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Paddlesport Leader Award Case Study: Amanda Wilson & Graham Dick

My husband, Graham and I, are relative new comers to paddlesports and are also heading rapidly towards our fifties!

We first started kayaking about 3 ½ years ago, our first initiation being a weeks “Introduction to White Water Kayaking” at Plas Menai. Our then 11 and 13 year old boys made it look easy and we swam repeatedly but we were hooked! We fell for that adrenaline buzz hook, line and sinker and headed home, purchasing the exact boats we had just spent the week in and went on a mission to try and find a new club that was prepared to take us and the boys out on the rivers. 

Bishop Auckland Canoe and Kayak club had paved the way to a now full blown family addiction to kayaking…. we are indebted to that club. In March 2016, we had decided to take on more responsibility of running the club and started to make tentative steps to running regular, club river trips, lake paddles, etc. However, following a shoulder injury, I lost my confidence totally in a blink… all the hard work over the last 3 years gone. I was so upset. Our dreams of being able to take new paddlers to experience the thrill and sheer unique pleasure of running rivers and exploring lakes looked like a pipe dream. I wasn’t happy! 

In enters Matt Haydock, Glenmore Lodge Instructor, where our boys were mock students on his Advanced Water Endorsement. W liked his approach and felt he had a lot he could pass onto our boys and were very keen they both get professional coaching prior to heading off to University or wherever they end up. Matt took the boys for a weekend paddling of a lifetime, doing what they do best on the Tees, running from High Force to and including Low Force. Matt didn’t disappoint and at some stage during the weekend mentioned a new British Canoeing Scheme called the Paddlesport Leader Award, for which he had just become qualified to assess and train. 

The Paddlesport Leader Award sounded different. It sounded like something we may be able to do that would help to move us on but also enable us to get our Scouts and Club Members on the water...

We have no pressing aspirations to run Grade 3’s and 4’s. We advertise the club as one aimed at total beginners of any age, gender or ability, welcome those with disabilities and welcome anyone who would like to experience this wonderful pastime. The Paddlesport Leader Award sounded perfect all round! 

We booked our assessment at Glenmore Lodge and also decided to go for 2 days training at the same time. Although strictly speaking with our previous experience we didn’t really need this training, Graham and I are both firm believers that you can never get too much coaching, there’s always more to learn. We weren’t wrong or disappointed!

On arrival at Glenmore Lodge on Good Friday, we turned to each other in disbelief to find out we had been allocated the Head of Paddlesports, Dave Rossetter for all 3 days…. a mix of delight and nerves hit us both in equal measure. However, we needn’t have worried, Dave was great!

The training involved a good mixture of “top tips”, coaching, access to and gentle persuasion to embrace the ethos of the award by abandoning our very familiar & comfortable white water kayaks...

And instead use a mixture of canoes, cross over sea kayaks and touring kayaks, which was great! We were also treated to the introduction of two stunning locations in and around Inverness and Aviemore – The River Spey into Loch Insh and the River Glass and Beauly & Aigas Gorge, both locations ideal for the remit of this award. 

Assessment day came far too quickly, neither Graham or I are comfortable under assessment conditions, but we were well prepared and were provided the ideal candidates…… all of whom had travelled over the night before and were extremely excited to be part of the whole experience! They were a delight to lead, they had a little experience of paddling and were happy to try very different boats! Despite a couple of unplanned capsizes and the wind getting up on Loch Insh we both passed! We were so pleased and relieved it had been a very good day!

The Award suits our styles of learning and we are already using the award...

We have a club trip organised on the lower section of the River Tees, near Stockton this coming weekend. We already have 10 signed up, a family with youngish children, all with limited outside paddling experience, two new members who have lost some confidence and just want to ease themselves back into paddling, a couple new to canoeing and a chap who is looking to find his river legs, slowly – looks like there may well be an appetite out there for this kind of paddling, not a bad first event since qualifying! 

Above all this award allows Graham and I to get out there, with confidence, independently and legally introduce a host of prospective new paddlers to the great outdoors. What’s not to like about it!