As chairman, it’s my job to keep Canoe Wales moving in a direction that benefits all our members, and the nation. I have absolute trust and belief in all our people and the work they do to keep Canoe Wale oiled and running smoothly. Some days are really busy – especially when I’m doing a lot of travelling on top of my day job, but it’s never a hardship to give for a sport you love. Since I became Chairman, I haven’t had a single dull day.
I know you’d expect me to say it, but Wales is my favourite place in the world to paddle. We’ve got the talent – like our two current world champions in polo and surf, Zoe and Naomi. We’ve got the resources – I’ll always love a trip down the Ogwen in North Wales at a good water level, or some steep creeking on the Goedal. And we’re moving in the right direction for access to our waters – watch this space!
The thing about paddling is not knowing what’s going to happen. I’ll always remember sitting in my boat waiting for Pete Knowles to get on the water so we could start the first descent of the Karnali in Nepal. To know that the moment the boat moved forward we were moving into totally uncharted territory had me rippling with excitement, and I can still taste that feeling today. But last year, whilst paddling around Puffin Island with a group of young people, we were being followed by several seals: nudging my hands while I calmly stroked their whiskers and then saw the look of wonder and awe in the faces of the young people. That comes pretty close.
As Vice Chairman, I see my job as keeping up to date with what’s happening in canoeing, and promoting it at every single opportunity. When I’m out and about, that means listening to paddlers so I can put their views to the Canoe Wales board – even when those views differ wildly! I try to pick up people’s thoughts and feelings about how things are developing, and how we can improve. I also spend time working with the BCU to put forward Canoe Wales’ interests at a national level.
It’s not hard for me to promote paddling in Wales – after all, we’ve got so many fantastic places to paddle. Miles of incredible coastline, and rivers for all styles and abilities. If I had to pick out my favourite place to paddle, though, I’d go all the way west to the Pembrokeshire coastline, exploring the cliffs, bays and islands. There’s a day I’ll always remember – paddling out to Skomer island and being surrounded by seals. No matter how stunning the scenery, there’s no way to forget about an inquisitive seal pup nibbling the end toggles on your kayak!
Chief Executive Officer
What does being the CEO of Canoe Wales involve? Well, I think you could ask the CEOs from all the UK’s canoeing bodies the same question and come away with different answers from each. Day-to-day, it means finance, managing the senior team, liaising with the Sports Council for Wales and the BCU, governance and planning. I was once told that whatever happens, it's my fault!
Right now there’s so much happening in Welsh paddlesport. We’ve got two world champs at the moment (Zoe Anthony in polo and Naomi James in surf), we’ve got the Cardiff whitewater centre opening in 2010, we’ve got a really successful school and club development programme and we’re seeing a real interest in supporting paddlesports from government.
I’ve always loved being in or on or around water. The different places and experiences combine with rushes of adrenaline, calm stretches, fantastic scenery and the craic with family and friends, both on and off the water. I’m really enjoying watching my son learn by thrashing around in a boat – but I suspect this part’s going to get expensive over time...
Head of Operations and Strategic Projects
It's not that easy to pin down my work with Canoe Wales - it tends to be the projects that aren't a part of our club or competition networks. That means shouting loud about how great paddlesport is, trying to encourage as many people as possible to get afloat and the access and facility work we need to back that up. I’m also responsible for the National White Water Centre at Bala. It’s a pretty busy job, but the variety keeps me from being bored; making sure we balance rafting with other parts of Paddlesport at the National White Water Centre is really important to me.
It's an exciting time for paddling in Wales right now as it gets more and more mainstream. We're losing our image as a fringe sport and people are seeing that canoes and kayaks are the perfect way to explore Wales' countryside.
Any free time I get, I'll grab a paddle and head for the water - whether it's exploring the often-overlooked rivers of mid-Wales, ripping up Anglesey's tidal wave at Stanley Embankment or sharing clean, glassy surf with harbour porpoises at the end of the Mawddach estuary!
National Development Officer
Being National Development Officer is all about encouraging people to get out on the water in Wales – which means bringing together coaching, club development and competition development. My day to day routine is varied, and involves a lot of travelling to clubs, centres and events. At the moment, it means a lot of time organising school clubs and promoting the sport within schools. I also manage the coaching system in Wales, making sure we back up our coaches on the water with the resources they need.
I mainly paddle slalom, because I love the challenge of using such precise skills in a dynamic whitewater environment. You can paddle a fast, light boat in so many places, from winning medals (I got a bronze at my first international slalom in Skopje in 1971) to freestyle moves (I’ve hit a double loop in the surf before now) to punching through Hell Hole on the Wye in big flood.
Slalom programme head coach
I coordinate the training programme for a group of 15 slalom paddlers in Wales. That means working with other coaches and coaching three or four days a week myself. Everything’s geared towards the important national and international competititions, and making sure that the training, coaching and coach education is in place for Wales to be a strong slalom nation over the next three or four years – and beyond.
There’s a really strong community of slalomists in Wales at the moment, and we’ve got some incredible places to paddle. My job can cover everything from a sunny, calm early morning section on Bala Lake to coaching youngsters on the Tryweryn or the Dee to sessions on the course over at Nottingham. Of course, we’ll very soon have our very own year-round whitewater course in Cardiff...