Up Langstone Harbour with a paddle

Howard Frost tries his hand at kayaking at Langstone Harbour
Howard Frost tries his hand at kayaking at Langstone Harbour

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But you’ve done kayaking before,’ came the response from my wife when I told her the sport I had drawn for Give It A Go.

Eager for me to make a total clown of myself for this paper, she was distraught at my avoidance of the likes of synchronised swimming and show jumping.

Judging by my watersports pedigree, though, I was still in choppy water.

After all, I had done a form of canoeing in the past – about eight years ago in Croatia.

And it was an experience I was eager to forget.

Back then, I shared a two-man canoe with my other half for what was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon exploring lakes and rivers.

It was – until some dodgy steering on our part (her part – but let’s keep this amicable), saw us shoot down a small waterfall and straight into the head of a defenceless teenage girl who had fallen out of her canoe, nearly knocking her out in the process.

With that memory back in my mind, I can’t say I was too excited about the prospect of getting my first taste at kayaking at Portsmouth Watersports Centre.

The first nugget of information from instructor Josh Treacher hardly helped.

‘We’ve never had anyone fall in... yet’, he said, as images came in my head of the RNLI coming to my aid while our News photographer merrily snapped away at my downwall.

Wetsuit on, and after a brief introduction into the basic strokes needed, it was time to take the plunge and get out on to Langstone Harbour.

The nerves were still there as I got in, backside first, and was given our first mission to reach a buoy about 10 yards ahead.

This was it. The moment of truth to see if I was going to avoid further pain with a paddle in my hand.

The result? Pleasantly surprising.

Once I was out on the water for my two-hour session, I have to say I loved every minute.

A touch of realism is needed, of course.

Comparing my experience of kayaking to the one the experts will go through at London 2012 is like claiming you know what Sir Steve Redgrave went through to get five gold medals after half an hour on a pedalo.

But having been told the primary techniques for moving forward and turning – both gradual and sharp – it was clear that this is a sport people of all ages and abilities can enjoy.

Making it to the top of the game would be a different story, however.

After being given the go-ahead to move on by ourselves to the next buoy – which was quite a bit further this time around – I was left in no doubt about the upper-body strength required for races like the kayak sprint.

The fast movement needed also takes it toll on your back, with no support offered in the kayak, and the biggest surprise as I tried to pick up some pace was the impact on my hips and thighs.

While Olympic kayaking requires plenty of power, the technical aspect should not be overlooked, either.

Mastering the strokes to go backwards in a straight line proved enough of a challenge for me.

But the task of going around a set of buoys in a figure of eight highlighted the skill set of the pros competing in the kayak slalom.

There was little of that tricky stuff for me, although weaving in and out of moored yachts was enough to get the pulse going.

In truth, I probably covered about 100 yards.

But it felt like such a distance, I was expecting to be welcomed by a man on a bicycle donning a beret and sporting onions around his neck upon my return to shore.

Every chance I had to get my breath back, though, allowed me to lap up the fantastic backdrop of Langstone Harbour to give an experience many other parts of the UK cannot offer.

It’s a scene the Olympic kayaking will do well to match on the River Lee this summer.

And it’s an experience I would definitely jump at the chance of doing again.

Minus Mrs Frost again, of course.