Women in Paddlesport – Marion O’Dornan Paddler Profile

As we highlighted in our previous Women in Paddlesports article. CANI believes that a diverse membership and participation base makes for a more enjoyable experience for all, and our current members – including women and men of all ages – come from a wide range of backgrounds. But research shows that significantly fewer women take part in all sports and physical activity as compared to men, and canoeing is no exception to this rule. Currently, our female members make up less than 25% of the total, which we believe is nowhere near enough!!

We’ve looked at sporting research, and there are some surprising results. Many women and girls, when thinking of taking up a new sport, will first think “I’ll be no good at that,” where men are more likely to think “Yes, that’ll be good fun, I’ll give it a go!” With something like canoeing, women may also doubt their ability to keep up with a group, or their physical strength, and then of course there are practical issues, such as time – and the ability to juggle the demands of work, family and personal time, with personal time often losing out!!

We’d love to see more women on the water, and in the hope of inspiring you to come along and join us, we’ve asked some of our female paddlers to share their stories – In the 2nd of our series of articles profiling women in paddlesports Marion O’Dornan shares her experience to date in paddlesport.

Thanks, Angela


How did you start canoeing?
I started into the sport after a ‘come and try it’ session with a local outdoor provider. It was something that I wanted to try and I was hooked straight away! I learned CANI were setting up a canoe and kayak club in Antrim, known as County Antrim Paddle Sports Club. I was present from the start and after meeting with Rodger Hamilton and a few other current members the club was open to membership. I have been paddling since!

What have been your memorable moments?

My most memorable moments are:

  • Becoming a Level 1 coach
  • 9 Days in France- Attending the Drome Open Boat Festival and paddling the Ardeche River 3 days prior to the festival- almost getting pinned on ‘Madeline’ day 2 of the descent!
  • Completing the Liffey Descent for the 1st time in 2015- tandem canoe with Catherine Scott
  • Getting that 1st roll in kayak after several sessions trying!
  • Favourite achievement to date- 4* Leader WW Canoe
  • Helping juniors in the club to develop & experience different aspects and disciplines of our sport
  • Seeing female paddlers paddling solo when they thought they couldn’t
  • Taking part in the Paddle 4 Sport League events – in particular trying open boat slalom for the first time in canoe tandem; and we are still speaking!

What challenges have you experienced?

The challenge can be trying to keep energy levels up for all the paddling opportunities available all year round. Still having some fear of WW although not enough to scare me off! It’s keeping the balance between fear, skill and knowing your limits.

What are your paddling plans?

Recently having completed level 2 coach training, I have a lot to prepare before assessment which is keeping me busy both on and off the water.  I will continue with club paddling in both CAPS and CCKA and is mostly open boat touring at this time of year with some sea skills sessions when I get the time.  Club evenings are always enjoyable wither I am coaching or being coached.  I would like to return to the surf and I intend on spending more time in my play boat and getting to grips with some moves!

marion o'dornan

Thanks for reading 

Marion O’Dornan

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