ProStaffer of the Month: William McCluskey

Aqua-Bound ProStaffer William McCluskey

AB: How did you get started kayaking?

WILLIAM: At the age of nine, I started paddling kayaks with the Boys Brigade in the north of Scotland. For most of the time it was paddling on cold lochs until summer 1975.

The first sea trip was planned under the care of the local Air Force instructors. But my father, being kind as he was, took me to the cinema the night before. The film was Jaws.

Although there has never been any great white sharks in north Scotland, it was the most terrifying experience ever on the water! A splash behind me, a paddle hitting on the side of the kayak—any noise made my heart jump. Possibly physiologically damaged for life, I paddled almost exclusively on rivers for the next twenty years.

I only began to be an avid sea paddler seven years ago. Now living in Norway, my experience on rivers had undoubtedly paid off while rock-hopping, surfing or in storms.

kayaking in a storm

AB: Tell us about your sea kayaking experience

WILLIAM: I was an inland kayak instructor in my late teens, teaching different groups from the military to girl guides. I was also chosen as a part-time instructor for the Highland region of Scotland, which was an achievement I was proud of. Teaching kids was by far the best part of that job. My job in the oil industry meant I had to give that up after a few short years.

I have recently begun to re-qualify as a sea kayak instructor here in Norway. I am a member of two local clubs in my area, although I paddle with them only on the odd occasion, as I am mostly a solo paddler. But I have taken several individuals out to new places and do prefer company in more demanding conditions.

kayaking in waves

AB: How do you help introduce new paddlers to kayaking?

WILLIAM: I don't introduce new people to paddling directly, but have written articles on the health benefits of paddling, physically and more so mentally.

I am, myself, bipolar. Kayaking, along with photography, is undoubtedly crucial in my well-being. When depressed, I can go paddle in nature and cut myself off from the world—basically escapism.

On the other hand, when energy levels increase to hyperactivity, a longer-distance trip against the clock is ideal. Kayaking is the best medicine I have.

Through these publications I have had enormous feedback from people in similar situations, who have taken inspiration from my articles.

I have also been approached by some people who decided to start paddling after seeing my photos on Instagram. This, in turn, strengthens my resolve to continue paddling. A win-win situation.

I like to share photos I take while paddling on Instagram@icykayak. Calm seas, sunsets, storms and anything in-between—a stretch of water is all I need.

kayak sunrise

AB: Where is your favorite place to kayak?

WILLIAM: While living in Scotland I paddled many rivers, rarely on the sea. This picture (below) paddling a waterfall appeared in Canoe Focus magazine in 1987.

kayaking a waterfall

Here in Norway, sea kayaking has become my passion and there are so many places to choose from that choosing a favourite would be near impossible! With fjords, open sea, islands surrounded by thousands of smaller islets to navigate—the choices are endless.

I deliberately avoid the more well-known places as I like to avoid boat traffic and sometimes people, also.

My favorite time of year to kayak is winter. I love the cold fresh air. Snow and ice are a challenge, especially when paddling alone. I can never get enough of extreme paddling in storms or freezing temperatures.

You can connect with William on Instagram.

(All photos courtesy of William McCluskey)

sea kayaking

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