FLIRT – First Ladies Irish Rafting Team

It’s always exciting when we hear about a newly established team, especially a women’s team. This time we present to you “FLIRT” – First Ladies Irish Rafting Team. (What a great name!)


Jenny Kilbride, Sue Doyle, Vicki Guy, Mateja Trpin, Muireann Lynch, Laura Griffin and Kim Siekerman are team members. They’re all outdoor sports people. Their common ground is kayaking, some also SUP and surf and mountain bike in some form or shape, and one of the team members is very good with horses as well. Interesting crew.

In this interview, we will try to get to know this new girls, and to do that we have Kim answering some questions.

How come you ended up forming a rafting team?

“Some of us had been thinking about it for some time. After following the blogged adventures of a GB team member that we know (Rosie Cripps), we got really inspired. So the original group sent around e-mails to girls they thought might like to join as well, and everyone came back with a positive answer straight away! We met up one evening to discuss how we might organise ourselves and how seriously we wanted to take it, and then in September, when everyone was back from their summer work and holidays, we started training together, once a week.”

Knowing all the sports that you partake in, what is it that you love about rafting?

FLIRT 3“Firstly, I think the fact that it is NEW to us is really exciting. We are all water sports people (kayakers), and love to be one with the elements. Rivers are such an amazing environment for the wildlife, scenery and the dynamic nature of the rapids.

Another thing we found challenging was the fact that all of us have an idea on where we want the raft to go from our kayaking experience, and communication has been one of the things we need to work on most. This is also a very nice thing, because if it works, you feel like you’ve all accomplished something together. We had so many giggles together because of funny things that happened due to misunderstandings, it’s nearly worth it to see things go a bit pear shaped.

This is probably a big thing too: when you’re racing together, you’re not competing against your friends but with them. You can share the nerves at the start, and share the results, good or bad, together. That way there is always someone that can cheer up the team if something didn’t go very well, and if you won or exceeded your expectations, you can cheer together!” –  Plenty of good reasons to be in a rafting boat and competing.

How do you work your training? And on which rivers do you raft?

“At the moment we train once a week for 2 hours in the evening. At the start we were on the river Liffey, a class 2 river with some weirs, to get our strokes and communication sorted. We also trained at a little class 3 rapid on this river and we try to find different spots to train every time. When it got a bit too dark to go on the river we did a session at the docks in the city center of Dublin, and a moonlight paddle on the lake. We are aiming to get a few pool sessions in this winter, but will probably have to stick to weights and circuit training as most of us work on the weekend.”

There’s an interesting photo of your team in the pub …… is it a way to relax after a training session or was the motive different? How do you like to relax after training?

FLIRT 4“Normally we would be quite serious about training, but one night we saw some friends in the pub as we passed it during a flat water session at the docks and it was too beautiful an occasion to pass up. They even bought us a drink! But no, normally it is quite late in the evening, so we might drink tea or hot chocolate and biscuits after a session. Most of the time we try to get home though, especially because the winter has been quite cold and the roads are bad.” – Friends and beautiful occasions should not be missed, I completely agree.

Which will be the first competition where we can follow your progress? What are your plans for this year?

“We haven’t decided where to go next, but it will probably be a competition in the UK.

Our first big plan is to help set up a governing body for rafting in Ireland. Naturally, we cannot call it the Irish Rafting Association :), but Rafting Ireland sounds cool too. Hopefully we will have some fun competitions and we would like to organise the first National Championships in September. A lot of people have already said they would like to try racing, and at least one group of our male friends have asked for advice on how to set up their own team. We hope there will be more teams next year!”

Is there a male team in your country?

“Not at the moment. We know there are some that would really like to start training, but there is no rafting tradition in Ireland. Only 2 companies offer commercial trips (we think) and they’ve only started in the past few years. I suppose we’re really the first Irish rafting team ever to take up training together and form an official club, even though some kayakers have temporarily formed teams to compete in competitions in the past.”

What are your impressions of your first race – the Llandysul Raft Race?


“Our first competition we paddled last year was the Llandysul raft race, organised by the British Women’s raft team. In the sprint we got 4th out of 5 teams, which was great because we didn’t come last. We were really delighted with that. Then we seeded all the way up through the head to head, and ended up having to paddle against the British Ladies raft team! They were so good to watch but man… they were super fast and coordinated. A real inspiration. We got second in this class, and also in Slalom and Endurance, so second over-all. I think the fact we could all read the water helped.”

That’s a great start! Will we see you at the world champs in New Zealand 2013?

“We hope so. At the moment a lack of money has stopped us from going to the worlds in New Zealand. But we are keen to get the money together to go to Brazil the year after. This year we would like to focus on getting better and to organise some competitions close by, and go abroad to Europe for one international competition. But for us, being on an island, it can be quite expensive to fly to the location and stay for the week. We obviously need a travel agent for a sponsor!!! – A travel agent is a good solution to the problem. This is a team that definitely needs to participate in New Zealand and I sincerely hope that it will figure it out and sponsors will support them.

Now we know them a little bit better. Thank you Kim for your time and we look forward to getting to know you better through upcoming competitions.

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