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2023 Paddling Reflections

Somehow I’ve got myself into the habit of reflecting on my paddling every new year and with just a week left of 2023, the time has come to reflect once more! I find the process of doing so strangely therapeutic as well as helping me to set goals for the coming year. This article is definitely more for me to organise my own thoughts but if you fancy reading my annual paddling reflections – please do go on!

Positive beginnings

The year started well! A gorgeous paddling adventure in North Wales to bring in the new year, followed by lots of excellent wet weekends in January and February. I have to say – I enjoyed the first months of 2023 greatly! I also managed to tick off the Tees Greta in January – a little fun run that only runs when it is extremely soggy – and one I had wanted for a while! Thank you to all the lovely friends who joined me on those early 2023 river days!

Fun weekends on the Tees with friends!

Valentine’s day also brought with it the boat of my dreams! Timed to coincide with some publicity work for Pyranha Kayaks, I was thrilled to receive my Minion Ozone! We did get a few strange looks when we were recording the media from passers by, but I think you’ll agree that the photos we got were worth it! I am still undecided for a name for this little yellow boat of joy, so please do let me know if you have any fabulous suggestions!

A break from paddling

Unfortunately the end of February brought a pause to my paddling as I struggled with some significant health problems. I wrote a article at the time which, if you are feeling nosy, you can read here. Following some yucky viral illness ( I suspect Covid), I became quite ill. What followed was months of dizzy spells, utter exhaustion and a bunch of medical investigations. Interestingly I found out that I have a mild heart arrythmia, although I was told this was unlikely to be the reason for my dizzy spells and it was more likely some good old post viral fatigue (or long covid). Either way, it was a no to paddling or sadly any real form of exercise for the first half of 2023! As someone who values exercise pretty highly, I did not deal with the inactivity well. I have to say a big thank you to all the lovely people who kept me sane in those slow paddle free months.

Gentle walks with friends and family – better than nothing! Photo: Tom Clare

Eventually I got over the worst of it and managed to get back out on the water by the Summer – albeit at a slower pace. I had a few big life events happen at the start of Summer; moving house, getting engaged and a change of job role. All of which also slowed things down. I have always prided myself on prioritising paddling and choosing to make it a core part of my life. Yet for the first time ever, I was not able to do this. Instead I had to (sadly) take a step back and just focus on surviving instead of thriving! Eventually though life calmed down a little and I could get back to focusing on fitness and time on the water again!

River ring engagement photo! Photo: David
Back to paddling!

As the weather warmed and I managed to get back on the water, the immense joy and relief at being back was overwhelming. I found that I had a new perspective on kayaking and my values had somewhat changed. I could not push myself in the same way and had to take those initial sessions slowly. A single lap at HPP. Half a day on the river. 1 run instead of 3. But this slower reduced form of participation was better than not participating at all!

Smiles at the Tryweryn! Photo: Tom Clare

I realised what I valued the most from my paddling sessions was;

  • Making sure I was having fun!
  • Seeing and spending time with friends.
  • Feeling connecting to other people + nature.
Nottingham has a growing WWSUP community and a sunny session trying silly things on SUPs with friends is always good fun! Photo: Tom Clare

I took things slowly and I tried not to worry if people thought I was not doing enough. Terrified of pushing it too far and ending up back on bedrest, I was willing to try this slower pace. It was worth trying! The joy I experienced on those early paddles was huge. Following one lap of HPP in my new minion ozone (that was all I could manage), I went home and felt so overwhelmed with emotion. There had been days in early March where I had thought I would never get back to ‘normal’ again, so to actual paddle a lap of HPP and be able to carry my boat back up to the top had felt like a huge achievement.

First time back at HPP! Photo: Ross Amory
Events

As a highly sociable person, kayaking events have always been an important part of paddling for me! It was a joy to attend lots of these events this year. From the ShePaddles events at Plas Y Brenin, Tryweryn and Leicester, to getting competitive at Tryweryn Fest and Euro Open. I love connecting with people at these events and being given the opportunity to meet so many interesting folk is always enjoyable!

Smiles at Euro Open! Photo: Jack Ledwith

Some of these events I was invited to so that I could raise share the event via my social media channels and some I was asked to come and help with the running of the events, whereas others I was just there to have fun! Particular highlights included the Boater-X at Tryweryn festival, listening to Sal’s fabulous talk about her adventures at the ShePaddles event at the Tryweryn and riding it out with Myrtle the Turtle on the party wave at Euro Open. Each weekend attended is filled with wonderful memories that have filled up my happiness jar for the rest of the year. Big thank you to all those involved in putting those events on – the hard work is appreciated!

Turtle High Five! Photo: Jack Ledwith

I should note as well that at the end of the ShePaddles weekend at the Tryweryn, I also got engaged! A lovely modest proposal next to the graveyard whitewater section followed by 30 minutes of me running up and down the river yelling at everyone I knew there that I had just got engaged!

Giving back to others

One of the things I really enjoy is being able to share my love of paddling with others. It is always an honour to be invited to do so for specific events, one of which was the junior GB freestyle academy camp run in August. I wrote a blog about this week but it really was quite an experience! As a teacher I enjoy working with young people and even better if there is some paddling involved! It was great fun to be involved for the week and inspiring to see what talented juniors we have in UK paddling right now! Big shout out to the coaches who ran the sessions as well as the volunteers who made the week happen.

My lovely friend Matt – one of the coaches on the camp!

It’s been nice to work on my own coaching skillset too and this year I completed my core coach (with the fabulous Dan Wilkinson & Paul Smith) as well as my white water kayaking coach training (with the legend Chris Brain). Hopefully I’ll get my hours logged in 2024 to go on and complete my assessment for this! (If you are local to Notts and fancy some coaching with me – please give me a shout!)

This Autumn it was also a pleasure to be involved in Bren Tour – a tour of the white water centres of the UK in which Bren Orton and fellow Pyranha and Palm team paddlers turn up for jam style sessions. I enjoyed the tour dates that I got involved in and hopefully was helpful to the others involved. It was lovely to meet lots of fabulous people through this, including the Awesome Foursome Scottish team. Bren in particular is a brilliant advocate and role model in kayaking and seeing first hand the positive influence he had on others (particularly the kids who came along) was really special. Thanks Bren for being a hero who lives up to his reputation!

Practicing my photography skills on Bren Tour. Photo: Tom Clare

Finally I’ve also managed to fit in quite a lot of writing this year and had lots of articles published. I find a lot of joy in writing and it’s an added bonus that others seem to enjoy my articles too. I never intended this blog to be for anyone other than myself (and my Dad) but it is a nice bonus that it other people find it helpful or enjoyable too. So if you’ve got this far – thank you for reading my silly little articles!

Looking forward to 2024!

I’m feeling very positive about 2024 and I can’t quite put my finger on it! This next year I turn 30 and I’ve got a few things planned in to celebrate this as well as (fingers crossed) some other dreams to be ticked off.

I’ll keep you updated on the blog and I wish you all a very happy new year and 2024! Happy paddling!

More smiles at Euro Open! Photo: Nathan Hefford

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