As Scotland’s only artificial white-water course Pinkston Watersports are well placed to support paddlesports from club level to performance sport all year round. Additionally, to support the delivery of Swift Water Rescue Training and Rescue from Vehicle training for 40+ emergency services from across the UK.

Part of their year-round success is that the Centre rents trailer bays and container offices, shops, and storage to wider water-based businesses. They have a commercial tour operation working across the weekends and school holidays and a full community delivery programme all year round. The local college trains their outdoor instructors here, so they have a pool of new talent annually to support the team as freelance, seasonal staff and volunteers.

It also provides community sessions for youth clubs and activities to children from some of the most deprived areas of Glasgow.

Jo Airey is the General Manager at Pinkston Watersports in Glasgow and has spent many years trekking up and down the country with her two sons who loved paddlesports and competitive slalom kayaking in particular. Pinkston are a Member of the Mutual and Jo recently joined the Board as Director bringing her expertise in marketing, small business development and charities.

With the Olympics round the corner, we thought she would be the perfect person to speak to about the Canoe features.

  1. What impact, if any, do you think having canoeing and kayaking in the Olympic Games has on your business, attendee numbers and interest from the public or schools? I genuinely hope the Olympics will have an enormous impact on paddlesports this summer.  Pinkston grew from a legacy project on the back of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 10 years ago and as we celebrate our 10th birthday, we continue to have the support of past Olympians who volunteer with us still. We are hosting our 10th birthday party during the Games and hope to get 1,000 children and young people on the water that day!
  2. You have many years of experience in the sport, have there been any changes to the type of person trying canoeing or visiting Pinkston? Over the years those who progress in the sport unfortunately do need parental support. There is a huge amount of travel required to compete with the vast majority of competitions based in England. This makes the sport expensive and out of reach for some. On a positive note, as a charity our goal is to ensure paddlesports are accessible to more and more young people and therefore we try to ensure no one is disadvantaged from trying the sport.  We offer thirty-two local youth club places each week for £1 and discount white water paddling for all students. We also promote canoe polo here at Pinkston which also allows more young people to take part at a reduced cost.
  3. Who should we look out for? Which team or individual do you think may win medals at the Paris Olympics? Slalom kayaking is an amazing sport to watch, and the skill required is incredible. The nuance of the paddle stroke and body position is like watching ballet – not sure if I will get a few raised eyebrows on that analogy! However, it really is like art to watch the speed, skill, movements all come together. The year Joe Clarke is definitely one to watch – he is tipped for Gold in both slalom and kayak X. He is the current World Champion. Adam Burgess (c1) is also one to watch – Adam competes in ‘canoe’ not kayak, was 4th in Tokyo – and one to watch – from memory he has achieved the final in 13 out of 14 Championships. From the women, Kimberley Woods is our kayak hopeful. Kim has been forthright and honest about her mental health demons, and she is now well placed for Paris. Mallory Franklin is our (c1) canoe hopeful coming 2nd in Tokyo. For interest watch her battle with Jessica Fox – British father, French mother and competing for Australia.
  4. We understand that Paris 2024 will see the debut of Kayak Cross is this something that you have seen before. I haven’t seen this personally but from the general public’s point of view this will be incredibly exciting to watch. It will always be obvious who is winning! However, expect also to be confused as all the boats will be the same colour – watch the bib colours to identify the competitors!
  5. As General Manager at Pinkston what words of advice would you give a new activity business or someone taking on a charity providing activities? I think from my perspective understanding your product and your market is key. I might want to sell paddlesports to a young person but if that young person is not ready then we try other things on land to build confidence first. Pinkston has a very mixed business profile, and we are fully aware of what each segment is; from a children’s flat water birthday party fun session to a series of white water lessons.  As a charity providing paddlesports many of the young people who visit us come to learn kayaking or paddleboarding, to take part in a new experience or simply have fun. However, we understand that we are delivering confidence, an understanding of challenge and risk, developing communication and team skills, improving mental health, and creating friendships. I suppose we hope to create a positive mindset shift to engage young people in opportunity and new possibilities.