I can’t breathe. My leg is trapped, bent back on itself into my kayak. My kayak is in no better state than myself, stuck, almost upright, between a rock and a tree. I rip my leg out and fall forwards into the water, my leg now caught in the drowning tree. I push and kick outwards, water crashing over my head at unimaginable speed.
This is the very first bend in the river and I’m already underwater, attempting to rip myself free from the various obstacles that hindered my oxygen supply. Eventually I struggle loose and I float through the now calm waters.
This isn’t to scare you. This is my first attempt at kayaking, in Tena, Ecuador and I’m on a Class 3 rapid. Rated from 1 – 6, a class 3 is certainly strong enough for a beginner. Having only been in the kayak a few minutes I haven’t adjusted to the feeling of wobbling on the water, and I get sucked in to the wrong side of the rapid.
Once the trip resumes, it is a very enjoyable experience. Generally calming into a Class 2 ride, the river weaves its way through the unspoilt Amazon fringe, passing kingfishers and goldpanners.
Boasting the highest density of rivers anywhere in the world, Tena is the perfect spot to hop into the water. Not being a water baby my nerves were shredded. But my point is, when travelling, when trying adventure sports, throwing yourself in at the deep end is the best way to maximise the experience. I am buzzing with adrenaline and it is a vitalising moment.
Kayaking holidays are one of only a few trips you can take where you need no technology. Take your phone for safety, maybe even a GPS if your map reading is ropey, but forget the high-tec: this is traditional adventuring.
Even so, when it comes to the boats, these are still specialist machines. The long-distance adventurers and world travellers out there don’t dare venture out with any old gear. Kayaks and canoes have been around for 4,000 years and many are still made with traditional materials.
Here’s how boat builder Richie Bracey of Ram-Leisure makes his kayaks: This kayak is a hybrid, and uses two different types of construction method: firstly the hull is built with stitch and glue, and then the deck is built using a strip-built method.
Step 1: Sheets of marine plywood need to be cut down to the appropriate widths and then joined together with a joint known as a scarf joint, this then makes up the lengths required for the different parts of the kayak.
After the lengths are joined he then takes the offsets and plots positions on the ply, these marks are then joined using a flexible baton or something similar so that you get the shape that needs cutting out.
Step 2: Before stitching the pieces together he glues the sheer clamps to the side (this creates a firm joint between the deck and the hull) and glues the support rails in for the adjustable foot rest. read more
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