious incidents.

And let's be clear, if you end up in cold water then it's always a serious incident. To clarify; there's lots of competent 3 star paddlers out there who stay well within their comfort zone when out at sea. It's that very attitude towards limiting exposure that tends, for the most part, to keep people safe. However, there's an old adage that says that if it can happen it will happen at some point.

We've witnessed paddlers on our sea kayak rescue weekends, time and again, who thought they were ok until put through some realistic training. Good training provides feedback and goal setting and ultimately a wake up call for many.

If you're a leisure paddler who's comfortable in moderate to rough conditions then that comfort usually means that skills have reached a plateau which can then lead to the paddling delusion that you are safe all the time.

In fact, the only way to avoid that plateau, and ensure constant development of safety and skills, is to have a good, progressive attitude to training. Don't just go touring all the time - tempting though that is. In April and May do a Rescue and rough water skills course. Do a weekend every spring as a top up - once you've done one of these it's definitely not the case that you've got the skills so don't have to do another.

A good attitude to training and safety is about having a plan, every season, to top up skills or push yourself out of your comfort zone in a training scenario. Not only will you be safer overall but it's very likely that you'll accomplish more on your chosen routes or expeditions.