As part of bridge the gap initiative there are a series of online talks and discussions being led by female paddlers. These have been open to all female paddlers across the disciplines. The aim of these discussions is to promote disciplines and stories of women in Ireland who have had adventures with paddling. Alongside this it aims to inspire those who listen to further their own paddling journey.
During Covid-19 it has been somewhat difficult to keep contact and to keep inspired. These talks and the discussions following them have created a space for women to ask each other about their journeys and some of the steps involved in them. The idea of having solely females on the calls was to ensure that both the speakers and those asking questions were comfortable. It also helped to create a discussion which primarily helped female paddlers as sometimes women’s concerns and voices can be drowned out by males.
The first call had 4 speakers; Michelle O’Herlihy and Cleo Pitcher Farrell talked about the disciplines of Slalom and Wildwater racing, Anais O’Donavan discussed her Journey completing the Shannon Source to Sea as the only female in the group and Rhona Crowley outlined her experience paddling with the Univeristy of Limerick Kayak club and the steps involved in organising club trips abroad. The second night saw Shauna and Ciara Gurhy share their love of canoe-polo, Jayne Stevens told her story of her trip kayaking and rafting down the Grand Canyon amidst the Covid-19 crisis and Niamh Cleary described her kayaking experiences in various locations in Africa both solo and as part of a group.
The first talk had 50 attendees, and the second had nearly 40, this shows the amount of enthusiasm there is around the country from females who kayak to meet others and to hear other people’s stories. There was huge interest in the stories discussed and many wanted to know how they could get involved in the disciplines or how they could undertake similar trips themselves. Discussions and questions ranged from people’s next steps and plans for paddling, mental and physical preparations, logistics and even periods while paddling.
Although not in person, their was definitely a connection created throughout the discussions and the network of female paddlers in Ireland was strengthened and broadened. Hopefully many paddlers will now see more people as a friendly face whilst on the water and be able to ask further follow up questions.
Written by: Jill Pitcher Farrell
Link to Video of Jayne Steven’s Grand Canyon Trip