Current manager at the Lee Valley White Water Centre, team captain for the GB Open Men’s team, avid freestyle kayaker (when he gets the chance) and recent convert to the world of Triathlons, this week we meet Pas Blackwell. Pas started getting heavily into freestyle kayaking after university so moved to Nottingham to be able to train more regularly. After working a few different jobs and struggling to find time to get to the river he decided to simply work on the river and loved it.
What motivates you to keep paddling/rafting?
I don’t think there is any better way to see different countries than from the river. You are off the normal tourist routes and you get to meet the people and experience the culture properly. Rafting and paddling has taken me to so many amazing places I would never have seen or possibly even heard about, so this sport and hobby has opened so many doors. Although I am coming to the end of my competitive career I will always be following the river to some great spots around the world and I am really looking forward to getting back in touch with the social side of things.
Most memorable experience on the river and why?
So many occasions but my time on the Nile with paddling and rafting friends will be with me forever, back when life was simply about a lift to the top and a tow onto the wave. My first rafting World Championships in Ecuador was also a massive highlight. It was a huge adventure with a group of people who had no idea what was about to happen in a part of the world that is so simple and so beautiful. I have to be honest as well and say winning medals at a World level is very special and I have been lucky enough to do it with 3 different teams which I have helped form over the years. Each of those 5 worlds medals means so much to me and everyone who was a part of them will always be special to me.
Funniest / most ironic river moment?
Raft freestyle and raft king of the wave contest on the Quitos river in Ecuador, we were not a very athletic team at our first worlds as we didn’t really understand what raft racing was all about BUT we could surf and we showed it on that day. The USA were really impressive on the wave too but again it was the fun factor of the deep safe feature that meant it was great fun to watch and be a part of.
Worst moment on a river?
Losing friends and unfortunately it has happened a few times. You will always be remembered.
What do you do outside of rafting – how do you maintain a life balance?
Triathlon and Ironman competitions became my second love and I look forward to spending more time doing random races across the world.
Are you involved in any current (or recent) big projects outside of rafting? How has this impacted those around you and are there any crossovers to life on the river?
I work at a white water centre so work and play can get mixed in pretty well but that can mean never having a break so triathlon is good for creating a change. I have been helping to move Boater X forward in the last year as there are possible Olympic options ahead. This is another water based project but it keeps me busy. British Rafting itself was a massive project and one I was a small part of for a long time. It has now grown to where Deb, Hoops and Blue dreamt of many years ago and its great to see it running on its own (mainly because we can race or watch not organise) well done to Sean, Malcolm and others who have taken this to a whole new level.
You currently work at the home to the 2012 London Olympics Canoe Slalom venue – how much of an impact has this venue had on raft racing in the UK/World? Where would you like to see it go from here.
I think the venue has become the home to British Rafting both racing and recreational with over 40,000 people a year taking part at this venue. I think the expansion of the number of British teams competing in international events is due to the hard work of the rafting committee and I think the venue has helped give them a solid base to work from to increase numbers and bring rafting to junior participants. I would really like to see a home European or even World Championships so watch this space.
Any words of wisdom to those new to rafting?
Do the work at home so that you can enjoy competitions and make the most of them. It’s too easy to think its all about the result and hide away at competitions, the fun is in treating everyone as a river person and friend, enjoy testing your skills and theirs against the river. That way you will meet some amazing people and enjoy where you are (you may never go there again).
What do you think is the key strength of the IRF?
I think the strength of the IRF, like most organisations is always its people. The staff, the volunteers, the competitors and the organisers. With good people you will always have amazing results. I think there has been a very strong athletic feel to competitions recently which is really positive but I think it is important to remember you are being invited to a new country to experience something special. No one is paid to be there so we all have a responsibility to make it the best experience ever, to be involved, to be open to change and new surroundings and to show who we are as water people to local cultures who often haven’t met us before. I don’t think we should see it that we are there to be treated as special, we are there to show our talents and spread our love of paddling.
When will we see you next?
I will proudly be in Argentina with a great group of people from GB but that will be my last competition, certainly for a while but I maybe back as a master in 2020, I will have to see what my original bunch of misfits from Ecuador are up to lol.
Pas is one of our River Family. Are You?
#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #RiverFamily #StrongerTogether #WeAreIRF
We’re looking for more stories of River Family – if you have a story to tell, email Sean with your story and photos.