Having people to inspire us when it comes to pursuing a sport we love is invaluable. Whether it is someone we have never met but love following their adventures or a close friend or family member who helped us learn to paddle. They help to motivate us to get out and improve our own paddling. I asked on my social media accounts to hear about who was inspiring YOU this year and got to learn about so many amazing people. I’ve split these inspiring people into themed groups and have chosen one person from each of these groups to share with you. Enjoy!
The Halo Paddlers
If you don’t know what I mean by ‘The Halo Paddlers’- these are the paddlers who are so unbelievably talented at paddling that they are in a class of their own. They are pushing the boundaries of what was previously thought possible and paddlers of all backgrounds can only stand back and be amazed. There was a theme to the nominations I got for halo paddlers and that was the people sending in the nominations were young. Generally it was the under 18s who were nominating these paddlers. There were nominations for well known names such as Dane Jackson and Nouria Newman. But I chose someone who if you aren’t following yet – then you should. Robert Eggleston.
Robert Eggleston was nominated by 16 year old James. James chose Robert because he has ‘become one of the top paddlers so quickly’ and because ‘he has such a smooth style.’ Robert is talented, ambitious and quickly becoming one of the biggest names in kayaking. Watching videos of Robert is truly mesmerizing and it is no wonder that the younger generation are already looking up to him as one of their biggest inspirations. Video below to show you how awesome a paddler he is!
We look up to the halo paddlers as authoritative figures in paddling because they are just so good at it. But there is another group of individuals who we also look up to for a similar reason and these are coaches. Coaches have more contact with members of the paddling community than any other group. They are there to support and guide us – literally to show us how it is done. It is therefore no surprise that many people are inspired by their coach. Emma Kitchen nominated her coach and friend Emma Love, who is a whitewater SUP coach (Wotbikini).
‘I chose Emma because she is absolutely smashing it with regards to running her own business, which she only started last year. Emma has this natural ability to be really relaxed and give people the time they need to develop their skills. She provides a really supportive environment for people to learn in and helps to nurture their progress. She is like a comfort blanket which is there. She doesn’t have to do anything but her presence gives people the confidence to try new things. That is not something you can learn to do.
I had the pleasure of working with her at a festival last year and her approach was amazing. She dealt with any apprehension so well and helped people to relax. Everyone came away with a smile on their face and was inspired to do more paddle boarding. The fact that she is doing this week in and week out and inspires so many women to get out on the water. Taking the leap to go work for yourself in the outdoors is just incredible as well and she inspired me to want to go and do it as well.’
Identifiable Role Models
The next group is one I like to call ‘identifiable role models’. These individuals could also have come under any of the other groups – friends, coaches, halo paddlers etc. The important thing was that people were able to identify something about the person they could relate to. This allowed them to feel a connection and therefore aspire to be like them. Katherine nominated her role model Lisa Dickinson (picture below of them both).
‘So for me Lisa is an inspiring figure in paddling as she’s put in so much work in over the last year, personally and within the paddling community. Every time I speak to her she’s boxed off one qualification and is on with another (and probably another 3 on the side!). It’s actually through these that we met, I came along to one of her white water leader practise sessions as a guinea pig and had so much fun I drove to Wales another 3/4 times!
Since the very first session (and over messages before) she’s always been happy to answer questions whether I’m struggling with confidence or I’ve achieved something proud of or general advice and I’m certain she does that for so many other people. Not only has she always got time for helping friends, her own paddling ambitions and her everyday job, she’s also out organising women’s paddling trips in Wales for beginners or those wanting to get onto white water and helping out with Univeristies doing the same! All as just one small part of her ShePaddles ambassador role!
It’s a huge balancing act she’s got going on and when it gets tough she shares that online normalising the fact that it’s ok not to be comfortable on a river all the time, even if you’ve done hundreds of times! Her thoughtfulness towards others, her dedication to the sport and her honesty makes her an inspiring role model to all women (and men) in paddling but especially to those who see behind the scenes!’
I found that friends and relatable role models were the two groups which seemed to overlap the most. When I think of my own biggest inspirations – they tend to be my best friends. As my friend Mat said ‘my friends inspire me because they are the people who I like paddling with the most!’ There were a lot of nominations for friends but it was Stella describing her friend Kirsten Hand Howard who I really wanted to include.
‘I think Kirsten Hand Howard is one of the most inspiring up and coming Irish paddlers! She has achieved a massive amount this year, including running Gower, Clare Glens and the Flesk for the first time.
However, the main reason I find her inspiring is her attitude towards others success on the water, along with how willing she is to help those around her improve.Her enthusiasm for the sport is contagious, and has had a massive impact on my attitude towards my own good and bad paddling days. She is the kind of paddler I aspire to be!’
To be honest Stella, Kirsten sounds like the kind of paddler I aspire to be too!
Family & Partners
Those of us lucky enough to share the joy of paddling with our family or partners know how special those particular paddling relationships can be. It is no surprise that paddling with someone you love will help to inspire you to paddle further. Hannah messaged me about how inspiring she finds her boyfriend Pete (who is starring in the cover photo for this article).
‘I met my boyfriend Pete on a paddle 365 Scotland trip, I looked up to him all week and felt especially safe around him and was in awe of how graceful he looked while paddling. When we got together having the shared interest really helped as I knew I could rely on him as support on and off the river. Half way through this year I became quite ill and was briefly in hospital and in my recovery I can’t help but be inspired by how patient he has been with me and how much he has helped me try and get my strength back. He always tells me that I’m better than I think I am even though I may not believe that it does make me feel abit more confident in my paddling when I’m around him.
He will also tell me of trips he does without me e.g. leading a group down the upper dart – it may not seem much to some people but I get so proud of him. After being ill it’s been so hard for me to get out and paddle due to lack of energy and dramatically decreased fitness he’s been so amazing and I couldn’t ask for anything more. He’s all the inspiration I need to get out and try my best.’