Get back to nature with sea kayaking
Exploring some of Hong Kong's 236 islands in a sea kayak may be an exciting way to spend your weekends. But if you haven't picked up a paddle before, then it's sensible to take a skills courses first.
'One way to begin kayaking is to join a local club or centre and enrol in an introduction course,' explains Eric Tse, of Asia Pacific Adventures (www.asiapacificadventure.com). 'Equipment is normally provided, so if you decide it's not for you, at least you haven't spent a month's salary on buying a kayak, paddle and a life jacket.
'Learning the basic strokes properly is a must. If you develop bad habits early they are even harder to get rid of. Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.'
Beginners usually start in a general-purpose kayak or 'GP' boat, which has some advantages, Tse explains. These kayaks are more stable and manoeuvrable than sea kayaks. This allows beginners to learn the basic skills and techniques without getting frustrated. Sea kayaks are slimmer, faster and more difficult to steer.
Introductory courses for beginners are provided by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/home.php). The LCSD operates five water sports centres around Hong Kong. There are two centres in Sai Kung, at West Sea Cofferdam of High Island Reservoir and Wong Shek Pier; two in Stanley, at St Stephens Beach and Main Beach; and one in Tai Po, at Main Dam of Plover Cove Reservoir.
'General kayaking classes are held in the calm and sheltered waters of the centres with instructors focusing on teaching various kayaking skills, such as forward and backward paddling, emergency stopping, sweep stroking and capsize drills,' explains Chris Choy, information officer at the LCSD. 'Beginners are advised to join the elementary level courses which are the Kayak 1-Star Award, Kayak 2-Star Award and Kayak 3-Star Award training courses.'
These courses are conducted in one day, with seven hours of instruction. They cost HK$30-HK$40 per person and all equipment is provided.
All participants must be able to swim at least 50 metres in light clothing, swim underwater without panicking and be able to tread water for one minute. Participants must wear a life jacket at all times. These requirements are strictly enforced at all the LCSD water sports centres.
Once you have attained a 3-Star Award training certificate, you are allowed to hire equipment and practise in the designated water activity areas of the LCSD centres. However, you need to practise with a partner who also holds a 3-Star Award training certificate.
Each water sports centre runs a range of canoe and kayaking courses at different levels of proficiency. All courses are run over one to three days and cost from HK$30 to HK$90 per person.
They include courses on rolling for safety purposes, elementary and advanced level sea touring, elementary racing kayak skills and elementary kayak lifeguard and life saving techniques.
All courses are conducted according to the Kayak Training Scheme, set up by the Hong Kong Canoe Union (www.hkcucanoe.com.hk).