Tuesday, 4th August 2020
Written by Mark Beasley
So today marks 12 months since I first tried PaddlePlus - and what a year it’s been. Initially I started kayaking again after having numerous mental health wobbles over the years. I’m pretty much on top of things now but I was finding I was doing stuff for everyone else, through work or family and really ignoring the fact that I needed to look after number one. I decided that I needed to try and get some me time back and do something that I would really enjoy and stick at.
I thought about all the things I did as a kid and kayaking was up there. I hadn’t paddled in probably almost 30 years and only then on flat water really. Never did rivers, only lakes, canals and the occasional sea trip on holiday. I wanted to do it more for the mindfulness and for the social yet independent nature of the sport.
I wasn’t bothered about doing whitewater. I just wanted to paddle and maybe a side effect would mean I’d lose a bit of weight. In fact I’ve lost a stone this year. Joining a club meant there was a safety aspect to it and would give me an element of learning skills and updating my very rusty knowledge. We were going to try another club that week as well but because we had such a great time on that first night we both said we wanted to stick with PaddlePlus for a while to see how it went before trying somewhere else. We never did get there.
As a sea scout many moons ago, it was drummed into us that we shouldn’t go anywhere near weirs and stay well away from locks. Both of which we did in the first four weeks. In fact the exhilaration and adrenaline rush of doing the weir at Abbey Park in the first week still makes me smile. The second week we did Birstall weir, both without spraydecks. That was exciting too. Trying to paddle the boat to the side whilst it was full to the brim with water. Managed to do it though without going in. That skill soon left me when I went on the Barfield Bash and had my first attempt at some of the other weirs on a longer stretch of the river Soar and back waters. Being at the club there are numerous opportunities to participate in stuff. I took part in a coach development weekend at Holme Pierrepont - an opportunity to get some coaching from new and developing coaches for nothing but the launch fee and parking. That’s the first time I really talked to Shaun, Dean and Fay. Clive, Alex and Naomi also did that weekend and I met Neil Smith, Tony Kerr and Andy Oughton for the first time.
I have since been to Matlock (several times since the first taster session), done the November Tyne Tour (which was eye opening), paddled a couple of rivers in Wales, been up to the Tees twice (50% success rate), been sometimes weekly to Holme Pierrepont (swam Pont, drank Pont, have been ill from Pont), paddled on the Nene white water course and completed my FSRT (Foundation Safety Rescue), I’ve also learnt to roll in the swimming pool - All this before Lockdown - I have been busy!
Over the Lockdown we carried on with the social aspect of the club by organising Zoom meets - played games, got a bit drunk, did a murder mystery night, quiz night. Got to know people a bit more and formed better friendships. Once we were allowed back to paddling and I had the time off work, I took as many opportunities as I could to get out and really try and crack it. I even did an Intro to Canoeing with Andy. I bought a new kayak which has given me more confidence, and Tony and Jon have really worked with me on my technique at Matlock. Last week I passed my Explore Award with Dave Beecroft and had some coaching with him at Pont - I managed most of the course for the first time but got stuffed on the Muncher twice. Last weekend I went to the Lake District with Dave and had an awesome weekend being coached on new rivers and some bigger features. Even pulled off my first moving water roll coming off a Grade 4 feature. That’s something I never thought I would be able to say a year ago.
I suppose in summary I want to say THANK YOU to everyone at the club. Thank you to the volunteer leaders and coaches who give up their time to help us develop and encourage us to keep going (even when we think we’re just holding other people up because we keep swimming). The swims (I’ve learnt) make the achievements much greater and more satisfying. Thank you also to the support volunteers - you all do a tremendous job in keeping the club going.
Personally I’ve become a healthier, more sociable and better person because I’ve met you all. My mental health has never been better and I couldn’t have achieved what I’ve done in such a short amount of time without the input of each and everyone of you.