I started canoeing in Rockwell in 3rd year of secondary school. Mostly I was messing about in fiberglass open singles boats doing a bit of surf or a bit of whitewater touring up to grade 2+ on rivers like the Suir or the Barrow. In 5th year I started doing a bit of schools league racing in K2 finishing first in the league.
When I came to college I stopped the competitive racing as I didn’t have the time to devote 1-2 hours a day to race training so I changed over to the whitewater and the surf instead. Much more fun. Lahinch was an eye opener for sure, and the kayak club trip to Killarney will never be forgotten!
Through my time in ULKC I got to visit some pretty cool places like the remotest corners of the Pyrenees or the Italian Alps under Monta Rosa, while also helping to bring on people from being raw beginners to being people that can act as safety kayakers for Zambesi rafting companies, and while keeping the club active and alive at intervarsity level within Ireland.
I’ve kept in touch with the club since leaving college after the Grad Dip, and it’s been unfortuante to see the ethos of a safe fun club with a great social aspect having fallen by the wayside since my leaving – the club had a death on a river and a downward slide in attitudes to safety. My opinions on this incident will have to wait until after the State inquiry into the death – but I do know exactly which people’s attitudes led to the situation where the girl died.
My first kayak was a Pyranha Rotobat, which I ended up selling in 1996 to make way for the Mark Downey squirt boat special. That squirt boat needs a bit of reseaming and a reseat of the cockpit lip to return it to its former glory. That’s an ongoing project..
At a lahinch surf competition I bought a Perception WhipIt! that served me well through a lot of foreign trips until I broke it on a wave in Lahinch landing on the rocks..
A Pyranha I3-221 was the next step, my first brand new plastic boat. Then I got a Pyranha Burn M as my creeker and that is one of the best boats I have ever paddled. As I got too heavy for the I3 it stopped surfing well and I bought Andy’s old Orbitfish.
Given that I’ve ended up north of 90kg, I had to move onwards from the Burn M to a Zet Director, and I’ve upgraded my playboat to a large Pyranha Jed. Both of these boats are phenomenal, and I’m looking forwards to more fun on Gower in the Jed, and more trips to the Glens in the Director.
I’ve managed to get to the Alps pretty much every year for the snowmelt, and it has been fun driving over with journeys totalling north of 5000km. It makes a real change from Irish paddling to Alpine-style paddling cold meltwater in warm sunny weather, and returning to a comfortable quality airbed in a posh tent in a well specced campsite each evening.
Now that I’m living in the middle of the Alps, I’m really looking forwards to getting some decent paddling in during the seasons – I’m now about 4h30 from the Sesia, only 6h from Briançon, and 7h30 from the Soča region. There is also some half-decent local playspots within an hour and a half of here, and I’ll be linking up with some of the local clubs.
I think I need a big garage for all of my toys…