Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Profile: Fiona Whitehead

I started paddling in 1994, whilst working at a centre, I didn't enjoy my first impressions of paddle sport, it was in a GP boat on a cold, wet and windy day in which my instructor swam whilst trying to teach me to draw stroke. I persevered and a few months later I went on an expedition to the Outer Hebrides and that was it I was completely sold.

I am employed for The Outward Bound Trust for whom I have worked for the last seven years. My main role with them is to oversee the development and management of staff and students in their Lake District Centre based on Ullswater near Penrith.
I have tried all areas of the sport, the devices to Westminster canoe race, racing at British National marathon championships, racing at national level for Sprint races, wild water racing, surf kayaking and dragon boating. My main focus is on Sea paddling I enjoy spending time coaching as well as expeditions, recently I have also developed an enjoyment for Journeying by open canoe and I am now working towards my Level 5 coach canoe.

In the first few years of sea kayaking I expeditioned with friends and colleagues in and around the UK waters. Since then I have coached and expeditioned in many countries around the world. One of my first big expeditions was to Australia where I spent three months paddling along the coast of Western Australia. The trip was a mixture of solo paddling and paddling with locals that I met, Since then I have done a many expeditions which have included the first circumnavigation of Wales by Kayak, the fastest female circumnavigation of Anglesey in 14 1/2 hours both with Justine Curgenven and a circumnavigation of Great Britain and Ireland in 93 paddling days and 144 days in total. The challenge and enjoyment I get is endless, I am constantly full of thoughts of places I would like to paddle only time will tell if I am able to do them.

Why the Falkland Islands?
My first recollection of the Falkland Islands was when I was eleven, it was April and I was home from School for the Easter holidays. My memory was of watching the News to see the Islands had been invaded by the Argentineans, whilst my memory of the timing after this is a little vague, I do remember my father making a few phone calls and before I knew it he was packed and rushing out of the door on a mission to join a new ship and make it ready for war and then head south to the Falklands.

On returning to School there were a few of us with Fathers serving in the armed forces so we developed the ritual of catching the 6pm news before dinner for updates of progress. I was lucky as at the end of September that year my father returned home, this was not the case for a couple of my friends.
Once I had grown quite a bit older and started to travel the world my father has always told me stories of his visits to where ever I had been. He has never really spoken much of the Falklands, I have learnt from other friends who have been there what a fabulous, remote and in places barren set of Islands they are. I have always been intrigued by them and now I have the chance to go and explore them and see what my father and others fought for.