Reading Canoe Club welcomes Highdown School

Welcome to students and parents of Highdown school. We are delighted to have so much support from your school and its staff. For the last decade, we’ve been hosting beginner courses for pupils … indeed, many of our top junior paddlers have, over the years, come from Highdown School. They have gone on to represent GB and have won awards internationally.

Natalie Neville competing at the slalom event, Nene

On this page, we’d like first to provide useful information to any student (or parent) about to embark on a beginner’s course. It’s a great sport – it’s demanding, it’s fun, healthy and also very sociable and teaches many life skills to take on.

Alex Tonkin and Sam Betts training in Portugal

Throughout the year, we will keep this page posted with the many achievements of Highdown paddlers – from winning races, being promoted, gaining selection or championing the community spirit and giving it a go.

If you are a beginner, we do hope you enjoy the beginner’s course. Do give us any feedback – it’s always useful.

Beginner Courses 2021:

After the restrictions over the last year, we were very pleased to be able to run two beginner courses in June of this year for Highdown students.

24 students, 12 in each group, completed the five week course and we are delighted that a good number have decided to carry on with their kayaking and join the club.

Other important dates:

Highdown Fun Day – we hope this will be back for students in 2022.

If after the course, you’d like to become a member, please fill in the membership form you’ll find on the ‘useful documents’ tab of the club website. Or email us and we’ll get it sorted. Remember, we paddle and train all year round, and all through the holidays – annual membership covers all your sessions and is excellent value.

Enjoy your paddling.

For membership, email us on:

Any queries, please email us on:

Beginner Courses – Useful information:

  1. Always arrive in good time for the session, generally at least 15 minutes before the start.
  2. Come prepared – with a water bottle, the right clothes for training, a towel, something dry to change into and the keenness to learn.
  3. Listen to the coach – you’ll get so much more from your sessions.
  4. The equipment is expensive – please look after it.

What to wear:

For the majority of conditions, layers of light, fitted clothing that will dry quickly when damp are most suitable. Thermals or lycra are ideal. Clothing that gets heavy when wet, like jeans and woollens, and also wetsuits, are unsuitable.

  • Shorts or leggings, or both
  • T-shirts and thin long-sleeve tops, running tops or lycra thermals or other lycra clothing
    • plus, a light synthetic fleece for added warmth. Layers are good.
  • Cagoule or another kind of light wind-proof top. There are a few at the club if you have none at home.
  • A beanie hat if it’s cold – it makes a big difference
  • A change of clothes and a towel.

Do I need to be able to swim?

It would be an advantage to be able to swim 50 metres but this does not necessarily prohibit those that can’t – however, please inform the instructor if you are a weak or nervous swimmer. Being confident in and around water is more important. You will be expected to wear a buoyancy aid for all activities.

Do I need any specific equipment?

We have everything to get you started: boat, paddles and buoyancy aid.

Medical conditions and the Parental Consent form:

Please ensure you have listed any medical conditions on the Parental consent form, so the coaches are fully aware. Highdown should provide you with one of these or you can find a copy here.

What the Course will cover:

The aim is to give students a taster of kayaking in its many forms – a chance to try out different sorts of boats, the various kinds of kayaking and to sample the fun to be had on the water. It will include:

  • Paddling in a K1 (one-person boat)
  • Trying out crew boats – K2 and K4 boats (two person and four person)
  • Getting a feel of slalom boats (no rudder, so steering is all with the paddle) and
  • Canadian canoes
  • If there’s time, watersport games such as canoe polo or tug of war!

We train all year round, through the holidays, around 50 weeks of the year. During winter months, we may reduce the time on the water, but as long as the river is safe, we still paddle and also train indoors.

We hope very much to inspire our beginners to love the sport. If you would like more information on joining, please talk to our coaches or email:

and let us know you are a Highdown paddler, so you can benefit from our special Highdown Membership offer.

Happy paddling.

Highdown Paddlers News