Jason Temperton is the organiser of super popular Hampshire Casual Kayakers MeetUp group. Gathering sit on kayakers together from near and far to paddle specific routes is a great way of sharing enthusiasm and stoke for the sport. All too often we paddle on our own or in small gaggles, when actually larger group kayak paddles are better for all round craic, learning and gleaning info. We caught up with Jason to get the low down on him and the MeetUp group.

1. Firstly, how long have you paddling and why did you get into the sport?

I have only been paddling for three years. In June 2012 my wife wanted to try something different for her birthday so we went to the beach and hired a couple of sit on top kayaks. We did get chased off the water after 90 minutes by a huge thunderstorm, but we enjoyed the kayaking and the seed was sown, so we went and bought ourselves some kayaks the following month.

2. What equipment do you own and what made you choose that particular gear?

We rented a few different types before buying to see which we liked the most. We ended up buying Ocean Kayak Mysto sit on tops. We chose these for several reasons. 1) We were just starting out so didn’t want to spend a fortune. 2) We liked the fact that the sitting position was more elevated than other sit on’s which meant your back side stayed dryer. 3) They were are not overly long, so are easy to store, but are still very stable and move through the water very well. Having used these for almost three years though, we are now thinking of upgrading and will probably go for longer kayaks, most likely Perceptions of some flavour.

3. If you could own any piece of sit on kayaking equipment what would it be and why?

I think one of the best bits of gear you can have for sit on kayaking is a drysuit. Sit ons are cold when you are paddling in winter!

4. Where do you normally paddle – are you more of a flat water man or do favour open water?

We try to mix it up every time we go out. We tend to do different tidal rivers and harbours along the Dorset / Hampshire/ Sussex coast and when tide times are not in our favour we head up to a canal and paddle there. It’s fun to be out in the choppiness of open sea occasionally, but I guess I am a river man at heart. We are always looking for new places to paddle.

5. How often do you manage to get out?

We paddle pretty much every other weekend through the year, including winter. During the summer months we also paddle on weekday evenings, work permitting, and try to get a couple of camping trips in each year, to paddle a little further afield. We probably get around 35 – 40 paddles a year in.

6. What are your top three UK sit on kayak locations and why?

We haven’t ventured away from the south coast region I’m afraid, so there are many many great places to paddle around the UK that we are missing out on, but look forward to discovering them at some point. We do plan to travel further away from home though when life permits. Hard to say which places are my favourite, I enjoy most of the places we paddle. The Cuckmere in East Sussex, and the Hamble in Hampshire are probably at the top of the list though.

7. Talk to us about Hampshire Casual Kayakers and how that came about?

When we started paddling, we thought it would be nice to go out with other people, but searching at the time only revealed the ”oh so serious” canoe clubs. We were not really interested in all the training and racing, we just wanted a more social experience. As no such thing seemed to exist, I decided to create it. I formed Hampshire Casual Kayakers through MeetUp to see if there was anyone else out there interested in such a thing. And quite quickly it became apparent that there was. The social side of it is just as important to most people as the paddle itself and there is always a pub or some food involved with our paddles.

8. What made you want to gather together other sit on kayakers and take them off on organised paddles?

As above really, we wanted to paddle socially with other people and there was no way to do that so forming the group allowed us to meet other paddlers. The organising side of things just came with the role of been the groups founder.

9. Tell us about the general standard of the group – do you have beginners coming along for instance, or is everyone experienced?

We have people of all levels from complete beginners to people who have been paddling all their lives. We have no minimum ability level. I would say though that the majority of people who come along are people who have a few years’ experience and like to paddle once or twice a month and share the experience with others.

10. How often do you organise these meets?

We try to get out every other weekend and on weekday evenings during the summer months. We also try to get a few night time paddles in each year with head torches for variety.

11. Do you have a bunch of locations you switch between or are you open to suggestion for new put ins?

I try to mix it up as much as possible, but am limited to how far away we can get from home for a group paddle. A travel time of one hour each way is pretty much the max we can do for a day trip. We just did our first camping weekend with the group though and that went well so will be looking to get further afield in the future that way. But we are always looking for new places to put in and new places to paddle. We are limited a bit by car parking issues as there is often quite a few of us, so space is an issue.

12. What does your role of group organiser entail?

Finding places to paddle, places to eat and drink and places we can park. Researching tide times and routes and deciding on the best places to paddle. I have help from a fellow group member who also organises some paddles. On the paddle itself it’s a case of making sure everybody knows where we are going and how long we will be out for and then gathering everyone afterwards at a local drinking hole for post paddle socialising. I do not offer training or guiding though, I am simply gathering fellow kayakers together for social paddles
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13. Do you have any grand plans for Hampshire Casual Kayakers or are you happy to see things evolve organically?

No big plans, I don’t charge anything for members coming along and it’s not a business. I am happy to just keep doing as we are doing and enjoying each paddle. Have met some great people through the group so that is all that is needed.

14. How did you attract the current audience and following – what tips and advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting their own sit on kayaking group?

To be honest I didn’t do any promotion as such. I created the group through meetup which gave me a presence on there and people started to join. People searching for casual kayaking groups on Google will now find us and when we are out on paddles, we get lots of people coming up and asking us about who we are and how they can get involved etc.

15. What are the main benefits you see to being part of Hampshire Casual Kayakers?

Access to a great group of very friendly people who all enjoy kayaking and socialising. Been part of the group means you will probably paddle places you wouldn’t if you are on your own and gives you the confidence to get out there knowing you are not alone. We have members from all ages and backgrounds so you definitely get to mix with paddlers you would never meet otherwise.

16. Any final thoughts or thank yous?

Hope to see you out on the water!

For more info about Hampshire Casual Kayakers check out www.meetup.com/Hampshire-Casual-Kayakers/