5 to try: River sports
John Mason-Strang from Nae Limits explains the thrill and appeal of different river sports to Claire Ritchie.
The most famous, and by far the most popular river sport in Scotland, white-water rafting can be a huge adrenaline buzz or a relatively tame sail downstream. It all depends on the river you choose and the water levels on any given day, which is part of the reason it’s so popular: anyone can do it.‘We can do rafting trips for kids as young as six or seven,’ says John. ‘With constantly changing waters and different rivers for every season, it’s a year-round sport that people come back for time and time again.’
An adrenaline-pumping blockbuster of a sport, canyoning involves making your way through a long, narrow gorge by any means necessary. Swimming, jumping, sliding over waterfalls or scrambling across rocks - anything goes. ‘The only way is down’ explains John, who rates canyoning as his favourite sport.‘It really offers something for everyone, whatever their age or fitness level.’ Come armed with a sense of adventure and a willingness to be covered in neoprene for a day.
Brought over to Scotland from the world’s extreme sports capital, New Zealand, river bugging is like white-water rafting in an armchair. Totally buoyant and easy to navigate, with thick padding to protect you from all the rocks, the river bug is ideally suited to transport you down Scotland’s wild rivers.Think of dodgems but on water.‘No previous knowledge required,’ says John.‘We provide all the specialist equipment – you just have to turn up.’ After picking up a few basic skills, you will soon be able to run the rapids and perhaps even tackle a pirouette.
The aim of river kayaking is to keep in control and in a straight line, which sounds straightforward enough until you realise you’re going to be faced with some fierce white water, torrential rapids and, in all likelihood, rocks. But the beauty of the sport is that it’s suitable for everyone, depending on the ferocity of the water, and even the most seasoned paddler can get their kicks on Scottish rivers.Adventure kayaks are easy to manoeuvre downriver, and with a few tricks up your sleeves you’ll be navigating the fastest waters in no time.
Traditionally, jumping off cliffs has been the sole preserve of lemmings, but now, here in Scotland, it has been turned into a sport, invented by John at Nae Limits a few years ago as a by-product of freestyle skiing. In order to reach the cliffs you have to scramble into a gorge by way of a rock chute, and then, mercifully, a full safety and technique tutorial is held before any cliff jumping can take place. Jumps start small, at about one metre, but if you get the hang of it and want to test yourself, it’s possible to go as high as eight metres in a morning.