The First Ever Wild Women SUP Symposium | Scotland

TotalSUP long-time contributor and Barrachou Paddle owner Helen Trehoret talks to TotalSUP about her venture to  develop a network of SUP events, aimed at increasing female SUP participation. The first the Wild Women SUP Symposium was hosted in September 2022, based out of Cannich, Scotland.  This event held specifically for women SUPrs  was led by Women SUPrs, targeting wild SUP skills and techniques over 3 days! Read on for more information on the concept and how you can get involved in the 2023 SUP events!

How did the idea for the Wild Women SUP Symposium develop?

I started thinking about the idea before the pandemic hit, after several false starts, we were finally ready in 2022 to put things into place. So what is a SUP Symposium? The term was taken from what has been created in the kayaking world and transferred to the SUP world. The aim of this event, and forthcoming events is two fold, one is to encourage female particpation in sports, notably in SUP, and the second goal is to provide an opportunity for  ladies to improve their SUP experience in a female environment. The goal is to roll out  several more SUP symposiums based on different themes, this event being a Wild Women theme, set in Scottish Wild Lochs and focused on encouraging women to get into the wilds of Scotland. Scotland is a destination that is absolutely stunning, and a place that should be on everyones bucket list!

Paddleboarding has undergone several evolution since its immergence, from the pioneers at the beginning, to the explosion post co vid.  And it is this explosion that has emerged like-minded SUP fanatics and with this the rise in female participation in the sport, which has not gone un noticed.  So after reading and seeing lots of events targeted at women I thought of the idea to create an event that would bring together paddlers from beginners through to advanced, and importantly to provide coaching from female instructors.

Women only events may seem prejducial but in order to understand why they exist we must  look at female participation in sport. It is clear that participation rates amongst women and girls are predominantly lower than men, this gender gap is caused by many barriers, some practical, personal, some social and cultural.  For females I feel there are many barriers in our sport such as body image, lack of self confidence, parental and adult influence, male dominance in the culture of sport, and female invisibility – the lack of role models in sport. It is a combination of these factors that motovated me to start this event. It was an opportunity to address this issues and barriers. I felt that being an all female group we could speak plainly and directly. I agree that men instructors would be very capable in managing these barriers, but would the participants?  The last factor was particuluarly signifcant in organising the event. I wanted a womens event to be led by women instructors, I often see female only trips led by men, personally it seems wrong, it gives the wrong vibe, after all we have a great depth of female instructors in our industry! Finally it can be said that I am the biggest advocate for female in sport, and doing this is how I feel I can help with the issue.

How did you chose the programme?

The base camp for the event was in Cannich, Scotland. The format of the weekend was  to split the days into sessions, morning and afternoon. The paddlers had the choice to mix and match between sessions.  I created a programme that mixed up a range of skills, techniques and conditions. After registration on the Friday night, the attendees were armed with a stacked programme and awesome t shirts thanks to ASI  Instructor! I chose instructors that I knew, and respected in the industry. It was important for me to work with instructors that are well established in the Scotland,  qnd who have been killing it for years. I also contacted fellow coaches that I have known for a few years. The instructors for the event were Samantha Rutt, Emy Mcloed, Jess Philips, Leanne Bird and myself, Helen Trehoret.

Can you introduce the instructors?

Samantha Rutt from Barefoot Ocean  rand the techniques and turns workshop. Samantha, fresh from her Irish Sea Crossing broke down the paddle technique for the paddlers, spending time both on land and the water, using her experience to walk through how to ace the paddle technique.   Scottish Native Jess Philips hosted the river SUP event, for some paddlers this was one of the first river / moving water experiences. Jess talked through the technique for paddling in rapids, and after a full day on the river Glass the ladies were in need of a good rest!

Emy Mcloed took the confidence on the water session, to some SUP paddling looks easy but Emy was on hand to push the ladies to the next level by some great coaching. Leanne Bird took on the fitness SUP session, this session was purely based on fitness, the ladies were using their paddlboards to push the fitness, making them paddle ready for their sessions.The evening was spent mingling and talking about our paddle experiences, this was a chance to met up with other like minded paddlers and to make plans for the next day. Also on offer was a workshop by myself, on SUP expedition and planning. This is something that I am passionate about, and want to encourage other female paddlers to take it up.  We touched upon the factors that make a great expedition, and the considerations in planning.  We also bolted on a SUP expediton onto the event, so that the ladies could practice thier skills in the wilds!

The SUP Expedition

The SUP expedition was a simple overnighter, we paddled from one side of Loch Cannich to the other, and made camp there. There was an emphasis on gaining knowledge and camping in the wilds, for some of the ladies it was the first time they had been camping. We spent time organising the supplies, the sleeping equipment and portages.

The conditions were spot on for the overnight expedition. It highlighted the fact that there you can do an expedition in half a day, and it doesn’t have to be 5 day Artic expedition.  In organising the expedition we touched upon the barriers that are often faced with women’s adventure travel, that being lack of time (women are often the main child carers in the family), confidence and acessibility (often SUP expeditions can be marketed as 5 day artic events). But a simple overnight event showed how easy SUP travel can be!

Whats next?

I would like to roll out more symposiums based around different themes. I hope to do an ocean racing symposium in Norfolk and Devon next year. Also A SUP surf symposium in Ireland in October, and of course I am already planning the 2023 Wild Women SUP symposium ! I made some great friends at the Symposium, and I feel it was a succes. Alot wass learnt which meant the 2nd one can only be amazing! We had 30 ladies registered and I hope to build on this next year!  We are also looking for sponsors and female instructors that want to coach in the event!, this year we had help from ASI Academy of instructors, a partnership that we hope to build on!

I will spend the winter planning and rommong out the next few symposiusms, that will be based in Norfolk, Devon and Ireland.

How can we join?

f you are a lady and are interested in the event(s) that are coming up, then head over to the wild women SUP Symposium website and register your interest!  No matter how old, how young, or how experienced you are, there is always room for more women paddlers!

Interested in paddling in Scotland?

Contact Barrachou Paddle for the ultimate Scotland Expeditions!

About the Author

Helen Trehoret

SUP, OC1, V6, Surfski ... and field hockey coaching, Helen is a busy British mother of two who lives in Bretagne, France with a passion for all things Ocean. Helen runs Barrachou SUP, a SUP tour company specialized in excursions around Bretagne and Scotland.

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