Simon Westgarth – BCU level 5 coach, science teacher, author, film maker, founder of Gene17, explorer, adventurer, traveller, designer…
Simon is truly at the forefront of Kayaking in the UK and it is a great honour to have Simon take part in the 2011 Unsponsored Q&A series.
When and how did you first start paddling?
I started paddling in 1982, when I was in the boy scouts, on Cheddar reservoir in Somerset
What is your current location?
River Dart, Dartmoor
What scares you the most?
Lack of control.
What was your biggest hurdle in kayaking when you started out – finding people to paddle with, nailing the third end, lack of rivers etc?
Being so young and not having transport. I cycle to my local river where I used to leave my slalom kayak in a farmer’s barn, and then go paddling.
What has kept you in the sport?
It’s the greatest adventure you can ever have, day after day, even when it’s the same river section time and time again, there is no end point.
Who is your biggest source of inspiration within the paddling world (and why)?
Paddler’s like Arnd Schaeftlein who shaped the modern scene, paddlers who became kayak lifestyler.
Given the choice where would want to paddle?
I already have that choice, and I go on the same Spring to Autumn tour every year, Slovenia, Italy, Norway and back to Slovenia, with a few new spots every year to spice it up, Greece and Northern Norway this year and BC the year before.
What do you dislike most about the competition scene, the industry and media, and what you’d change if you had a blank cheque or God like powers?
Everyone’s perception is their own reality, and in competitions people can get swept up in the whole micro scene, where the king of that back yard may appear to rule their world, but the world in a big place and there are many elite paddlers. If you travel enough and are lucky enough, you get to paddle with these, and your own reality is often different from the scene.
What kit are you currently using?
I’ve used Palm Equipment & Dagger Kayaks since 1996, that’s 15 years with the same guys, I have got to help design the actual boats and gear I use. The new Mamba, I had on test since May, and the new Palm Spark freeride suit, which was my idea, that Palm made, and I love it, a lightweight suit for charging hard in these days of dynamic paddling. I also use Sweet helmets, and have done since 1998 when the birth of an idea was coming a reality in Norway, and now it’s the best insurance for your head, plus Werner Paddles, as well who better!