Paddling with Passion

Written by Dharshana Sivapatham

In an age where Instagram and Snapchat are part of daily vernacular and the younger generation more entrenched in the world of screens than nature, it is refreshing and inspiring to see young people like Clare Pankhurst partake in a challenge as ‘analogue’ as it gets, the Avon Descent.

Paddle Ambassador at 18, Clare started kayaking 6 years ago together with her family. ‘We originally started with slalom kayaking but it wasn’t long before we started many of the other types. I now paddle and compete in slalom, DR, flat water and marathon kayaking.’ Clare is also studying agricultural science at UWA and coaches younger paddlers at the Ascot Kayak Club

Competing in many junior Avon Challenges since 2014, Clare has much to say about encouraging kids who are interested in kayaking ‘I love coaching the younger paddlers at the kayak club. Now I am focusing on getting some of the Ascot Kayak Club juniors that I coach to get involved in the junior Avon’. Clare’s passion shines through as she describes her rewards and challenges of coaching ‘Their ages range between 8 and 15. The most important thing about teaching kids to paddle is to just have fun and make sure you do things that they enjoy so they want to keep coming back. This is difficult when they don’t have the enthusiasm and positive attitude towards trying and learning new skills and challenges’ not being a novice at adversity, Clare’s attitude towards embracing that which is tough is something to be mirrored by the rest of us.

Clare’s response to her reason for competing in this year’s Avon Descent ‘It’s a great challenge and goal to set for yourself. I love stepping out of my comfort zone and building new skills along the way so the Avon Descent is a perfect opportunity for me.’

Having prepared to compete in K2, she explains that K2 is a kayak for 2 people, ‘It is important if you are the person in the back to stay in time with the person in the front. Slalom was what I got into first. It was a come and try at the Ascot Kayak Club that made me want to continue paddling slalom. The moving water and gates is a lot of fun and a great challenge. I liked the combination of technical skills and strength that was needed for slalom and other types of kayaking.’

Clare’s 3 best training tips for those who are just starting out:

  •         Variety is important- try many different types of kayaks 
  •         Just have fun while you are paddling and enjoy yourself, it’s not always about being the best 
  •         Join a kayaking club such as Ascot Kayak club. Find a group or someone to paddle with to make it more enjoyable. 

Clare continues to say ‘Ascot Kayak Club is great for beginners in kayaking. There are many groups and programs to join for all ages to learn the basics of kayaking or train hard for the next event’. To find out more head to

Her final advice for those setting off to Take the Plunge ‘It a great experience and challenge to set for yourself, there is nothing to lose so you might as well give it a go!’.



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