Interview With Paddling Expert Jaye Thornhill

At Cotswold Outdoor, we know a thing or two about adventure. We’ve been preparing people to explore the great outdoors since 1974, and for Cotswold Outdoor Expert and Store Manager, Jaye Thornhill, preparing for an adventure out on the water is what he does best. Read more about his paddling journey and how Cotswold Outdoor helps him to explore more. 

How did you get into paddling?

“I first got into paddling through the Scouts; I was lucky enough that our unit had access to some boats and did a fun day out on the water. Ten years later, I now have my own boat and help the Scouts out by introducing more people to the sport.”

What brought you to work for Cotswold Outdoor?

“I was in the 6th form when I joined the company and was really into the outdoors. I had some friends who worked for Cotswold Outdoor and they recommended I try it out as a weekend job. Since then, I have been learning new skills and developing in my career, moving up through supervisor, assistant manager to store manager.


In my previous roles I managed our ski store in Harrods, but I now manage two of our stores and it’s great to be able to support them and even the whole of London on various projects. I love that if you’re enthusiastic, there’s always opportunities to try new things and develop in the company.”

How does working for Cotswold Outdoor benefit your own outdoor experiences?

“Working for Cotswold Outdoor has really helped me with my own outdoor adventures, especially in terms of the training I receive. I even got the chance to head up to Scotland to get outdoors for work! But that kind of exposure and experience also allow me to assist customers with choosing new kit or help them to get the most out of their existing kit. I’ve even done a bag fit half-way up a mountain before, which was a pretty novel experience!”

What are your essential pieces of kit for a day out on the water?

“I think one of my absolute essential pieces would be a good non-waterproof trail running shoe like the Salomon Speedcross.  The number of muddy take-outs these have prevented - saving me and my friends from slipping back into the water - is countless. Being able to trust that you will be able to keep traction on any surface is priceless.


“My most used and loved piece of kit has to be my Rab Nucleus Pull-On Fleece. It’s amazing wherever, however and whatever I use it for. It’s a really warm but breathable layer under my drysuit that doesn’t get in the way, but it also works brilliantly as a day-to-day fleece; plus, it comes in some really nice colours!


“I think some other out-and-out essentials would include a first aid kit from Lifesystems, which come in a range of different sizes including one which is waterproof. They’re very well-organised inside, unlike others I’ve used in the past which are often loosely filled.  


“I also get really good use out of Icebreaker base layers on long expeditions. They don’t develop a smell anywhere near as quickly as others and they keep you warm even when wet.


“Other great bits that are often forgotten: energy bars, whistles, a good headtorch – such as Petzl or Black Diamond which are also waterproof - and you can never have too many dry bags (try Osprey or Exped). I divide all my kit up into different coloured and sized ones to make it easier for me to find something or point someone else in the right direction if I’m busy instructing.”

Why is having knowledge and experience so important for paddling, especially solo?

“It’s absolutely key to have ample knowledge about where you’re going, as well as the right level of experience for the activity and environment. Without that, it doesn’t just put you in danger, but everyone else you’re paddling with or even someone who comes to help you out of trouble.


“I very rarely paddle by myself but when I do, I’m always within talking distance of someone else and I’m very careful not to get complacent in an area I know well.”

What’s been your best experience on the water?

“I think my all-time favourite paddling experience was doing the Brent Loop in Algonquin National Park in Canada. I had done a few short, multi-day expeditions by boat in the UK, but the difference being out there, spending 8 days out on the water with a really good team, was incredible. We went in September and managed to catch all the trees coming into their autumn colours, perfect timing. It’s really hard to describe how it feels not seeing anyone apart from your teammates for days and carrying everything you need to survive with you.


“Going on a trip like that has taught me so much about my paddling, teamwork and even myself; I will never forget it. I keep catching myself daydreaming about Canada and going back there to paddle again, it really got me hooked!”

What’s the best thing about working for Cotswold Outdoor?

“I have to say, the best thing about working for Cotswold Outdoor is my colleagues. We hire people who are genuinely interested in the outdoors, so we all have things in common and that really helps with planning my own adventures. I’ve been out kayaking, canoeing, climbing and winter mountaineering with my colleagues, learning about places that I wouldn’t have ever thought to go to if it wasn’t for them.”

What would your advice be to anyone looking to get into paddling?

“Give it a go! Go on the British Canoeing website and use the ‘canoe near you’ function to find local groups and give them a shout. Every group I’ve come across has been super excited to meet new people and introduce them into the sport.


“Don’t think you need to have all the kit to get started: just start paddling and then pick up pieces as you go along. We’re always here to help!”

Finally, in your opinion, what makes an adventure?

“I think an adventure can be anything from taking a new route or paddling a different section on your local river to traveling internationally on a large expedition. It’s really just about trying something new and exploring somewhere you’ve never been before, especially with friends who are likeminded.”

Produced in collaboration with our partners at British Canoeing. If you’re looking for advice, inspiration or the right kit before heading out on the water, speak to the experts at Cotswold Outdoor and receive 15% off the very best brands as a member of British Canoeing. 

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