Bridge the Gap is an initiative set out by Canoeing Ireland and funded by Sport Ireland which aims to develop and promote women in all paddlesports across Ireland. To do this we have examined our 11 unique disciplines to find the areas which would need the most attention in order to grow our female participants numbers and grow the number of those women who will take on leadership roles. The best way to do this was to have a team of women to consult who have expert knowledge of their niche area. We have developed a group of 35 ambassadors for women’s paddling – with representatives from each discipline and corner of Ireland, including coaches, instructors, athletes, committee members, clubs, providers, inclusion coaches, university students and scouts.
If you have a suggestion or would like to discuss some developments for women and girls – have a look at your discipline’s ambassadors below and don’t hesitate to get in touch either directly or through our Women in Sport Lead, Emer at email@example.com and she will get you connected. Click on the photos to find out more about each ambassador. We would love to hear about any projects you have been working on or any women’s achievements or your clubs!
To find out more about promoting and developing women in paddlesports, take a look at the info-graphics below, check out our latest Bridge the Gap article in FlowState Issue 7 – The Canoeing Ireland E-Zine, and have a look at the Women in Paddlesport News section to see any developments ad stories!
WOMEN’S PADDLING AMBASSADORS
Discipline(s): Canoe Polo
Role(s): National Junior Development Coach & Former Athlete
Since then, Michelle has competed at both National and International level, competing in countries such as Spain, Belgium, Denmark, England, Wales and France in European and World Championships. She has qualified as a Level 2 Coach and has completed the Sport Ireland Coach Developer course.
Michelle has been a dedicated member of Canoe Polo in Ireland, having been the Chair of the National Canoe Polo Committee, taking on committee roles within WWKC and being a member of the Canoeing Ireland Board. She is currently one of the coaches delivering the National Junior Development program. Through this she has developed an introduction to Canoe Polo Coaching course alongside the Canoe Polo Committee and Canoeing Ireland which has been a success!
Michelle is hugely passionate about developing women’s and girl’s opportunities in canoe polo, from their involvement in playing friendly matches, high performance, coaching and refereeing. In her current club at Kilcock, she encourages juniors to actively give back to the club, with many of the members aged 16-18 years of age mentoring and coaching during summer introductory courses. Kilcock Canoe Polo Club currently have more female juniors than male juniors!
Michelle has additionally been a part of setting up Overload – a junior training event for Canoe Polo, and assisting Patricia McCormack with the Mahon Cup – the first ladies canoe polo competition in Ireland, and winner of the Community Impact of the Year award at the Canoeing Ireland Awards Gala.
Michelle has been bridging the gender gap for females in Canoe Polo for the past number of years through her various achievements and will continue to do so. Through growing opportunities, working with coaches from other disciplines and mentoring some of the girls in her club to become leaders in their sport and helping to guide other clubs towards success.
Discipline(s): Canoe Polo
Role(s): Former Athlete, Coach & Kilcock Canoe Club Chairperson
Patricia has a long-standing history in Canoeing, having been on the Board of Directors for Canoeing Ireland, the National Canoe Polo Committee and being the Chairperson of Kilcock Canoe Polo Club. She was one of the first qualified level 2 female coaches for paddling in Ireland and has managed a number of teams through international competitions.
Patricia has also been involved with organising competitions and events, writing programmes and developing the junior and senior female members. So far this year, Patricia has:
1. Recruited 5 mothers as team managers for different age groups
2. 1 new female coach who used to compete at an international level
3. 1 female member is managing PR for the club.
Patricia has done outstanding work in the area of growing female numbers in the club – currently almost 50% of Kilcock Canoe Polo Club members are female!
Patricia is the organiser of the Mahon Cup, the first Ladies Canoe Polo competition in Ireland and winner of the 2019 Community Impact of the Year Award. This event is for all ages and abilities and is in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland.
If you are interested in learning the ways in which Patricia has developed the club to be so inclusive to girls and women, and how this could be applied to your own club, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Patricia: firstname.lastname@example.org
Discipline(s): Canoe Polo, Wildwater
Rachel is a canoe polo athlete, though has experienced most disciplines through the years, mostly in Marathon and Wild Water Racing. The camaraderie in Canoe Polo drew her to focus long term commitment in the discipline. She plays for 2 teams; one is a mixed gender team – Kamikaze, who compete both internationally and in domestic competitions. The other team she competes with is the WWKC ladies’ team who have represented Ireland in European Club Championships.
Rachel has been competing both nationally and internationally for Ireland for several years including in the Canoe Polo World Games. She has competed in countries such as Germany, France, Wales, Belgium, England, and Netherlands.
Developing women’s and girls’ opportunities in Canoe Polo is something that Rachel is very passionate about. In Canoe Polo, it is important to have other women training at a similar level with you to develop a women’s team, or even to have more than one female on a mixed team. There were not enough women around in her early days of paddling, so Rachel wants to help encourage this – where possible between her busy training schedule. Most recently, Rachel has been invested in the progress and growth of the Wild water Kayak Clubs U21s Ladies for several years, acting as a senior player/mentor, the team has grown from strength to strength along their journey
Discipline(s): Sea Kayak, Slalom, Marathon –
Role(s): Provider (Shearwater), Instructor Developer & Former Athlete
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Following on from Eileen’s competitive paddling career, she worked through the paddling proficiency skills, qualifying as a Level 4 Canoeing Ireland Sea Kayak instructor and Coach Tutor – providing many different courses for paddlers. Throughout her 33 yr. teaching career in Old Bawn Community School in Tallaght, her passion for the outdoors shone. As Director of the Outdoor Education module, she introduced thousands of teens to the joys of hill walking, orienteering and canoeing.
Nowadays, she runs Shearwater Sea Kayaking with her partner Sean Pierce. They deliver Try Sea Kayak, Skills and Coastal Navigation courses in Howth and run expeditions to many of their favourite locations along the west coast. She enjoys encouraging middle aged women and men, many of whom have finished raising families and are now looking for something for themselves to “skill up” and become independent and safe paddlers. It is so satisfying to see people discover the beauty of their own country, the wildlife and offshore islands through the medium of sea kayaking.
Today when there is time she loves to head off on adventurous expeditions to some of the world’s most remote locations. Most recently in Nov 2019, she was part of the Irish South Georgia Expedition but has also been to Norway, Arctic Russia, Kamchatka, Sakhalin, and the length and breadth of the Scottish Hebrides.
Discipline(s): Sea Kayak
Role(s): Athlete & Coach
After some time Catriona had her first experience of sea kayaking and instantly fell in love with the world of coastal exploration. She found there was a unique freedom in being able to paddle to places only few people had been and that long distance paddling has had a therapeutic effect on her own life. She has done approximately 20 solo crossings between Ireland and Scotland and also solo between Ireland and the Isle of Man – she has the fastest female solo time, which she notes is because she is the ONLY female to do/record it – one of the reasons she is so passionate about growing female participation!
Catriona completed her level 1 Coach qualification and level 2 Coach training course within the first few years of her paddling and has been enjoying introducing people to paddling since, finding that not only is it enjoyable to be there while people achieve skills for the first time, but it also helps to fine tune her own skills which she is consistently improving on – currently level 4 skills proficiency! She regularly organises training events and has facilitated bringing International Sea Kayak Guide Association training modules to Ireland. There are more Incident Management modules planned for October 2020.
Through her love of wild camping, viewing wildlife, and touring in a sea kayak, Catriona began expedition paddling in places such as Alaska and the Artic Circle in both group and solo expeditions. She has also paddled in many countries in Europe alongside her partner, however their favourite places to paddle are along the Donegal Coast through caves arches and around sea stacks and also some fun downwinds on Strangford Lough. Catriona runs an annual sea kayaking meet for intermediate to advanced paddlers which is run on a peer paddling basis and aims to explore different sections of the Wild Atlantic Way. Catriona is proudly sponsored by; Rockpool Kayaks, Lendal, North America and Kokatat!
To help bridging the gender gap for women in sea kayaking, Catriona, as part of the club, plans to run women’s courses in her community as well as increasing visibility of Women in Sea Kayaking. So far this year she has 6 new ladies to join Donegal Sea and Surf Paddlers club and 3 female improvers.
Discipline(s): Freestyle, Whitewater
Role(s): Athlete, Instructor & National Freestyle Committee Member
Aoife would like to acknowledge the support that comes from being in a club, as she found huge support in NUIG GMIT Kayak Club. During just 4 years there she was given the opportunity to travel to places such as the French Alps, Austria at Sickline, Germany, Italy, Norway, British Columbia, Washington and Uganda. She also ended up working as a paddling guide at Nottingham, in Galway and at the Ottowa River in Canada.
Aoife has been heavily involved in the paddling community since university through delivering coaching clinics at events, instructing and being on the Freestyle Committee as the women’s and girl’s representative. Aoife has been on the Irish Freestyle Team for 4 years running and consistently drives herself towards a higher performance each year. Aoife is also an ambassador for Kokatat, I-CANOE and Jackson Kayak- where she has been supported for a number of years.
Aoife is currently studying in the Royal College of Surgeons and is a part of their Athlete Support Team at RCSI Clubs & Societies. On top of this – she is one of the key organisers of one of the largest whitewater, and definitely largest freestyle competition events in Ireland- Galway Fest!
Aoife has won numerous awards including Senior Female for Freestyle two years in a row at the Canoeing Ireland Annual Awards Ceremony for 2018 and 2019. She also managed to come 13th in the Freestyle World Championships in the Senior Female category!
Aoife is passionate about raising the bar for female paddlers in Ireland and is committed to helping this happen by delivering a number of coaching sessions in freestyle and continuing to encourage female participation at GalwayFest.
Discipline(s): Freestyle, Paddlesurf, Whitewater
Role(s): Athlete, Instructor & Paddlesurf Committee Member
Aisling has helped the Irish Paddlesurf Team to place in the top 4 in the last 3 World Championships and seen many of the juniors returning home with medals. She has shown immense dedication and commitment to Paddlesurf, Freestyle and the wider Paddling Community in Ireland. She has been the Chairperson of the Paddlesurf committee for 3 years, been a committee member for many other years, sat on the Canoeing Ireland Board of Directors, and been involved in making huge developments, organising events and supporting athletes for years.
Aisling has found that the most amazing parts of paddling are the places you end up travelling to, and the life-long friends you meet along the way. She has travelled all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Canada to name a few – both through competition and personal paddling.
To help bridge the gender gap in our paddling community, Aisling plans to focus on developing opportunities for both junior and adult women in paddlesurf and freestyle. This will involve coaching clinics for both and helping to guide and mentor a number of women through their own leadership journey. She understands how difficult it can be to get involved without someone to be by your side to encourage you and aims to be that person for all who would like to get involved.
Discipline(s): Freestyle, Whitewater
Role(s): Athlete & Instructor
At 15 Niamh started to help Brian Keogh and Kipper Maguire in their outdoor pursuits and events company. She learned the tricks of the trade and heard stories of kayaking adventures from all around the world. This helped her create a bucket list of destinations, she started to tick them off with trips to Kerry, to international competitions and races, to guide in the Alps, to expeditions and long stays in Africa.
Over the years Niamh has organised many paddling events including taster sessions, level 3 skills training and awards, coaching days, mini competitions for Irish Freestyle and charity paddles. She Raised funds for Temple St by circumnavigating Blessington Lakes with a group of friends in her teenage years and most recently a Bridge The Gap Peer paddle in Baltinglass for the Samaritans.
Niamh hopes that with BTG, she will encourage people into paddlesports and the door of opportunity this open.
She will put her knowledge and experience of whitewater and freestyle, alongside her instructor and coaching background to good use by running inclusive coaching and social days at both senior and junior level.
Niamh loves to train, compete and pass on tips when on the river; never be shy to ask her for some help.
Discipline(s): Marathon, Sprint
Role(s): Coach & Former Athlete
She has shown outstanding committment as a coach in a volunteer capacity alongside Aisling Smith at the Salmon Leap Canoe Club. They started up the girls training and development group – check them out on instagram @salmonleapgirls . Together, and with their clubs support they have increased the number of junior girls competing by up to 75% in the past 2 years.
Karen and Aisling have also been involved with organising and coaching at a junior girls flat water training date which was open to all – bringing in girls from over 10 counties!
To help close the gender gap within the Sprint and Marathon committee, Karen wants to develop the opportunities girls will have to compete at both participation levels and elite!
Discipline(s): Marathon, Sprint
Role(s): Coach & Athlete
As an athlete, Aisling’s first year to race internationals was 2011, finishing 9th in the Junior Wild Water World Championships in Czech Republic. Since then she has raced in Slovenia and Italy at the Wild Water World Championships. She has also been on the Marathon team racing at World and European Championships in Slovenia, Croatia South Africa and France.
She has a 1st place medal from the Breede River Marathon in South Africa, 3 silver medals from the Sella Descent in Spain and 11 Liffey Descent medals from senior women’s, juniors and doubles. She also finished 4th in the British National Championships 2018 and raced in women’s b at Nottingham Sprint Regattas.
Aisling is a great role model to all of the girls and women that she trains with. If you are involved with sprint or marathon, or any other discipline for that matter and are looking for great ways to up your junior girls number within your club, you can contact Aisling via email@example.com.
Discipline(s): Whitewater, Sea Kayak, Freestyle
Role(s): Provider (Kayaking.ie), Instructor Developer, Former Athlete
Over the years Jenny has worked towards becoming one of the few female Level 4 River Kayak Instructors in Ireland. She is also an Instructor Trainer – training and assessing many of our brilliant instructors. She has worked in many teaching roles both in Outdoor Education courses and through her business – Kayaking.ie.
Jenny is a proud ambassador for the Great Outdoors and Pyranha Kayaks.
She has introduced thousands of people to paddling in Ireland and has also provided opportunities for them to paddle abroad to Sloviena with her guidance. She is a very skilled paddler and instructor and brings great energy and enthusiasm to the water.
To help bridge the gender gap in our membership Jenny plans to continue introducing people to paddling, help to mentor a number of women through their own leadership journey in paddling and promote women throughout our community!
Role(s): Instructor Developer
Laura has qualified as one of the few female Level 4 River Kayak Instructor’s in the country and is an instructor developer. She has introduced hundreds of people to paddling and has trained and assessed many of our instructors. Laura has great energy on the water, is full of enthusiasm and is very approachable and helpful with all. She has been a Palm Ambassador for nearly 10 years, promoting the brand and Palm Equipment. She has also been a member of the Training and Development Unit and has been involved in developing a number of projects with us here at Canoeing Ireland.
She has paddled all over the world in countries such as Siberia, Zambia, Mexico, Ecuador, New Zealand, Canada and in many countries in Europe. She has competed in many kayaking events including a 6-hour kayaking enduro team race on the Kaituna in NewZealand, 9 kayaking inter varsities and 9 Liffey descents.
Laura has been passionate about encouraging women to find longevity and a sense of community in paddling and has organised a number of successful women’s paddling events.
To help bridging the gender gap – Laura plans to both organise and help others to organise women’s paddling days. She also aims to help mentoring a number of women in her local community towards finding their leadership potential.
Role(s): Provider (Gopaddle.ie) & Instructor Developer
Susan has traveled to many different countries across the world through paddling such as Ecuador, New Zealand, Slovenia, Nepal, France, and many others. She has competed in various white water races both at home and abroad winning a number of titles. Through her love of paddling abroad, she has also facilitated a number of paddling trips to Montenegro for Irish paddlers.
Susan is a prime example of someone who invests a huge amount of time and energy into encouraging female (and male) paddlers to become stronger leaders through her work. Through Bridge the Gap , Susan has committed to helping more women in her area to become instructors and showing them how to guide the next generations!
Discipline(s): Whitewater, Freestyle, Paddlesurf, Sea Kayak
Role(s): Instructor Developer, Former Athlete
Throughout the years Sheelagh has worked as an instructor in many different outdoor education centres, introducing thousands of people to paddlesports. She has taught on a number of outdoor education courses where she has helped training paddlers to become instructors as an Instructor Developer. Most recently she has worked with us here at Canoeing Ireland and with Tipperary Sports Partnership where she has been developing programmes and managing various projects for paddling and the outdoors.
Sheelagh’s primary discipline has been in White-water river running although she has plenty experience in sea kayaking, canoeing, slalom, freestyle and paddlesurf. For 2 years Sheelagh competed at the world championships for Paddlesurf. She has also competed in national competitions where she has placed in the top 3 on many occasions. Most recently she came 3rd in the Himalayan White Water Race in Nepal. Other countries she has paddled in are Chilie, Brazil, Slovenia, Spain and Wales.
Sheelagh has a strong passion for developing paddling opportunities in rural areas – she has most recently made a huge impact on the paddling community in Tipperary, at Clonmel Canoe Club and with Southeast Freestyle – a training group for junior freestyle paddlers. Through this she has facilitated the development of regular coaching clinics with David McClure where they have trained a group of 10 juniors for competing at European Championships and Galway Fest. This is an excellent example of cross-club-collaboration with huge support from parents and club committees. One of her proudest moments as a coach was to see the group giving it their all at GalwayFest this year and walking away with medals. She has been a fantastic role model to the paddling community in Ireland!
Sheelagh plans to continue to bridge the gender gap in paddling by increasing opportunities for all women in whitewater paddling and more specifically in Freestyle. She plans to link in with many of the upcoming projects where she can lend her expertise in managing events, instruction, developing programmes and club development
Discipline(s): Whitewater, Sea Kayak
Role(s): Instructor, Canoeing Ireland Women in Sport Lead
Emer is passionate about developing opportunities to paddle for minority groups and especially those with a disability. She did her BA Hons in Adventure Education and Facilitation, specialising in working with and coaching children with autism. This has encouraged her to work at a national level for Canoeing Ireland as the Inclusion and Diversity Manager where she is exploring ways to promote education and training for those who will work with anyone with a disability.
Emer is the Canoeing Ireland Women in Sport Lead and is coordinating the Bridge the Gap initiative, working closely alongside the group of ambassadors and Sport Ireland to bridge the gender gap in paddlesports which can be read about throughout this webpage.
Discipline(s): Whitewater, SUP, Freestyle
Jessie’s favourite side of paddling is the community that you become involved with, the lifelong friends you meet and the ability to be in nature by being on the water. It’s not all about paddling hard rivers, but about enjoying the environment around you. Paddling has brought Jessie to many different countries paddling such as the USA for a Grand Canyon expedition, New Zealand, Wales and Slovenia.
Jessie has a passion for developing confidence in women and girls through paddling and helping them understand the fears and mental side of the sport. Alongside a number of other ambassadors, she plans to roll out regional workshops on fear management on the water – whether that is at the start line of a competition or surfing big waves.
Discipline(s): Whitewater, Sea Kayak, Canoe
She is an incredibly enthusiastic role model to so many women in the outdoor industry and is very passionate about how women can fit into and find longevity as a leader in the outdoors and paddling.
Sara is currently based in Sligo and is a part of the Sligo Kayak Club where she is helping to find ways of developing women’s involvement alongside the club members.
Jill Pitcher Farell
Role(s): Instructor, University Student, Scout, Trinity Canoe Club Committee Member
Jill Pitcher Farrell
Jill has been instructing within her Scout Troop for a number of years as a level 2 instructor and has a strong background and voice for the women and girls in scouting through the Bridge the Gap initiative. Jill has a very strong passion for developing women’s opportunities in paddling and has shown great initiative towards making this happen. She has been organising both scout trips and expeditions across Ireland and Courses for her club to help encouraging up-skilling.
Jill is also a committee member in Trinity College Canoe Club and has been working to increase opportunities for women in universities to try the various paddling disciplines. Most recently, as a part of the Bridge the Gap initiative, she has been working on scheduling some multi-discipline clinics for female university students alongside Laoise Plunkett from NUIG Canoe Club.
Discipline(s): Whitewater, SUP, Canoe
Role(s): Instructor, Scout, Lough Dan Scout Centre Club Chairperson
Vicki has worked in the outdoor industry in various activity centres. She also worked as a part of the Canoeing Ireland staff team where she was involved with organising women’s days on the water and developing initiatives to encourage participation among many other responsibilities!
Vicki is on the committee of the Lough Dan Scout Centre and has been encouraging and developing scouts opportunities to get on the water through paddling activities and events over the years. She has been an incredibly encouraging and positive person to have on the water.
Vicki plans to help develop the wellness aspect of paddling at events and help to increase opportunities for women on the water.
Though Vicki has been involved with all sorts of paddling and travelled the world doing so – sea kayaking, rafting, SUPing, canoeing, river kayaking, she feels the best thing about paddling is the people you meet and the journey’s you end up on.
Role(s): Instructor & University Student
Laoise has been passionate about helping to teach other women in her club and encourage them to stay involved in paddling while in university. She has also organised and run women’s days on the water which have been very beneficial to the community in locations such as the Lower Corrib, Oranmore and Leitir Mór.
Laoise plans to help bridge the gender gap in the university paddling community by organising women’s training workshops in a variety of disciplines throughout the next year. She will be doing this alongside our ambassador Jill Pitcher Farrell to help as many universities as possible to have opportunities like this. Laoise also plans to help two women in her paddling community on their own journey towards leadership in their club.
Discipline(s): Whitewater, Sea Kayak, SUP
Role(s): Instructor, Education & Training
Sinead Pollock Orr
Sinead began training as an outdoor instructor at Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre. From Kinsale an opportunity arose to take on a Kayak Instructor Traineeship in Tiglin, Co. Wicklow and from that moment on her career in the outdoors took off, becoming a L3 Kayak Instructor. She was very fortunate to meet and work with some very inspirational, influential and enthusiastic outdoor instructors and educators and her time at Tiglin also gave her the opportunity to travel within Ireland and Europe. From sea kayaking trips off the Connemara coastline to paddling whitewater in the French Alps and Wales and canoeing adventures on the Barrow, Tiglin really helped to expand Sinead’s career in the outdoors.
For a time, Sinead’s outdoor interests took her to the mountains, where she became a Mountain Instructor and Winter Mountain Leader. Having land and water qualifications opened up a huge variety in the outdoor work she is involved with to date.
Almost 2yrs ago Sinead moved back to Cork and currently works at Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre where she primarily works on the Young Mariner and Go Adventure Programs. Both are long term programs and allow her to introduce and develop many paddle disciplines with the participants, Sea Kayaking, River Kayaking and Open Boating.
Being part of Bridge the Gap has reminded her that the group of ambassadors all have different interests, experiences, levels of training and achievements, but that we all have the same passion of wanting to involve people of all ages and abilities in paddle sports and the outdoors and to help them to find and explore what’s available to them in their local areas. Along with that, Sinead and one of the other ambassadors are going to look at gathering some female kayak instructor trainees or qualified instructors who have not been engaged in their sport for a while and to encourage and mentor them in pursuing assessment, upskilling and simply enjoying their time on the water!
Discipline(s): Canoe, Whitewater
Role(s): Instructor, Canoeing Ireland Board Member
Lynda has been involved with river kayaking, though was drawn towards Open Boat Canoeing and hasn’t really looked back. She is a big fan of the recreational side of canoeing – finding that attending annual paddling festivals and doing wild camping expeditions take up a lot of her holiday time!
Lynda is contributing hugely towards the development of our team of ambassadors for women’s paddling in Ireland. Lynda, with her company Leadership Journeys – has facilitated a Leadership Training Programme which has helped some of our most inspirational females to meet, learn from and collaborate with each other to discover what way the future of paddling for females in Ireland should look. Lynda is also becoming involved in developing Open Boat Canoeing opportunities for women in her clubs local area Wild Water Kayak Club.
Discipline(s): Whitewater, Canoe
Role(s): Instructor, Education & Training
As an instructor, Jayne’s enthusiasm is infectious – always smiling and seeing the fun side of things. She is incredibly approachable and understanding – and a very stylish canoeist! Jayne has been a part of the most recent level 3 canoe instructor training courses, and is a level 2 kayak and canoe instructor.
Jayne is an amazing advocate for developing opportunities for the ‘more mature’ age group in her local paddling community, aiming to help many of the local women in the Bunclody Paddlesports group to find appropriate leadership roles within their own group. She also would like to run women’s training evenings there when all is back up and running.
The Women in the Bunclody Paddling group currently account for over 50% of their members across all age groups – half of all of the adults in the group are female! In particular Jayne would love to emphasise that paddling is not just for younger people and it can be accessible regardless of your age!
Discipline(s): Canoe, Whitewater, SUP
Role(s): Instructor Developer, Education & Training
Colette has spent the past 20+ years introducing people to the world of paddlesports. She has worked in various outdoor education centres where she has also helped to develop many of the paddling instructors and coaches we have working out there today.
Colette is a level 3 Canoe Instructor, level 2 kayak Instructor, Flat Water Stand Up Paddleboard Instructor and is an Instructor Developer and Trainer. She is passionate about encouraging more women to try open boat canoeing and is proof that having a small physical size is no barrier to handling a canoe, even in challenging waters! It’s all about technique.
Her favourite journeys include the western isles of Jura and Mull by sea kayak and a very cold winter canoe-camping on the river Spey and in Northern Italy around Lago Iseo. Her favourite canoe spin in Ireland just happens to be right outside her door, Upper Caragh. Spending time in her boat with her kids is one of her favorite ways to pass time.
Discipline(s): Canoe, Whitewater, Sea Kayak
Mary met fantastic people who encouraged and coached her along the way and she went on to qualify as a Level 3 Canoe Instructor and a Level 2 Kayak Instructor. Over the years she have been very involved in club paddling, organising courses, open days and club trips. She has been a volunteer instructor for many events including Junior Paddlefest, Ulster Canoe Festival and Watersports Inclusions Games. She has participated in Level 5 Canoe training in Wales and Scotland, enjoying the fantastic mix of white water, lake navigation, canoe sailing and the traditional skills of lining, tracking and poling.
Mary’s favorite aspects of canoeing are the feel of the canoe as it interacts with the flow of the river and learning more about moving the boat with less effort. She loves the journeying aspect of canoeing, getting out the maps and planning a canoe camping trip. She is a canoeist at heart, but also loves kayaking and has enjoyed many white water kayak trips abroad including Scotland, Wales, France and Slovenia. She completed the Liffey Descent several times in both kayak and canoe, and a few times solo in the canoe. Last summer she kayaked the full length of the Royal Canal in three days, a challenging journey including portaging more than 40 locks.
Mary loves the inclusive friendly nature of the paddling community and the many friends met through paddling, bound together by a love of water, nature and fun. Paddling has such a huge positive impact on her life. She loves using her skills to help others enjoy the water and has seen the joy that being on the water brings to people of all ages, abilities and personalities. That stretch of water in your own locality can give you such a sense of freedom and adventure. It can be daunting to try something new and she plans to help with events to encourage and enable more females to try it out. She would also like to learn more about the barriers that hold back female paddlers and what we can do to help and aims to explore this as a part of bridging the gender gap in paddling.
Discipline(s): Canoe, Whitewater,
Mary has found her second family through paddling and has been training and journeying with them for years now. She has travelled to a number of countries and attended events across europe. Mary and her group particularly love partaking in the Canoe Symposia in England, Scotland and Wales, not forgetting our own annual Ulster Canoe Festival.
Mary is passionate about helping people to find the same benefits to paddling that she has. She has experienced canoeing as being a therapeutic sport which helps to build many of the personal skills and most importantly, the resilience that helps you to get through the ups and downs that life brings.
To help bridge the gender gap within her local community, Mary plans to develop the paddling opportunities for females in the over 40s age group. Mary would like to emphasise that canoeing is for all ages and abilities!
Mary, is a Primary School teacher by profession and would love to see Watersports being developed further in the educational setting. She has a natural ability to bring out the best in others and to build people’s self confidence.
Mary volunteers with the Watersports Inclusion Games and has seen first hand the benefits to its participants and the gift it is for the volunteers to be part of such an amazing initiative.
Mary’s motto is,
” If you can be anything at all, Be Kind !”
Role(s): Inclusion Coach for Special Olympics Team & Club Committee Member
Sharron is a sports inclusion coach, and autism in sports coach – she has supported her son Oisín Feery in becoming a Gold and Bronze medalist for K1 in the 2019 Special Olympics!
Sharron believes that paddling on our waterways is a great leveller for the head and that it is a sport that people of all abilities and challenges can find independence and longevity in.
Through the Bride the Gap initiative – Sharron plans to run an annual event run on the Grand Canal in Tullamore which will be fully inclusive and accessible to all, providing different levels of challenge. On it’s first year running – which sadly may not be this year anymore – she would love to see 100 women attend the event! She will also be mentoring two women in her community towards their leadership in paddling goals.
Role(s): Athlete, Canoeing Ireland Board Member
That year Aisling competed in the junior Wild Water European Championships in Italy and Pre-World Champs in Switzerland – winning Silver in the Sprint Race and Gold in the Team Classic Race.
In 2009 Aisling competed in the Junior Slalom European Championships in Slovakia where she began training as an Athlete with a Slovakian coach from 2009-2014, and following that was coached by Eoin Rheinisch 2015-2019. Between these years Aisling focused on her Slalom training and competed at many different National and International events across the world.
Aisling retired from international racing in 2019 but has stayed involved with the paddling community on a national level through dedicating her time through taking up roles on the Canoeing Ireland Board of Directors as treasurer 2018 – Present, on the Canoe Slalom Committee as National Race Officer and in Wild Water Kayak Club as Slalom Officer. Additionally she has organised and hosted the Annual Canoeing Ireland Awards Gala. She plans to focus her paddling on developing her skills as a coach and playing canoe polo at club level.
Role(s): Olympic Athlete, National Slalom Development Coach
Hannah has been paddling and competing from a young age and is training to qualify for the next Olympic games. She is an incredible role model to so many paddlers in our community, showing how to train as a national and international athlete while raising two young children.
Hannah intends to help coaching the next generation of young paddlers when she retires from competing at some point.