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Clare Rutter - Paddlesports & outdoors enthusiast. A traumatic brain injury survivor.

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

Clare Rutter grew up in rural, coastal west Wales with childhood days often spent with her brother playing and exploring in nature, climbing trees, jumping hay bales, cycling the green and lush country lanes and time spent on the beaches exploring rockpools, playing in the sand and swimming in the sea. Everyday was a mini-adventure in Clare’s eyes which was only added to by joining the Brownies, the Guides and later the Scouts when girls were (finally!) permitted to join across all age sections. At age 6 and continuing through her participation in these youth organisations, Clare began her journey in paddlesport thoroughly enjoying kayaking and canoeing.

Now, after more than 25 years spent in the Scouts, Clare has many ‘on the water’ hours paddling and has been on many Scouting adventures including working at a large, commercial Scout summer camp and activity centre, expeditioning in Africa, multi-day tall ship sailing, led the Welsh Contingent at a Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree and volunteered as a staff member at two World Scout Jamborees in both England and Japan.

As studying for a degree, worklife and life in general took over; paddlesport unfortunately had to take a back seat. In 2016, Clare fulfilled one of her lifelong goals and moved abroad to Gran Canaria which in itself was an almighty adventure. Unfortunately, Clare experienced some kind of a medical episode whilst on her way home from work, passed out, hit the deck and entered a 30 minute unconscious seizure state. This episode resulted in a life changing traumatic brain injury.

After several months with no signs of recovery from the resulting symptoms which included headaches/migraines, severe fatigue, insomnia, tics and balance and cognitive issues and declining mental health; Clare decided to give up her home in the sun and return to Wales for further neurological investigation and treatment and to have the support of her family and friends. Clare, at this point was mostly bed bound and used a stick to aid walking but returned to Scouting as illness allowed.

Clare’s Brain Injury Team Occupational Therapist encouraged her into some further volunteering which, returning to her childhood roots, she undertook at a local outdoor activities centre offering land and water adventures including canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding.

A change in medication tackled Clare’s condition to the point where she could function better on a daily basis, could ditch the walking stick and experience better mental health. After a season at the centre, Clare was offered a full-time position which she gladly accepted and begun her journey towards training and qualifications to be a paddlesports Instructor on a permanent basis.

A short time after the first Covid-19 lockdown, Clare was informed that she had been selected from multiple applications to be the first ever women’s paddling ambassador for Wales, a #ShePaddles Ambassador; a role to tackle the low numbers of females getting into and staying in paddlesport. Despite the lockdowns, Clare threw herself into the voluntary role and together with Canoe Wales and British Canoeing had an incredibly successful first year providing an online Welsh women’s friendly and welcoming paddling networking hub and providing paddlesport taster sessions to hundreds of females at #ShePaddles ‘On Tour’ events across Wales.

Whilst still battling illness, known as Post-Concussion Syndrome, with her symptoms mostly masked, Clare is now a full time, qualified Paddlesports Instructor & Leader and regularly supports clients with neurological conditions, mental health issues and a range of disabilities enabling participation, enjoyment and progression in paddlesports utilising the outdoors as therapy and rehabilitation as she did.

She’s also a guest speaker speaking at events sharing her motivational and inspirational brain injury story and is still heavily involved in #ShePaddles and #ShePaddlesCymru (in Wales). Clare is passionate about paddlesport and you’ll usually find her on the water in her spare time, committed to relearning, redefining and challenging herself and her abilities to prove that given some adaptations and self-belief that almost anything can be achieved. Aside from paddlesport, Clare also enjoys writing, camping, geocaching, photography and videography and enjoys sharing her experiences, challenges and adventures across her social media channels.

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Show notes

  • Who is Clare

  • Growing up in Wales by the coast

  • Being a paddlesports instructor and a scout leader

  • Getting into swimming at a young age

  • Going into Brownies and then joining the scouts when girls were allowed in

  • Collecting all the interest badges

  • Wanting to join the police force and wanting to help people

  • Getting into paddlesports

  • Going to university as a mature student

  • Getting her level 2 youth work qualification

  • What it was like going back to university as a mature student

  • Her twenties working as a chef and in security

  • Her lifelong goal to live and work abroad in a hot sunny place

  • Starting to learn Spanish

  • Moving to Spain!

  • The reality of living and working abroad

  • Making friends

  • Having a medical episode in 2017

  • Being taken to the hospital

  • Finally getting to see a doctor and getting a CT scan done

  • Being housebound for 6 weeks

  • Not knowing what to do and thinking she was going to die

  • Struggling on for 9 months

  • Deciding to move back to Wales

  • Getting the support she needed

  • Using a walking stick to help her walk

  • Trying new medication and starting to feel better within 48hrs

  • Being encouraged to get into volunteering

  • Being encouraged and supported

  • Being offered a full time job

  • Lessons from having a brain injury

  • Being back in the outdoors and spending time in the sea and river

  • Getting qualifications in paddlesports

  • Learning how to manage her fatigue

  • Wanting to encourage other women to get into paddlesports

  • #ShePaddles why it was created and what it does

  • Getting her life back together

  • Trying to encourage more women and girls to get into paddlesports

  • thinking creatively and being supported by Canoe Wales

  • Creating a FB Group for women

  • Getting into paddle boarding (SUP - Stand Up Paddle board)

  • Needing something to look forward to

  • Supporting women who don’t have gear but still want to have ago

  • Having a supportive boss -

  • Practical tips and advice for women and girls to get into paddlesports

  • The She Paddles Effect

  • Final words of advice - why there is always an opportunity you can create or take advantage of


Social Media

Personal Website:

Facebook: @clarerutter.DBA

Facebook groups: Women's Paddling Community and #ShePaddlesCymru

Twitter: @clare_rutter

Other Resources:


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