CANI News Splash, 2nd June 2020

Leslie Carswell (B.E.M.) 

-Fun when Canoeing with Scouts

Leslie Carswell B.E.M. paddling

CANI member, Leslie Carswell, received a British Empire Medal (B.E.M.) in the New Year’s Honour List in 2020 for services to Scouting in general and canoeing in particular. Leslie tells us of how he first experienced canoeing through the scouts and what he has enjoyed most and learned since.

My first contact with canoeing, in a Belfast scout troop about 60 years ago building three canoes from floorboards and a new product at the time, PVC! They were so heavy that when tied to the roof of a car, we had to be careful about turning a corner. 

Leslie warming up a group of Italian Scouts (only one of whom spoke English)


There was a gap until I moved to Ballymena in the 1970s. My first trip with Scouts there was down the river Bann but the kayaks were too easily turned compared with the dreadnoughts I helped build so many years ago. As I was doing a few `pas de deux` on the trip I realised it was time to do some training. Fortuitously a few of us commenced training before the infamous Lyme Bay incident.

Spreading the joys of canoeing was an easy task now we were trained. In Scouting this meant bringing Cubs, Scouts and Explorer Scouts out onto the water in the hope that many would take it up as a leisure activity and some to challenge in a sporting capacity. This also meant that fellow Scout leader, Mark Dick and I extended our role to give the opportunity to County Antrim Scout leaders so that they could take it further once we trained them to (in the old days) 2 star level. Our longer term idea was that they could eventually take over from Mark and myself in this role. However, it is too enjoyable for us to step down. 

Finishing a pyramid of 11 Canadians and 3 kayaks at a local jamboree

In Scouting we have Jamborees, events for Scouts that include canoeing as an activity. I was called upon a couple of years ago to take charge with one day’s warning as the original leader suffered an injury. However, all went well with over 800 getting on and off the water safely over the week. Not bad for a 70 year old. In the next year I had a role as a Duke of Edinburgh Silver assessor for NI scouts on a wild camping/canoe trip on lakes in Canada.  Our own troop carry out a river Braid clean-up every December (an excellent way in a flow to train manoeuvring to get that pesky bit of plastic hanging from tree).  

Annual River Braid clean-up with trailer filled to brim with plastic bags

Many of us have enjoyed canoeing in different parts of the world but the greatest total enjoyment is canoeing in our own fantastic country. Within short distances we have rivers, coastlines, lakes, even swimming pools to use when weather is inclement. Let’s all celebrate what we have on our doorstep, share our enjoyment in what is a prime leisure activity. I hope you have enjoyed reading this, after all it’s all about sharing experiences, training and having FUN. Isn’t it great one gets an award for an activity we enjoy doing. It will be great when our present `lochdoine` is over!

Leslie Poling in Scotland

Many thanks to Leslie for providing CANI with this report on his unique experiences and congratulations to Leslie on receiving his B.E.M. for his exceptional services to scouting and canoeing!

The full report is available here.

What Does Paddling Mean to You?

CANI are keen to find out what paddling means to you! If you have a few spare moments during the Covid-19 lockdown to write a short paragraph on what paddling means to you we would be very keen to hear from you and please send it to CANI Chief Officer, Lauren Smythe, at Please also feel free to include a photo if you give us permission to share alongside your comments. 

We will aim to include as many short articles from members and stakeholders in as wide a range of paddling disciplines as possible in upcoming editions of the CANI News Splash. Whether you are a recreational paddler, a coach, a committee member or an experienced paddler please help us by getting involved and help inspire, entertain and engage those of all ages and backgrounds in the paddling community in Northern Ireland with your thoughts and experiences.

We look forward to hearing from you and please stay safe!

CANI’s Current Recommendations for Paddlesport Activity


CANI recognise that these are challenging times for us all and our first priority is the safety and health of everyone, as we do our level best to stop the spread of the virus. We really appreciate the level of creativity and innovation shown by many within our community to keep people connected at this time. We are confident that we will emerge from this an even stronger community of paddlers.

Please take care to follow Northern Ireland specific guidance from the Executive and from CANI for paddlesport as other regions have different phases. 

CANI has taken guidance from NI Executive, Sport NI, British Canoeing and other National Associations to keep things as simple as possible to understand and safe for all.

The overall message is still the same, stay home, stay safe and do not risk putting a burden on the emergency services. 

At present CANI recommends that the following steps are followed for paddlesport.

  • Up to 6 competent, independent paddlers with their own equipment, who can individually self-rescue, can go paddling for their daily exercise, staying within their capability, maintaining social distancing, public hygiene measures and not contacting any shared, hard surfaces. 
  • A safety framework should be put in place whilst on the water. 
  • Paddle only were no rescues are likely to be needed and self rescue will be sufficient, peer / contact rescues break social distancing. 
  • Consideration should be given to the weather and water conditions and that both are well within your capabilities. 
  • Tell someone where you are going and how long for – as well as letting them know when you’re off the water. 
  • Only experienced and competent paddlers should be on the water independently. 
  • No club activity, independent paddling for exercise only at this time. 
  • Do not share kit or equipment, you must be able to move your kit independently without help 
  • Only people from the same household can paddle crew boats, e.g. tandem sea kayaks and open canoes. 
  • Activity must respect local restrictions. (See below for links to Waterways Ireland and the Coast Guard). 
  • Public transport should not be used. 
  • Only share transport with members of your household (e.g. no shuttles with others). 
  • There is no limit to travel but use common sense and do what is reasonable, CANI advise to remain local, avoid popular spots and places where you have to touch shared surfaces, lock gates, etc 
  • Public toilets and changing rooms should not be used. 

With all government guidance pointing towards a period during which the nation is being urged to act responsibly to fight the spread of Coronavirus, and the unprecedented burden currently on our emergency and public services, CANI believe this is the most responsible, and only, course of action we can take at this moment. 

CANI fully appreciate the effect that this recommendation will have on the paddlesport community, particularly for clubs, centres, coaches, providers and retailers whose businesses will be greatly affected by the  measures updated by the government.

For full guidance see CANI website here.

Sport NI Covid-19 Survey

Sport NI want to respond effectively to your organisation’s needs and challenges with the right programmes, initiatives and services, so we need to hear from you! Please complete our short COVID19 survey here by 4th June 2020.  It should take about 20 minutes to complete.  Please Note:  This is for Clubs and should not be completed by individual members.

UK Coaching  – 15 Ways to Improve Coach Well-Being 

This infographic from UK Coaching provides intuitive examples to boost your well-being, intended to encourage you to prioritise your physical and mental health and take the time to focus on yourself

See here for further information.

Free Online Course

Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity 

UK Coaching, our awarding body 1st4sport and our partners – Mind and Sport England – are delighted to announce that the online course ‘Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity’ is now free to access until 31 August 2020 for the whole coaching community.

Usually £18, the course, which on completion will give you 3 CIMSPA CPD points, is ideal for those involved in delivering coaching in a club, leisure centre or any other community sports & physical activity setting, such as:

Take this fantastic opportunity to equip yourself with the knowledge, skills and confidence to better understand and support people living with mental health problems, and support your own mental health in the process.

Click here to access the course.

Women’s Paddling Community Facebook Page

The Women’s Paddling Community Facebook here has been created to allow female paddlers (and those who want to become paddlers!) a space to share ideas, make new friends, meet up, swap advice and stories and discuss paddling in general. The focus of this supportive community is to encourage more women to start and keep paddling. 

Please feel free to also use this group to celebrate achievements both big and small.

British Canoeing Digital Library


There are a range of videos with different exercises on the British Canoeing Digital Library.  

Please see 25 Days of Paddling Exercises here for you and your family to try this month!