Road Test: kayaking is a fun way for the family to exercise together

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 9:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 9:45am

Kayaking is a wonderful water-based sport to enjoy as a family, and in Hong Kong there are plenty of places offering lessons.

Living on the south side of Hong Kong Island, I chose Hong Kong Aqua-bound Centre in Stanley, which has a reputation among local families for friendly, professional instruction.

Half of the two-hour lesson is spent on safety and instruction, and the other on supervised kayaking along the coast.

My daughters, Alexandra, 16, and Francesca, 11, had no previous kayaking experience, so, after kitting us out with flotation vests, our instructor, Fesco Tse, introduced basic navigation and paddling skills.

We learned how to get into the kayak at the water's edge: stand facing the boat with a paddle held along the other side, use one hand to steady the boat, then slide with a hop into the cockpit, keeping your weight on the side of kayak that is supporting the paddle.

Tse also took time to overcome Francesca's initial apprehension about tipping over. We practised how to grip the paddle, learning how the paddle connects with the water via basic forward strokes.

Kayaking may look relatively sedate but it offers exercise for more than your arms. Adding a simple torso rotation while you paddle can engage the larger, muscles in your body.

Although we were keen to head out on the sea, the first hour was spent practising paddling forwards and backwards, turning around and safely capsizing. We finally set out with Francesca in a double kayak accompanied by an instructor, and Alexandra and myself in our own kayaks.

By then, we were confident in our newfound abilities. We had also learned a wet exit, how to get back into the kayak in deep water and how to help another person experiencing difficulty getting afloat.

We paddled out towards a small beach on the tip of the peninsula, and after a short break for water, went on to view Stanley Prison Hostel from the sea. Both my daughters felt that the instructors offered enthusiastic guidance without pressuring them.

The club has safety flotation vests, secure lockers, an outdoor shower and different sized kayaks that will accommodate children and adults.

The cost of a lesson like ours ranges from HK$1,000 for a single student in a class, to five students sharing tuition and paying HK$400 each. Club members enjoy a discount. Students must be able to swim at least 50 metres in the sea and be aged eight or over, and children under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult.

Verdict: a great success for the whole family. Learning the basics was easy, and it proved a fun bonding experience for all of us. Kayaking is a fun and good workout to do with the children.

It also calls for little investment in equipment, as the club has everything you need - although it would be worth buying a waterproof dry bag for your phone so you can take photographs. Hong Kong Aqua-bound Centre, Stanley Main Beach, tel: 8211 3876,