Paddlefest 2011

Hosted by the newly revamped Tollymore National outdoor Centre, this years Paddlefest captured the interest of coaches and paddlers alike with its wide range of activities and workshops!

Paddlefest 2011

There was a fantastic new venue for CANI’s annual Paddlefest this year. Tollymore National Outdoor Centre has just reopened after a major revamp. Gone is the cluster of wooden huts in the forest and in its place is a building that combines state of the art facilities with superb en-suite accommodation and jaw-dropping architecture. The setting, in Tollymore forest park overlooking the Mourne Mountains, isn’t half bad either.

The backbone of the weekend is provided by a team of local paddlesport coaches who freely give their time and expertise. Swelling their ranks this year we had international expedition kayakers Lowri Davies and Jeff Allen; Paul Ralph of Marsport brought over a new fleet of K1, K2 and K4 sprint and marathon boats for CANI and he stayed on to deliver some great sessions of the finer points of efficient forward paddling. Dave Carroll came up to join the fun with lots of sage advice for local paddlers: “You can’t be sad while you’re doing shoulder shrugs” for example.

The theme this year was expeditioning, and as well as running coaching sessions, Lowri and Jeff delivered entertainment and inspiration (“That was the best day’s coaching I’ve ever had,” was the verdict of one happy paddler) with evening talks on their travels around the more remote parts of the planet

Paddlers also got to hear of plans for three local expeditions this summer. Elaine “Shooter” Alexander is aiming to circumnavigate Ireland to raise much needed funds for the Share Centre where she is a senior instructor working with disabled and non-disabled groups. En route she’s liable to bump into Jeff Allen again as he’s hoping to beat the record for the same trip. And Rich Lineham is setting off to circumnavigate Ulster, using a mixture of rivers, canals and the sea, to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support .

The weekend programme was packed with a bewildering variety of workshops and sessions which had paddlers scratching their heads over which box to tick.

Top of the list on the board for Sunday sessions was “Steep extraction skills”. “Is that about dentistry?” wondered someone.

At the closing session the first two clubs to achieve Club Mark here received their certificates – Foyle Paddlers, which is one of our longest established clubs, and Mid Ulster Canoe and Kayak Club, which is one of the newest. So age is obviously no barrier to Club Mark

The event was supported by some of the top retailers in the UK. Desperate Measures, Brookbank, Valley, Big Dog, Pyranha and RLS all turned up with van loads of gear and boats for people to demo.

A final thank you to SportNI for its continued support and all of the staff at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre for helping to make Paddlefest 2011 a great event.

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