Scottish Women’s Paddle Symposium

By Paddlesport Team

In May this year, Glenmore Lodge was thrilled to host the Scottish Women’s Paddle Symposium. This is an incredible event that we love being a part of, and we can’t wait for it’s return in 2024. Tickets are on sale Tuesday 21st November. Read on to find out more from co-organiser Emy McLeod about this year’s event!

By Emy McLeod, co-organiser.

The Scottish Women’s Paddle Symposium took place at sportscotland National Outdoor Training Centre, Glenmore Lodge, in May 2023. It is probably the biggest paddling event for women in the whole of the UK, which brought together paddlesports enthusiasts, the top coaches in Scotland. Combined with some very stunning rivers, lochs and coastal environments you have got one awesome weekend ahead of you! 

Workshops in Canoe, Sea Kayak, White Water Kayak, SUP, Rolling and OC1, Adaptive Paddling & Greenland Rolling were on offer for people to book on to. The weekend was a sell out with over 108 participants from all over Scotland in attendance, alongside people from Wales, England and even the Netherlands! With an all female coaching team of 26 coaches and 20 assistant coaches it was pretty amazing to have all that experience, knowledge and talent all at the same event. Empowering, Inspiring and Welcoming were three words used to describe the experience by some of the participants. 

SWPS 2023 Coaching Team. Credit: Claire Scott

Paddle brands and boat manufacturers were invited to be a part of the symposium. The support from the likes of PeakUK, Palm Equipment, VE Paddles, Lomo, Alpkit, Silverbirch Canoes and Spade Kayaks was phenomenal. Having representatives and ambassadors from these companies in attendance allowed for discussions on the female paddling clothing market; what needs to be done to meet the requirements of the female paddling market? How can brands work with paddlers going forward? But also it gave the best opportunity for paddlers to try boats out on the water before making a purchase! We all agree you can never have too many boats! There are very few places and outdoor stores that cater for the paddling market and offer a range of brands and sizes; the symposium was the ideal place for paddlers in Scotland to come and try kit and paddle new boats.

Canoeing on the River Spey at SWPS

Spade Kayaks UK via our Scottish Demo Centre CAG Adventures were stoked to be asked to support the SWPS. We’re big believers that paddlesports should be for everyone. Events like the Scottish Women’s Paddle Symposium are a great way to get lots of like-minded people out on the water. Within our range of kayaks we believe that we have boats for everyone, including smaller framed paddlers and we hope that those attending the event got the most out of our boats

Grant Dolier – CAG Adventures / Spade Kayaks UK Demo Centre

The workshops on offer ranged from Intro to Advanced coaching, mixed craft chilled river trips to rolling clinics and for the first time adaptive paddle workshops in canoe sup & kayak. This was led by paracanoe coach Maddy Jennings; the organising committee of SWPS has a strong belief that paddling is an activity that is available to all who wish to give it a try and progress in their skills. Please spread the word that workshops can be tailored to cater for people with specific needs to ensure the event is accessible to all. 

Adaptive paddle sessions

Exploring the coastal environment was the venue for the sea kayakers & SUP workshops. The iconic Bow Fiddle rock on the East Coast of Scotland was a highlight for a number of participants. In the coastal SUP workshop, for some it was the first time out on the sea, an experience that inspired future trips and instilled confidence in the paddlers ability. Sea Kayaking has always been a big element to the symposium with numerous workshops heading out to North Kessock, Cromarty and Hopeman. An abundance of wildlife was spotted on the rocky outcrops – an important part of the weekend is also to educate paddlers how to enjoy paddling in these environments without disturbing the wildlife. 

Sea Kayaking at Bow Fiddle Rock on the Moray Coast

Moving to the white water environment, heading up the advanced kayaking group was Palm Equipment ambassador and Adv WW coach Georgina Maxwell. Running the River Garry & the Findhorn Gorge the groups really put their paddle skills into a challenging environment to look at leadership skills, line choices and chasing the stoke! The paddleboards & OC1 workshops also enjoyed the release of the River Garry – with slim pickings for other rivers this was a prime location for the progression in both of these crafts. Jess Phillips leading the WW SUP & Emy McLeod coaching the OC1 workshops – both are British Canoeing #shepaddles alumni ambassadors who inspire and motivate individuals on and off the water. The current Scotland #shepaddles ambassadors were representing at the symposium; Claire Scott & Savanna Guade were on the water assisting the paddle board workshops. There are exciting things to come from the two of them as they team together to offer paddleboard & yoga weekends in Scotland!

White water kayaking at SWPS on the River Findhorn

Each year I look forward to coaching at SWPS,  it brings a wide variety of women from the paddling community that are all keen to learn new things and share a fun day on the water. It has also been great to work alongside aspiring coaches and see them progress.

WW SUP Coach Jess Philips

The off-water entertainment for the weekend did not disappoint; evening talks from Alice McInnes along with Stefi Walker and Emily Hamilton Peach on their Antarctica Adventures, a Q&A with PEAKPS, environmental awareness sessions, Yoga and the most talked about Raffle in the paddling world! There was a great buzz around the weekend, the support from all attendees to others was huge. The symposium is organised by a core team of volunteers who work tremendously hard throughout the year to bring it all together. The weekend was a success and something the organisers should be exceedingly proud of. Well done!

Mags Duncan and I are very proud of the event we started in 2010 now being in its rightful home of Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre. It is fantastic that the event has stuck to its roots of “For Women by Women” and now have so many great women coaches to be able to hold such a large event. Everyone one of them were so stoked to be working at the National Centre.

Tracy Sherrington, organisation committee & surf coach

Glenmore Lodge was this years venue for the symposium.  The management team & event staff worked tireless with us to deliver an amazing event & funding towards 20 Women assistant coaches to attend- all subsidized by Glenmore Lodge working in partnership with the SCA to assist more women gain coaching qualifications.  Glenmore Lodge ticked all the boxes for the ideal venue; drying room, on site accommodation, good level of parking (free parking!), tea & coffee available 24/7, amazing food, cake o’clock every day, a bar, helpful & patient staff and many more positive points!  It is why the symposium will be returning to Glenmore Lodge for 2024 – the dates have been released; May 17th – 19th.  Pop it in the diary, it is a paddling event all female paddlers should attend!

Every attendee and coach received an eco #shepaddles tote bag full of goodies funded by British Canoeing, PEAKUK & Hatha Paddle Boards.