1) Can you give us a bit of background on your paddling to date?
I got my first introduction to paddling about 9 years ago when I began studying at Jordanstown although it was another 2 years before I was converted from rock climber to paddler! I then set out to give any kind of paddling I could get access to a try; I played polo, surfed, toured and camped, tried a few slalom events and had a go at sprint as well as a few sea paddles. Although at this stage it was WW kayaking that I enjoyed most and after a few local rivers trips I headed to the Alps on Tollymores’ Alpine whitewater course which was definitely a big step up but left me wanting more.
Over the next year I got involved with Paddle Like Females and focused becoming more independent on the river and went on a second trip to the Alps after which I decided to Apply to Tollymore as a trainee. A year at the centre gave me the opportunity to observe and learn from experienced coaches and leaders; further developing my skills and working towards qualifications. I didn’t have a 2* on starting but having prior experience, getting stuck in as well as having some of the wettest months on record gave plenty of opportunity for paddling. Over the course of the year I gained my level 1 and 2 coach awards and 4 * leader touring award and I later went on to complete my 4* leader sea award. Now I find myself mainly sea paddle but love to get out and play no matter what the craft!
2) Can you tell us about your recent paddling trip to Canada?
I went as part of the leadership team on Adventurous Experiences’ Youth Scholarship Expedition, which was a 3 week combined sea kayak and hiking expedition. The aim of the paddling section was to spend 10 days paddling from Port Hardy around Cape Scott to Coal Harbour.
Each morning we got up in the dark around 4 am and were treated to breakfast sunrise. The early starts were to avoid the strong winds which tend to pick up in the afternoons.
We made it around Cape Scott in 4 days, a full day ahead of schedule. However plans changed on getting an up to date forecast which predicted gales to reach the West coast the next day. A possible rest day then turned into another 4am start the next morning to get to San Josef bay where access could be made to a dirt road by paddling up the river. This meant we could relocate back to Port Hardy and study the forecast to formulate a new plan. We paddled out of Port Hardy and spent the last 4 paddling days exploring the area around God’s Pocket Marine Park before returning to Port Hardy to pack and head south for the hiking stage of the expedition.
3) WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR MEMORABLE MOMENTS of the trip?
There are so many memorable moments from the trip, most coming from encounters with the local wildlife in their unspoilt surroundings. There is something very special about paddling through such a pristine environment and finding somewhere new to camp each night.
A definite moment to remember was our first night of wild camping after dinner we were able to watch a mother black bear and her cubs on the shore the other side of a small stream. Such a magic moment to observe a magnificent creature going about its business in its natural habitat.
Other moments to treasure where a close encounter with a pod of orca (unfortunately on a whale tour boat and not a Kayak), some invasions of curious stellar sea lions while on the water and hearing wolves while in camp (thankfully at breakfast and not bedtime!)
4) WHAT CHALLENGES did you EXPERIENCE?
One challenge was the 7 or 8 day stretch without a decent wash between travelling and the first few days paddling… until we overshot our planned camp and happened upon a lovely beach with a river with some deep pools for a good dip!
Although the biggest challenge was keeping going even when I caught a nasty cold I was definitely a bit of a paddling zombie for a couple of days!!
5) Have you any tips for future trips?
In terms of biting insects some things I learned were: it’s definitely worth having a natural repellent that you aren’t reluctant to use as well as a more evil alternative if things get bad! Liberal amounts of garlic in your food won’t make you popular especially if you’re sharing a tent but if you eat enough not even the mossies will come close enough to bite!
6) WHAT ARE YOUR Future PADDLING PLANS?
At the moment sea kayaking is definitely the first love and really want to explore more places whether on extended trips or on stolen days closer to home there are just too many places to visit! I am also keen to continue to develop as a paddler a leader and a coach both to introduce people to our stunning coastline and to continue to challenge myself and get to some special places along the way.