The Unsponsored Q&A series is back for 2021. First up is UK kayaker and #shepaddles ambassador Del Read.

Unsponsored Q&A Series - Del Read
Unsponsored Q&A Series – Del Read

Who is del_likes-kayaking?

A woman who really likes kayaking! 

Where are you from and where do you paddle?

I am from Nottingham and live very close to HPP and so this is where I paddle most often. I am lucky to have such a great facility on my doorstep!

How did you first get into kayaking? Who introduced you to the sport?

I lived in New Zealand for a year and wanted to try as many new things as possible whilst I was there. Paddling happened to be one of them. I got involved through the University club in Auckland and met some great people through the club who helped me to progress. My friend Lewis stands out to me from this time as he would take me on kayaking weekends even though I was swimming a lot. In his words, he did not mind because I was so keen!

What does a regular week look like at this time of year?

It is very varied depending on how busy I am with work (teacher). I try to go every weekend and at least one evening session a week during term time. During the holidays, it is every day! If it is wet, then I will travel around the UK chasing the rain but if it is dry then I am content with sunny playboat sessions at HPP.

Do you have any pre-paddling rituals to help calm your nerves or get you into the zone?

No rituals as such but I like to get on the water quickly and get right into it, particularly on bigger water days. My friends joke that I don’t accept any faffing on boating days and I guess that is true. Gear up quickly and get paddling! As soon as I have got my face wet and run a rapid or two, the nerves reduce massively and I can start enjoying myself. 

Some times I get very nervous about particularly features but I treat them in the same way as the rivers. Once I have scouted it and decided on a line, I like to get on and do it. I am happy to be first or second down a feature and prefer that to waiting at the top and letting the nerves build up!

When was your last swim?

On the river Mellte last Summer. The swim was not even on one of the named rapids but one of the smaller ledge drops. Turns out it had quite a sticky hole! I was not expecting the hole and did not put a good enough boof stroke in to get me over it. I got immediately back-looped and then took a bit of a beat down in my boat. I’m fairly comfortable in holes because of the playboating at HPP but it became clear quite quickly that I was probably wasn’t coming out of this one in my boat. Luckily my attempts at getting out gave my friends plenty of time to get their throwlines ready for when I finally did pull my skirt!

What has been your luckiest escape?

I have had bad swims and bad days on the river – but I have always tried to reflect and see what I could learn from that experience to help me in the future. I think the details of those experiences do not always need to be shared.  

Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world to paddle?

I would love to go back to New Zealand – I miss my friends there. I would also love to paddle in Chile – although I think I may need to get better first!

What paddling kit are you currently using?

Right now it is Summer so my Palm shorty cag and board shorts are getting a lot of use!

Which kayak from over the years conjures up the best memories?

Probably my Waka Stout. I have had this boat for 4 years now and it has been with me through a time of huge progression. If I look back over this time at my proudest achievements and biggest moments/days in paddling, it has usually been in my Stout. I love it so much I even named it Frodo (my favourite hobbit from my favourite book!)

What gear are you using right now?

I guess that is quite similar to the previous question. Standard gear is my Palm FXr BA, Palm Impact skirt, Sweet Rocker helmet, Throwline, Sling, and then however many layers is needed for the weather. My shoes depend on which boat I am in as the smaller the boat, the less room there is for shoes!

What do you think has been the most innovative change introduced in to the kayaking world?

I think something that affects people of all levels would be the use of videos. Now that people have such good quality cameras on their phones it allows them to film kayaking. Video analysis is such a useful feedback tool. If you are helping someone to improve their paddling, having the video to show the person exactly what you mean is so useful. I have playboat sessions at HPP and between each attempt, I can watch the video back and see exactly what I was doing and where I was going wrong. Video feedback helps me competing at a international level but also people who are just starting out in the sport.

Many thanks Del!

You can find the rest of the Q&A series right here.