I’ve been hunting down Paul Robertson aka Cheesy to take part in the Unsponsored Q&A series for a few months. Paul kindly agreed to fit it into his super tight schedule. Paul is a former world C1 freestyle champion and a well known face on the freestyle scene. Paul is now Palm Equipments brand manager and marketing director which places him at the heart of kit development.

I am extremely grateful that Paul managed to find some time to take part in the Unsponsored 2012 Q&A series.

Unsponsored Q&A Series - Paul Robertson

Tell us a little a bit about you accomplishments in the kayaking world

I guess I should list something in the canoe world first as paddling decked C1 is where I’ve had most success. I won world (97 and 99), European and UK freestyle titles, but my stand out was doing the double (C1 and K1) at the Rabioux, which was a big deal back in the day.

When and how did you first start paddling?

At Hole in the Wall on the Wye, aged nine. I pretended my boat was a battle ship.

What is your current location?

At Palm’s HQ, trying to get re-organised after the Paddle Expo trade show whilst dreaming of riding the new trails in the Forest of Dean.

What scares you the most?

When I was young I swam at Nottingham and they had to prise my fingers of the start gate as I’d latched onto it and wouldn’t let go. But in terms of really scared – snakes. Always have been and always will be.

What was your biggest hurdle in kayaking when you started out – finding people to paddle with, nailing the third end, lack of rivers etc?

Figuring out stuff I’d only seen in pictures. I spent hours at the Bitches trying to work out cart wheeling and stuff like that. It’s cool folk can just Youtube it now and go giver. Also kit, getting good small sized kit was hard. I had to have my PFD modified so it wouldn’t cover my face and I could see what I was doing.

Unsponsored Q&A Series - Paul Robertson

What has kept you in the sport?

Love…… I really, really, love paddling. Oh and its my job!

Who is your biggest source of inspiration within the paddling world (and why)?

There’s loads (insert generic list of names of top paddlers from last 20 years), but after getting a copy of Bill Endicott’s ‘To win the worlds’ I decided I would, so I suppose it’s him.

Given the choice where would want to paddle?

I’ve got a bit of a fix on kayak surfing right now so lets say Morocco a nice point with a few cheeky sections.

Do you all consider yourself to be the craziest designer, coming up with the wildest designs; do you see yourself as pushing the design envelope?

Amongst other things my job here at Palm is watching trends, coming up with ideas and also trying products….not bad work 😉 but although its clichéd we work as a team, so I’m just part of the picture.

What was your biggest blunder?

When I was a school teacher in Reading, I’d regularly fall ‘ill’ when Hurley was running. On one of these ‘sick’ days I was longboarding through Henley-on-Thames and I skated straight into a Geography field trip from the school – that was a bit awkward.

Biggest success – personal, and commercial?

Biggest personal success was marrying my wife, she put up quite a fight being that I’m ginger.

Commercially I’ve been lucky to be involved in loads of new products, but every time I get to be the first to try something it’s still a massive buzz.

Unsponsored Q&A Series - Paul Robertson

What made you get in to designing kayak equipment? When did it all start?

There was a shed load of new concepts being tried in paddling when I was in my early 20’s and it was hard not to want to be part of the movement. At college I started to test for Pyranha and also just kicking ideas around with friends like Barney Caulfield or Andy Phillips. Nowadays I don’t classify myself a designer but its cool being able to come up with a concept and to let someone just take it on and push it to another level.

Do you all know each other? Can Robert Peerson ring up Celliers Kruger and pick his brain?

It’s business and competitive so generally companies or individuals work alone. That said everyone likes to chew the cud a little, especially if there’s a beer or three.

Do you wish boaters would treat your gear better? Or is it that you just have to make tougher stuff to put up with abusive paddlers?

Ha ha. I’m pretty much employed to be one of the worst, so let me be totally hypocritical – yes! It’s not easy delivering on kit expectations, some are realistic others far from it. Certainly as WW boaters we push our kit in a way that’s hard for the materials to keep up with.

How are materials and design process technology progressing our gear and our sport?

In boats, not fast enough, although composite is going places. In gear pretty rapidly although limited by the answer to the last question and to a point, the price the paddling community perceives things are worth.

Let us know what’s going on in the world of RnD. What is the next big thing?

Functionally there’s a few places still left to tread. They’ll be lighter weight kit and definitely boats. More customization of outfit, or pimping of gear to make it your own and probably some technologies for personal climate control in apparel. Currently at Palm, we are pushing gear that works a treat but looks cool enough that you’d want to wear it down the pub. Who wants to get into a sport with full of freaks who dress like Darth Vader when other sports like biking and skiing have such cool yet functional stuff – Bright and light is the here and now.

Many Thanks Paul!