JOIN a canoe club and you can see the world, it seems.
The Kingfisher canoe club in Abingdon takes yearly trips to far flung rivers from Costa Rica to Canada.
“The thing about canoeing and kayaking,” says David Surman, “you can be competitive, or you can go exploring, or just go flying down white water rivers.”
Mr Surman is a long-time member of the Kingfisher club, and chairman of the Pathfinders youth canoe club, which is also in Abingdon. For him, the Alps is “the classic white water playground” to enjoy the Olympic sport.
“You have to have a regular Alpine trip, the water is just so pure.”
Other trips with the club have taken the club to Costa Rica, Canada, Nepal and the undiscovered Californian north.
Next May members will canoe the Grand Canyon.
“For me, the attraction is the fun of the white waters there, but also you have these pristine locations, some of them quite remote.
“You can be paddling through tropical forests or Alpine meadows, you get fantastic scenery, and you see parts of the county you would not see otherwise.
“I have seen bits of California you would not believe.”
One of the most spectacular trips, he said, was Costa Rica, where they had to ride horses to the river to get onto the boats.
In Nepal, they had to pack enough food to last five days, and ended up canoeing through the night on one occasion.
The Kingfisher and Pathfinders are not particularly competitive clubs. Their ethos is about fun and exploration, but their main interest is in white water.
Any person can pay to go white water rafting, which is done in large boats with up to 10 passengers, but white water kayaking requires skill.
“You need to be able to control your kayak, you have to be able to read the river,” explains Mr Surman.
“You look for tongues of water which will take you through the big exploding waves, and you have to use eddies to steer.
“Then you can go into free-styling, with somersaults and cartwheels underwater, that is another level.”
Both clubs saw and increase in the number of people wanting to join beginners’ courses during the summer, and put on more classes to take the extra load.
The clubs take local trips around the weirs and the backwaters of Abingdon, as well as taking trips abroad to white water rivers.
A regular destination is North Wales, where the rugged mountains and heavy rain of Snowdonia provide perfect terrain for exhilarating rafting.
But even in your own town you never know what you might discover if you start paddling.