Club Goal: Pentland Canoe Club

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Water sports have grown in popularity in recent years. Pentland Canoe Club’s Ken Nicol urges people to join a club for safety and fun on the water

Explore the water between Sandside and Melvich. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club

Outdoor sports have health benefits for all age groups and paddle sports are becoming increasingly popular in Scotland, not surprisingly given the beautiful coastline, rivers and country lochs.

There are many areas to explore with plenty of wildlife to see or rapids to conquer. So, whether you choose stand up paddle, sea kayaking, surf kayaking, open canoeing or whitewater kayaking, there will necessarily be something for you!

However, like all adventure activities, there are risks and it is important to get the proper training for your chosen activity and advice on what equipment to use, carry and wear. The easiest way to get this is to join a local club – and there are over 90 in Scotland.

The northernmost club on the continent is the Pentland Canoe Club. Based in Thurso, the club was formed in 1984 and offers most forms of recreational paddle sports.

Sea kayak trip from Dunbeath to Berriedale.  Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
Sea kayak trip from Dunbeath to Berriedale. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
Explore around the stacks at Duncansby.  Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
Explore around the stacks at Duncansby. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
Under the cliffs between Sandside and Melvich.  Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
Under the cliffs between Sandside and Melvich. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club

With over 100 miles of spectacular wildlife-rich coastal scenery to view, sea kayaking features prominently in the club’s activities. However, the coastline can be inviting, with very high tides in places, especially around the headlands and in the Pentland Firth.

The club is affiliated with the Scottish Canoe Association, the national governing body for the sport in Scotland, and has a number of qualified officers and coaches to ensure that individuals receive proper training and are guided in all travel safety.

For those wishing to learn the sport, the club has a range of kayaks, canoes and equipment available to individuals. This fleet of equipment has been built up over many years and has only been made possible with the support of several organisations, including the Caithness Sports Council, the Dounreay Communities Fund and the Baillie Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund.

During the winter, the club organizes training in the heat of the swimming pool of the leisure center of Thurso. It’s a perfect way for individuals to try out the sport and learn the basic skills before heading out on the water in the summer.

The club organizes pool sessions in winter.  Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
The club organizes pool sessions in winter. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club

Thurso Bay is frequently used for summer evening training sessions. Weekend day trips provide the opportunity to explore the hidden coastline, with its abundant caves, arches, sea stacks and secluded beaches.

Popular sea excursions for initiation clubs include the coastline between Lybster and Berriedale or the coast near Bettyhill. During these trips, it is often possible to observe seals and a large number of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes. Gannets. porpoises, dolphins and whales are also seen on occasion – making for a great day out and memories that last forever.

However, club activities are not limited to the sea. There are local lochs and rivers to paddle on during the winter.

A canoe trip on Loch Brora.  Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
A canoe trip on Loch Brora. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club

The north coast is renowned for having some of the best surf spots in the world. Many kayak surfing championships, including world championships, have been held here. During the 1980s and 1990s the club was very active in organizing these with a number of members also competing.

So if you’re looking for a new activity to enjoy, make new friends and explore new areas, a paddle sport might be what you’re looking for.

Having fun on the Thurso River in Halkirk.  Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
Having fun on the Thurso River in Halkirk. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
On Skerray Beach while sea kayaking. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club
On Skerray Beach while sea kayaking. Photo: Ken Nicol/Pentland Canoe Club


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