Adventuring in the great outdoors is something 22-year-old Patrick Surguy knows a lot about. A keen white water kayaker and canoer Patrick also dabbles in SUP sea kayaking once in a while and when he isn’t on the water, Patrick climbs, walks, caves, slacklines, and does just about anything outside!
As a gay man, he is also really passionate about the involvement of LGBTQ+ people as well as other underrepresented groups in the outdoors. Here he tells us how he got into paddling, his experiences of joining a club and his plans for future adventures...
How and when did you get started in paddling?
My start in paddling was fairly intense! I started on an outdoors instructor training program at a centre in the Scottish Borders in October 2017 and spent a solid three months learning to kayak, canoe, climb, and bike as well as how to instruct all this in the New Year!
I passed my first qualifications and spent loads of time on flat water before starting to transition to moving and white water over the next couple of years. Initially white water scared the living daylights out of me (and still does occasionally!) but I soon learned to love it.
My experience of joining a club
Upon moving to Wales in 2020 I joined the Bangor University Canoe Club and although we’ve sadly been limited by what we can do as a club due to the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named, I’ve managed to get on the river with a few of the other members and had a great time!
I was nervous about stepping into a club environment, as a gay man and as a developing paddler, but I had nothing to worry about. Not only was everyone super lovely and encouraging, but I was also among some other LGBTQ+ paddlers which felt like such a welcome relief.
I think this is something that a lot of LGBTQ+ people (and those new to paddling in general) are concerned about - being unsure of how inclusive the environment will be and whether they can be their open, authentic selves. In my experience, and the experience of friends in other clubs, this worry couldn’t be further from reality. Clubs are accepting, warm places full of people who are just really psyched about paddling and getting others involved!
What I love most about being on the water
For me, water provides a range of experiences that can’t easily be replicated elsewhere. The sense of calm while paddling through beautiful scenery, the mental challenge of reading/navigating river features, and the intense emotional state of being in the middle of a challenging section of white water with all the external stimuli going on around you.
By far the best bit for me though is going through all of this with a group of other people! Getting psyched looking at pictures the night before, suffering the cold, celebrating hitting that perfect line, or giving them a creme egg when they take that swim (#EverybodySwims right!?).
Going through these experiences with others, whether they’re new to the sport or seasoned veterans, is a huge part of why I love paddling. The river is a great leveller: social status, gender, sexual orientation, race and many other factors have no bearing on whether you can paddle or not.
My paddling challenges and goals for the future
Where to start! Having just moved to North Wales the classics around here are hot on my list (Fairy Glen and the Aberglaslyn Gorge being just two!). I'd also love to paddle abroad this year, France or Norway being possibilities. The idea of entering a race has also been floating around - a road trip to the King of The Alps maybe!?
I would also love to somehow combine my creative side with my passion for encouraging LGBTQ+ people into the outdoors. I'm not sure what this will look - probably writing or video-based; watch this space!
Like many people, I've found myself sitting at home watching river levels when I should have been out kayaking far more than I'd like this past year! But this has just grown my appetite for paddling all the more, and during the easing of lockdowns I bought my first boat and had some great adventures!
Living right by the coast I’m also keen to get out and explore some of the coastline around Bangor however my Machno might not be the right boat for this!