Fastest Great Glen paddle

Great Glen Paddle Map

A kayaker has smashed the record for the quickest Great Glen paddle.

The Great Glen offers 57 miles of fabulous paddling, from Fort William to Inverness. Many people spend three to five days doing the journey in a kayak or a Canadian canoe. And why not? It’s worth taking your time to enjoy the fabulous scenery and stunning waterways, including Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal.

But, of course, there are always those who want to go a bit quicker. Last weekend, one paddler set a new record, doing the route in just eight hours (and 45 seconds). Ivan Lawler was taking part in the Great Glen Paddle, an event that sees paddlers racing to be the first to complete the full distance non-stop.

This is only the second year that the event has taken place and Ivan, 47, from London, knocked an incredible one hour and 30 minutes off the previous best time.


Ivan Lawler

In 2014, Ivan finished more than an hour ahead of second-placed Calum Urquhart.

Yet Ivan, a former world champion marathon canoeist, was quick to play down his achievement. He said: “I am not fit at all just now. I haven’t done very much for six months. I didn’t even expect to finish, let alone cross the line first.”

The weather conditions were reported as “very bad”. The temperature was sub-zero and there was snow, strong wind and big waves on Loch Ness. Several people ended the day upside down in the loch.

But Ivan reckons the difficult conditions actually helped him. He said: “I was paddling a new style of kayak, a surf ski, which is designed to cut through the waves. The wind and the waves were actually an aid for me.”

On the UK Rivers Guide Book website, Selkie said: “I’ve decided that my friend Ivan Lawler is a freak. With no training, he has just smashed the hell out of the record for the Great Glen Paddle. He went up to deliver boats to the Epic dealer and thought he would have a go! While everyone else trains hard and prepares he relies on good equipment and technique. Training, for him, is just the icing on the cake.”

What is a surf ski?

ski viper 2

Kayak surf skis, made by Epic and Nelo, and introduced to Scotland only recently, have become an overnight success. These are sit-on kayaks, rather than sit-in-a-hull style.

While “sit-on” might make you think of big plastic beginner boats, the sit-on surf skis look every inch the racing kayak.

Stuart Wagstaff, who is hiring surf skis for his courses at Sea Kayak Oban, has high praise for the new style of boat.

He said: “There are different classes of surf ski but even the entry level offers speed and efficiency in the water. The boats are really stable and superb for beginners.

“There are no worries about having to get out of the boat if you go over because you just slip off the top and then it’s very easy to get back on again.

“But, in fact, the boats do not roll very easily. They can also be steered by pedals connected to a rudder, which makes things a lot easier for new-comers to sea kayaking.

“These are our boats of choice now, instead of the traditional sit-in sea kayak.”

Find out more:

Great Glen Paddle for 2015

Paddle the Great Glen Canoe Trail

Try or buy surf skis at Sea Kayak Oban.

More from Scotland Outdoors

Tags: , , ,


Current issue

Scotland Outdoors issue 39

Subscription plans

Upcoming Events

Jan 01

The Stoats Loony Dook

1 January, 2019 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Jan 01

New Year’s Day Dook

1 January, 2019 @ 10:30 am - 11:00 am
Jan 01

The Stoats Loony Dook

1 January, 2020 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Jan 01

New Year’s Day Dook

1 January, 2020 @ 10:30 am - 11:00 am

Get our e-news