This has been the summer of women on the water throughout Wales, thanks to the success of the #ShePaddles campaign.
It reached its high tide mark back in May, when 75 women – the vast majority of whom had never met each other – took part in a paddlesport festival at the Plas y Brenin National Outdoor Centre, in Snowdonia.
“Plas y Brenin had never had 75 people on the water at once before, never mind 75 women,” says Lydia Wilford, development officer at Canoe Wales.
“The feedback we received was really interesting. As many as 80 per cent of the women there didn’t know anyone when they arrived.”
So what makes 75 women of varying ages want to spent a springtime weekend splashing around on a lake?
It might be the beauty of the Llynnau Lakes and surroundings, or the desire to feel fit, active and adventurous, or the curiosity to learn a new sport.
Or it might be all those things – plus the absence of male egos!
#ShePaddles was a programme devised by British Canoeing in 2020, interrupted by the pandemic, but taken up by Canoe Wales and rolled out across the country with huge success in 2021 and 2022.
Designed to get more females into paddlesports – canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding – and to develop them as enthusiasts, officials and coaches, the campaign has struck a chord with girls and women of all ages.
As well as festivals, there have been tours to various locations with #ShePaddles ambassadors, “champion” clubs and a vibrant Facebook group with over 2,500 members.
“What was really interesting about the festival in May was to see that so many women were happy to turn up on their own because they knew it would be all women,” says Lydia.
“It can be a disincentive, if you think turning up to try paddleboarding or kayaking will mean you’ll be in a group with 18-year-old lads.
“We are finding these women are loving coming into the sport in a women-only environment. Once they have got their confidence in the sport, then they are more than happy to mix.
“We’ve also had some amazing Asian ladies, who would simply be unable to take part in sessions with men.
“So, it can be a starting point for a variety of reasons – but there’s no doubt how positive women are to a females-only introduction to the sport.”