The premise of my She Paddles interview series aims to show that the She Paddles Ambassadors are inspirational whilst also being normal people, that paddling is super good for us, that we can paddle in all kinds of places/ways, and that paddling is for everyone and all sorts. This is an opportunity to show the paddling sport and recreational side of it and encourage other people to get paddling. This week we will get to know Katie Simmons.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s the day job? How do you fit paddling in around daily life?
Hey! I’m Katie I’m one of the new she paddles ambassadors based in Wales representing canoe wales in my role currently. Well a day job doesn’t really cut my description I’m a jack of all trades that works nearly every hour going. Last year I qualified as an adult nurse and dived literally head first into a very busy A&E department mid pandemic (great timing I know) . So that’s my main exhausting and very busy job that I love. Along side that I’ve kept my previous profession as a freelance outdoor instructor of 10 years now specialising in SUP guiding & Mountain Leading work as well as the odd DofE job that I really enjoy doing. Myself and my partner also run a glamping site at our home farm in Wales that’s open in the summer (cheeky plug – called Basecamp Bunkhouse) running as carbon neutral as possible with a very keen angle of being eco friendly and educating others to do the same. I’m also reservist for the British Army in the army medical corps as a nursing soldier.
At the moment its difficult, everything is very busy. For me I like to get out and tour for a few days with Tom my other half. We tend to prefer big expeditions and multi days out on the board. Or a cheeky hit on the white water when the local river levels are up. So the weather plays a big role and last minute plans are usually our style.
How did you first get into paddling? Tell us about your favourite paddling experience.
Well paddling in general.. I probably first sat in a kayak when I was about 14 when I was in the Air Cadets and went on an adventure training weekend. I spent the first 20 mins on Lake Windermere going in circles getting irritated and getting blown onto the shore by the horrendous wind we had. I then got further annoyed by the instructor attaching his make shift skeg of milk bottles behind me and from then on I ripped it off and had a point to prove. I continued to attend camps year after year with no more milk bottle skegs. I then probably first got on a SUP about 8 years ago on the river Dee (mile end mill) running grade 2 drops the first time ever on a board for a friend who was launching his company and did not stop laughing the whole day! From then I’ve intermittent kayaked, SUPed , canoed and guided rafts down a fair few rivers with numerous amounts of swims and booties consumed (if you know you know) as well as this my favourite experiences have been in big sea lochs and paddling around most the Welsh coast with plans on doing a circumnav of Wales unsupported with my partner.
Do you know what percentage of rivers across England & Wales have clear rights of access? How do you find out where you can paddle?
Roughly less than 4% I have been part of the ongoing campaign for rights of access for numerous years and continue to support the efforts of numerous charities.
Most of the paddling I do is in Scotland so it falls under the land reform act. When in Wales I’m usually on the coastline so there’s not a great deal of restrictions unless it’s nesting birds or seal pup season so I stay away respectfully. The rivers in Wales have always been very difficult, I’m aware of the spawning seasons for the trout etc and if paddling a new area I always seek local paddlers for their knowledge on access/ restrictions as nothing beats local knowledge as well as using the CROW act to find access spots.
Where is your favourite place to paddle?
I’m definitely biased the Welsh coastline is incredible! The marine life and huge tidal races are epic fun on the SUPs . But Scotland has also had a place in my heart again it’s the wildlife and circum navigation of islands as well as being able to camp in most places making life easier.
Tell us about the paddling moment you are most proud of.
This is a difficult one for me. I don’t see myself as really someone to be proud of or that I’m established yet, I get a lot of people commenting on my achievements but I really live in the moment. I absolutely hate suffering on my board but have been in some really testing conditions on the sea this past year and making it back to land and actually having fuel in the tank left I suppose would be one of those moments. I’ve competed and won numerous races from White Water to endurance but that’s not what does it for me, I think taking friends and clients to some beautiful and wild places, has got to right up there with my favourite moments! seeing their faces light up in awe is always a special moment. I’ve also been able to share my passion with my mum this year which has been both hilarious providing moments I won’t forget for many reasons but I’m super proud of her for getting on the board and joining me.
What is the one piece of paddling kit you couldn’t do without?
I thought about this a lot! And it’s going to sound really awful but it’s probably my phone! I use it for all my planning from forecasting and route planning to using it as a GPS in emergencies as well as using it to capture those moments!
How has paddling improved your wellbeing (mental or physical)?
Umm.. for me paddling balances both of my evils. For my metal health to be in balance I have to get outside test and move my body probably push it too hard sometimes. It’s a channel to unleash emotions that get built up inside of me, either by paddling alone or with my dog (Ozzy) in a peaceful bit of flat water or by pushing my absolute limits physically by scaring myself then realising everything’s ok and laughing about it afterwards (type 2 fun).
Why do you think other women should get involved in paddle sports?
I think it’s really important to involve women and encourage women’s in paddle sports for numerous reasons. I think at grass roots levels some women can be put off massively from a kook factor. Not knowing how to do something and not wanting to look like a idiot attempting to do it. So I think creating a community that supportive and equal is really important to encourage women to get stuck in and have a go with a bunch of ladies that are there to help each other out. I definitely have seen a hugeeeee change in the dynamic of freelancing now. Back when I started out I was the first female guide at a rafting centre but I pathed the way for other women to come through the process by mentoring and tutoring them showing the girls different ways to flip rafts etc. I just want women to know that there is loadddds of bad ass, chilled , knowledgeable, totally down to earth providers in all areas of paddling these days so just don’t hold back because you could be that role model for someone else one day.
You can find Katie online at: @katiethesupnurse and @basecampbunkhouse
Watch out for the next #ShePaddles Interviews coming soon!