A RETIRED pastor is offering free paddle craft lessons at Exeter canal and Sidmouth seafront this summer. 

Newton Poppleford resident and qualified instructor Alistair McKenna, 69, will teach you how to use a kayak or stand-up paddle board and then take you out on an accompanied journey.   

Alistair McKenna giving lesson at Exeter canal
Alistair McKenna giving lesson at Exeter canal (Becky Shotter)

Sessions last around two hours and are available between May and September for adults, children aged nine and over and groups of up to four people. 

Mr McKenna, who used to pastor a church in Sidmouth and was a missionary in Japan, got the idea to become an instructor after helping entertain a 12-year-old foster child two years ago. 

He said: “I suggested a day at Sidmouth and hiring kayaks. This was followed by an ice cream at a famous place in Sidmouth.   

“At the end of the day the young girl said it had been the best day of her life so far. 

“There was another opportunity to take a trainee nurse out kayaking who needed support in her family circumstances. At the end of the day her comments touched my heart and I had to hold back tears.   

“I thought to myself that if I had my own kayak, I could make a difference in many more lives.” 

Mr McKenna qualified as a paddle craft instructor with Paddle UK and offered his first classes in Sidmouth last year.   

“I’ve given free lessons so far to home-school children, special needs children, a Japanese trainee paramedic, a nurse from Bournemouth and local adults who live in Sidmouth.  

“The longest trip was to a deserted beach near Ladram Bay, where a picnic was provided and appreciated by two adults. 

“This year in Sidmouth things have already started and bookings are coming in for the half-term holidays.” 

Mr McKenna is also offering sessions at Exeter canal this year. All equipment needed, including kayaks, paddle boards, buoyancy aids, dry bags and phone cases will be provided.   

Children and adults must be able to swim, and children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 

The sessions are being supported by St Thomas Baptist Church in Exeter. 

Call 07369 240990 to book a session.