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For outdoors enthusiasts, the current lockdown is not an easy thing to get through, but it is essential we all keep to the rules. But if you do have the space, you don’t have to stay out of your boat entirely.

Lockdown sucks. It really, truly, does. But with some ingenuity you can make the most of it and ensure that you are ready to hit the water better prepared than ever once you are allowed out again.

Dry land exercises

If you don’t have a garden, or only have a small area to use, you can still practice skills.

Bartosz Czauderna from Love It Live It has been doing a series of live streams every Thursday with exercises you can do to visualise freestyle moves on dry land. He also recently did a session in a pool, which I’ll come to in a bit.

There are also exercises you can do in your kayak using very simple apparatus.

Getting wet

It is, with a little bit of expenditure, possible to actually kayak during this. A number of people have invested in temporary swimming pools to keep the flame alive.

I have recently done this myself, but bear in mind that it is not an easy solution!

You will need a flat area at least 12ft wide to be able to put such a pool. If you have the space then I would recommend a 15ft pool. The base you put the pool on needs to be solid, and preferably perfectly flat. The surface I have placed my pool on isn’t perfect. I’ve got about 2 1/2″ difference in water level from one end to the other.

These types of pools are rated for up to 2″ deviation, although I’d imagine there must be some margin on that figure to be on the safe side. But these things contain a lot of water. If they go, you’ll know about it! And so will your neighbours!

A pool is a great way to shake off the kayak blues during a lockdown, but they aren’t necessarily an easy solution!

Filling one is an expense, possibly around £50 in water. Once you have it set up you will need to run a filter (about 25w, so around half the power of your LCD TV set), and you will also need to look after the chemical composition of the water.

For kayakers this last part probably isn’t too important as we are used to river water. However it is nice to have inviting looking water rather than algae filled soup!

Chemicals you will need to use are chlorine, anti-algae stuff, and either Ph increaser or decreaser.

Lastly you might want a heater. An electric one will likely send your electricity bills through the roof since most of them have over a 2kw power draw. There are also solar mats you can use, but these apparently only have an effect of a couple of degrees or so on the water temperature.

Emily practices the double pump from static

Most pools for swimmers are recommended to have water temperatures of 23 degrees or more. But we are kayakers, so if the water was only 15 degrees it feels like bathwater for us!

When you first fill such a pool one thing will strike you. It is absolutely freezing! But come the summer, once the sun has had a chance to warm it up, it should reach a good temperature. After all, even the rivers and sea warm up to a degree, so a small pool should!

Lastly, be aware that if you are putting one on your lawn, your grass will die. Our lawn was in a pretty poor state and we were planning on redoing it anyway. So we decided that having a pool wouldn’t really be an issue for us in that regard.

Chlorine effect on clothes and Ph levels

Chlorine apparently bleaches stuff and rots your gear. Well, this is only true in a vague sense. The truth is that when a swimming pool is at the correct chlorine level, there is less ppm than in your drinking water. Drinking water contains chlorine at around 4ppm, while swimming pool water is generally at 2ppm. It will take a very long time to have an effect on your gear. Especially if you are only doing this temporarily for a lockdown.

Ph levels are generally more important for pools in the long run as too high or low a Ph can cause skin irritation and have an effect on pool fittings and filters. But having the right Ph level also ensures that the chlorine does its job properly. If the water is too alkaline or too acidic, the chlorine won’t work as effectively.

The levels for these needs to be monitored on a daily basis, and strong sunlight on the water will have a notable effect on reducing the chlorine levels of it.

Emily enjoying her time in the pool.

Using the pool

In the 12ft pool I bought, when you are in the boat, it does seem quite small. I can do two ends of a cartwheel, and could probably muster a third. But a lot of care needs to be taken. On my first go in it I gently came out of a bow stall and my hull tapped one of the top rails and bent it!

This was quite astounding as it really wasn’t hit very hard at all. My feeling is that the newer design of my pool is not as strong as the older circular tubes, or that there was an inherent weakness in the particular rail I hit already.

Needless to say it’s made me a little paranoid about hitting any of the others! So I am thinking about how I might be able to protect them with some blocks of wood or something similar.

Even though I might not have the room to throw the boat around quite as much as I can normally, there is plenty that can be practiced, and to be honest it’s nice to just sit and float sometimes!

If I am very careful there should be enough room to try a loop if I set it up right. But I will need to build up a lot of confidence to try it. The potential consequence is to literally fly out of the pool! That. Would. Not. Be. Good.

In his online tutorial Bartosz recommended that cartwheels can be done in a circle to keep multiple ends. But for the moment I will not be doing this because I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get my cartwheels in a straight line.

Emily throwing down in the pool!

Would I recommend a pool?

In conclusion, if you have the room and the funds I would definitely recommend getting one. 12ft is the absolute smallest I would aim for. 15ft would be ideal if you have the room. Mine is 48″ deep, which means I won’t risk hitting the bottom. If you only want to practice rolling etc you can get away with a much shallower one.

As I mentioned near the beginning, a pool is not a simple solution. If you are putting it onto a lawn it will kill the grass. But at the moment it is helping to save my sanity!

To conclude this I’ll leave you with Bartosz’s live stream which shows what’s possible (the pool he’s in is 13ft diameter).

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