WW conversations 5: Beth Kirby

Emma Love spoke to Beth Kirby about her passion for SUP and WW SUP in particular.

Interviews: Emma Love
http://www.wotbikinipaddleboarding.co.uk
Emma Love is a British Canoeing stand up paddleboard white water coach, and an Ambassador for both British Canoeing #ShePaddles and California Watersport Collective. 

On August 1st 2019, British Canoeing launched the Stand Up Paddleboard White Water Coach Award. In 2020, five women gained this award, and four more are now on route to qualifying. In a series of interviews, Emma Love grabbed some Zoom time with these extraordinary women to chat about their individual journeys and why the incredible paddlesport that is white water SUP is attracting so many women.

Beth Kirby
Photos: Chris Kippers Bond, Ewan Vernon and Beth Kirby

It was lovely to catch up with Beth Kirby and discuss SUP! Beth is a raft coach and medal winner, a kayaker and more recently, a qualified WW SUP coach based in the East Midlands. We chatted about Beth’s passion for paddleboarding on white water and her predictions of how she thinks our amazing sport will develop in the next few years.

What was your first paddling experience?  
My first paddling experiences were when I was a kid. We used to go on lots of water sports holidays, and I then went on to achieve my one star (kayaking) with the Girl Guides. But it wasn’t until I went to university in Nottingham that my interest in paddling took off, and I now paddle pretty much anything I can on white water including, rafting, kayaking and of course SUP!

What was it about white water SUP that sparked your interest?
Partly from seeing other people do it on the course and thinking to myself that having a go would be a bit of a laugh. I also came across it when I was not massively enjoying kayaking, mainly because of hating being stuck inside a boat. White water SUP felt like a perfect way of getting my enjoyment back. Interestingly, I have found that spending time playing on a paddleboard has helped build my confidence for getting back in a kayak.

What was your first paddling experience?  
My first paddling experiences were when I was a kid. We used to go on lots of water sports holidays, and I then went on to achieve my one star (kayaking) with the Girl Guides. But it wasn’t until I went to university in Nottingham that my interest in paddling took off, and I now paddle pretty much anything I can on white water including, rafting, kayaking and of course SUP!
What was it about white water SUP that sparked your interest?

Partly from seeing other people do it on the course and thinking to myself that having a go would be a bit of a laugh. I also came across it when I was not massively enjoying kayaking, mainly because of hating being stuck inside a boat. White water SUP felt like a perfect way of getting my enjoyment back. Interestingly, I have found that spending time playing on a paddleboard has helped build my confidence for getting back in a kayak.

What’s your primary motivation for paddling white water on a SUP?
I enjoy the challenge of it, the feeling is fantastic when you successfully paddle down a rapid, and WW SUP is very different from the other paddling I do. There’s a massive technical aspect to it that interests me, and I like the fact that it removes the barrier between male and female paddlers. We all have to work hard to stay on our boards!

I know you are incredibly competitive when it comes to paddling and have accumulated lots of competition experience with rafting. This culminated in winning bronze and gold medals (in 2017) at the Worlds in Japan. Do you find your drive to win is transferring to white water SUP?  
I have not had a huge chance to have a go at the competition side, but I would love to one day. Some tremendous white water SUP competitions are happening in the USA that I would like to participate in. For the moment, I am focusing on building up my paddling skills; I would describe my competitive edge as currently being focused on being the best I can be within the industry.

What is your prediction for how our sport will grow and its direction in the next few years?    
As a sport, it is progressing pretty quickly in the UK. Since British Canoeing launched the coaching qualification (and with that, an increase in paddlers becoming qualified), we have seen a lot more people coming to try WW SUP. So already the sport is much bigger than it was a year ago. I predict we will see WW SUP progress in three directions, SUP X, river surfing and river running.

SUP X is excellent for mass participation and showcasing the sport – it is especially accessible on lower grade sections of the river. I think we will see SUP X competitions being held on artificial courses around the UK in the future.

With river running, I think we will see this split into those paddlers who are mainly interested in surfing on the wave and those who love to paddle a stretch of a white water river. We witnessed a lot of interest in river surfing in August of last year where paddlers were heading out on the Thames. I think this will grow, particularly with freestyle kayakers wanting to have a go at something a little bit different. What would help develop this side of the sport is having artificial waves purposely built for WW SUP, as we have seen across the US.

How did you find the process of becoming a qualified white water SUP coach? 
I enjoyed the process. I had previously not done any ‘intentional’ coaching and instead had just helped people out with little bits here and there. I found the 15 or so sessions you have to complete post orientation and prior to the assessment helped me think about how to structure support for paddlers ranging from beginners and up to advanced levels. It also made me reflect on how to understand different individual’s motivations for getting on the water.

With the British Canoeing WW SUP coaching qualification being relatively new and significant uptake of women becoming qualified or on route to being qualified, what advice would you give women who may be interested in going down the coaching route?
Go for it! Attend the WW SUP two-day coach orientation; go and enjoy the experience and remember it is pitched at all levels of paddlers and up to grade two water. So, this is not about getting down big grade three rivers and stoppers; it is about focusing on the technical aspects of paddling. Keep in mind; women are better at the technical aspect of paddling because of our size and strength. Also, talk to the ladies who have already qualified or are on that journey; they will be able to give you lots of advice. And finally, think about having a female coach mentor to support you; they will help you on your path to instructing and coaching.

About thepaddlerezine (455 Articles)
Editor of The Paddler magazine and Publisher of Stand Up Paddle Mag UK and Windsurfing UK magazines

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