Interviewer: Today I’m talking to two professional kayakers Glenda Beachley and Declan Speight, who’s now making a name for himself in the spin-off sport of wild-water racing. Glenda, first of all, why kayaking? What do you get out of the sport?
Glenda: Well I started at six, when my dad let me paddle his boat in the practice pool; we’d do drills. I’ve been at a professional level for six years, recently going full-time. Kayaking’s a very addictive sport. It’s something you want to get better at, no matter how good you are. But what really appeals to me about kayaking is that it calls for several different skills to be used simultaneously . It requires not only physical strength, but mental tolerance. You have to train your brain not to panic when you roll over: to think instead of the process needed to roll your boat back up. Then an added bonus is that when you’re on the water, it’s you and the river. You control the boat and plan your line through.
Interviewer: So what would you say to anyone interested in taking up kayaking?
Glenda: Hopefully, if you join a club, there’ll be people to train with and share vital advice gained from years of experience. But, however much training you decide to do, keep it up. I started by going paddling once a week, slowly building up to several times a day over many years. But most importantly, when you first start kayaking, just have fun . Don’t make it about racing and being the best kayaker in the world, just learn as much as you can. My friends and I used to keep each other progressing. What I mean by that is, when one of your friends learns a trick that you can’t do, that’s all the more reason to train harder and learn the trick faster. And it works both ways, so we all advanced in the sport.
Interviewer: So tell us about wild-water racing, Declan.
Declan: It’s a race on a predetermined section of river. You set off at sixty-second intervals; it’s just you and the river. You don’t have to follow a particular route; it’s up to you to figure out which line is fastest! Training can be hard, physically and psychologically, especially when the weather’s bad and there aren’t many competitions coming up, but it’s worth it in the summer when the big ones come around . Training for me involves being on the water, gym sessions and running to help maintain aerobic fitness. I have to ensure I eat enough of the right things to keep myself in the best shape possible, but paddling definitely builds up an appetite!
Interviewer: So, is kayaking dangerous?
Glenda: White-water kayaking can be, often a small mistake can push you off the right line and you end up paying for it! When I first started out, I felt intimidated by certain stretches of river. I’d weigh up the risks and only have a go once I felt up to the challenge. And I’m still doing that. Sure, you feel exhilarated by that challenge, but you shouldn’t actually be scared. Later, when you start progressing and trying new things, you still get that rush of adrenalin. But you do need to avoid taking unnecessary chances . Things can still go wrong, of course. I’ve had a few nasty spills where I got beaten about a bit, but I‘ve been lucky enough not to sustain a serious injury.
Interviewer: What about equipment, Declan?
Glenda: I always go back to the gear I didn’t have to replace over the course of a full year on the water. A good many bits of costly equipment didn’t make it to any reasonable expectation of a useful lifespan. Kit’s a very personal thing, though; what suits one person might not suit the next. It’s great that there’s a huge range on offer but it’s tough doing the research yourself. As a beginner, I’d say get some insider tips from someone in the know.  Don’t just follow your instinct, because whatever you do choose, make sure it’s fitted out nicely for you. A comfortable boat and set of paddles that you can rely on makes the world of difference.
Interviewer: So, both of you, what’s your best memory of kayaking?
Glenda: One of the best things is that it’s a very social sport – it’s all about interacting with other people. So although the first time I was selected for the national team and winning my first medal in an international competition are great memories, probably my most valued are those when I’m on a great trip, getting to know new rivers and their surroundings in the company of fellow kayakers I trust and get on with.
Declan: This year, the high spot for me was landing in Tasmania with my training partner Sam, to find that all the rivers were in flood, making each one flow. Over the space of a few weeks we paddled lots of them, some of which hadn’t flowed in over twenty years! And I’ve met kayakers from all over the world.  I mean, I’ve had experiences I wouldn’t have missed for the world, on and off the river.
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