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British Canoeing Women's Paddling Ambassadors

Meet our ten Women's Paddling Ambassadors. A fantastic group who were chosen for their inspirational approach to paddlesport. 

Our ten Women's Paddling Ambassadors come from a range of disciplines and are a great mix of recreational paddlers, coaches and leaders and athletes. One thing they all have in common is the desire to share their love of paddlesport with others and encourage more women to give it a go!

Clare Osborn - SUP and sea kayak/adventurer

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Paddling gave me a focus after a period of depression. I want to inspire other women to get out and try something new, especially those around my age who think it’s too late.

– Clare

Last year I quit my job, having spent over 10 years in a successful legal career. The first thing I did was to kayak 300 km across Britain to raise awareness of plastic pollution. I promptly fell in love with paddle sport.

In 2016 my Mum was rushed into hospital with pancreatitis which quickly led to sepsis and multiple organ failure. I was told by the doctors that she probably wouldn’t survive (the hardest thing I have ever been through). After two months in Intensive Care, four in hospital and through physio, sheer stubbornness and determination she is now in full recovery. Watching her battle back from the brink to where she is now I saw an inner strength that is present in us all and was determined to take it and apply it to my own life.

I am now 40 and am in the process of completely turning my life around. Not only did I leave my job, I also split from a marriage that wasn’t making me happy. I was suffering depression and had been stuck on the sofa for months. Now, I have a stand up paddleboard and go out on on the sea and rivers where I live.

I have always had a passion for travel, adventure and the ocean and as a volunteer, have been on the organising committee of the non-profit, Incredible Oceans / WhaleFest since 2015.

This year I am kayaking the length of Wales on the inland waterways, with Erin Bastian, for Paddle Pickup 2. After that I will be joining The Whale Company on the Thames for a few days to SUP to raise awareness for plastic pollution. In the future I also hope to kayak the entire coast of Wales; highlighting solutions for the plastic problem.

Despite having not been in a sea kayak or canoe until last year I am now doing my BCU 2 Star and am about to join a local club in Brighton to improve my kayak skills. I would love to work up to level one coach one day.  

My dream is to show that you can follow your passions, inspire others and make a difference to the ocean. I believe that the connection to nature that paddling brings is a powerful tonic. I found that paddling, diving and the ocean have all helped me and I want to be able to use this to help others; perhaps combining paddle sports and coaching to expand mindsets and tackle negative patterns.

You can follow Clare's adventures at: Twitter @ClareTalk Instagram @ClareTalksRubbish Facebook @ClareTalksRubbish Blog www.claretalksrubbish.com

Fiona Corfe - Sea kayaker, white water paddler and canoeist

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I cant sit still….unless in a boat! I love it and if I can help and inspire other people to love boating as much then that is awesome!

– Fi

Since first learning how to roll a kayak about 9 years ago, I became hooked. It was the start! After learning to roll, I learnt how to paddle a sea kayak forward, I then learnt some more skills and managed to circumnavigate the Isle of Man in a few days expedition; one of the best experiences of my life! This sparked a desire for expedition kayaking. Since, I have been lucky enough to paddle many an expedition around the UK and Scottish coastlines, with two bigger trips around the north and south islands of New Zealand! This is still I think just the start, and I have an even bigger trip in the pipeline...

At university I tried whitewater kayaking for the first time, and realised I liked this a lot too. I then threw myself down many a river learning some skills on the way. The challenge and adrenaline of paddling a rapid that looks hard and then styling it, is one of my favourite feelings in the world. I have paddled some amazing rivers in some amazing countries with some amazing people There are lots more trips and places on my whitewater bucket list to look forward to.

I have also been dabbling in the art of canoeing recently, and surprise surprise I think I like this too! I have recently been on some cool canoe trips around remote parts of Scotland which has been a real eye opener to the sport. Canoeing is cool!

I have managed to work hard and gain some qualifications on the way and am now holding my performance coach, advanced whitewater leader, advanced sea leader, and hopefully advanced canoe leader soon.

Something I would love to do is help the fellow females of the world progress in their boating!

I am more than happy to give any advice, help with any problems or offer any coaching in any way, shape or form. If I can get more females smiling in their boats then that's mission accomplished!

You can follow Fi's adventures at: Facebook @intotheseaexpeds Website www.intothesea.co.uk 

Deborah Kerr - Sprint athlete, Senior International team

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I'd love for at least one other girl or woman to experience the amazing journey I have through our wonderful sport.

– Deborah

When I was 10yrs old there was a presentation given at my primary school which inspired me to take up the paddling. Now, aged 20, I can very proudly say I have a true passion for this sport, and I believe this has stemmed from the fact that canoeing has changed and developed me as a person.

In school I was keen to do well and work hard - something that was not looked on as cool at that time in my life!  Now, thanks to paddling, I am confident in everything I do, and do not search for approval of my peers, which has opened me up to a wealth of opportunities I may never have taken up!  

As a UK program athlete, I have been lucky enough to travel the world on many incredible teams. I've developed interpersonal skills and a real depth of experience and knowledge of sprint canoeing, alongside finding true friends. There is nothing better than seeing your best friend achieve their goals and develop themselves!

I've taken part in a few sports, but canoeing has been the one where I have felt the most accepted into a group the quickest - this community is such a brilliant one and one I'd love to see grow and thrive. I want to share my enjoyment and passion for the sport to inspire other women and girls to paddle.

You can follow Deborah's adventures at: Twitter @deborahk15 Instagram @deborahhhk

Kate Clark - White water and open canoeing

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My passion for participating, leading and coaching paddlesports stems from that fact you don’t need to strong or be a ninja in a boat to succeed and participate.

– Kate

I first started paddling when studying outdoor education at college. To be honest it really frightened me! I had always been scared of water but managed to use paddling to overcome this childhood fear. Feeling nervous is still fairly common for me but it is worth it for the amazing views and feelings that come with paddling.

A discussion with two male friends about why I was the only female paddler on our Outdoor Leadership course prompted me to apply to be a Women’s Paddlesport Ambassador. The chat started because of International Women’s Day and the launch of the British Canoeing Women’s Paddlesport Community on Facebook. Without these things we may never have had that chat and I want to have more of these chats with men and women at all levels.

I have now started on my path with the British Canoeing Leadership and Coaching awards, recently obtaining the Sheltered Water Coach Award. Whilst doing this I hope to inspire other women who aspire to do the same.

My summer is packed with lots of paddling trips including white water kayaking in Slovenia and the French Alps and two Canadian open canoe expeditions. I consider myself extremely lucky to now use paddling to travel the world.

Ultimately my best days have been on the water. I would love to create opportunities that support more women to access paddlesports.

You can follow Kate's adventures at: Instagram @tiny_person_

Addi Man - Pirate

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As a parent I’m on a relentless endeavor to create sporting stories that help my daughter and other women everywhere realise their own strength and courage.

– Addi

My daughter, Athina and I come as a team - Team AA to be precise! We’re passionate about helping other women discover their potential. Our mother/daughter adventures tell the real story of real women who do sports.

Born in Athens I learned from an early age the Greek ideal, that sport is preparation for life. My rural upbringing in Greece, Thailand and Spain ensured my appreciation for the outdoors and that I have a realistic outlook on life. An affinity I try to pass on to my 10yr old daughter, Athina.

Life has taught me that if an idea is not absurd and playful there is no hope for it. Our very first kayaking experience was to spend a week paddling 130 miles along the Leeds Liverpool Canal in our inflatable craft - Boaty McBoatface. We wanted to find out what fate would drop in our path if we just struck out and tried something new. Our adventure began with a sharp learning curve. Getting into the boat was easy but coordinated paddling was a little trickier. After being smacked countless times by Athina’s paddle we discovered that canoeing can be hard work after all; especially when the wind and rain is battling against you!

The week was not easy but it was an amazing experience and provided Athina and I with a whole host of fantastic memories. This was just the start of our paddling adventures. When Boaty McBoatface got a puncture on Lake Windermere it was time to get a new craft and we are now the proud owners and paddlers of a Perception kayak. We have also recently been joined by a third pirate; Shadow the well-being dog.

After the success of our Pirates of the Canal trip we decided to introduce engineering into the mix. This time we enlisted the help of others to build our own raft! An eye catching vessel, composed entirely of recycled materials, on which we paddled the entire 67 kms of the Lancaster Canal.

For girls it can be hard to identify role models in our society. I aspire to be a positive role model; leading by example, through my talks, public engagement, wellbeing projects and sporting adventures.

We show that women don’t need to be athletes to enjoy paddling. It’s open to all levels of ability. A sport with multiple options to start at a very low cost. Our family adventures are created on a practically non-existent budget and we are living proof that a little creativity and a lot of enthusiasm is how the best experiences are created!

You can follow Addi's adventures at:  Facebook: @OurGreatProject Twitter @ourgreatproject Instagram @ourgreatproject Blog www.teamAA.co.uk

Erin Bastian - Sea kayaker and adventurer

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I believe it is hugely important to have relatable female role models so women feel empowered to follow their paddling passions.

– Erin

I have been paddling since the age of 12 and now live and breathe sea kayaking.

One of my goals is to encourage more women to keep developing their paddling skills into leadership and coaching roles. Coaching at women's sea kayaking symposiums has shown me how open women are to learning in an all female environment. I find that by creating inspiring and engaging content and talking at events I can have a positive impact on women’s paddlesport.

I have introduced female specific expeditions to my company, because I love the atmosphere and support that a group of women can create when challenging themselves.

You can follow Erin's adventures at: Twitter @erinbastian Instagram @erinbastian Facebook @erinbastian Website www.erinbastian.com

Kimberley Woods - Slalom athlete

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At school I was often in awe of guest speakers and wished I had a story like theirs. Being bullied made school a real struggle but sport got me out of that scene and helped develop me as a person. Now I have my own story to share.

– Kimberley

I got into canoeing through my grandparents and was inspired by my auntie, who performed at a junior world championship before I was born. As soon as I could swim, I got into a boat and that was it, I was addicted!

I wouldn’t be who I am today without the support from my grandparents. Since moving away from home 3 years ago, my coach has also become a hugely important person in my support network.  

Part of the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games has been the set-up of a talent programme at Lee Valley by British Canoeing. I have been involved with coaching and mentoring this group, keeping a close eye on them to make sure they’re having fun. I also wanted to give them an insight of what it is like at the elite level; that I’m still smiling! Seeing those young paddlers now making the GB teams, with one of them joining me on the senior team, I couldn’t feel more proud. It’s a privilege to see them grow into who they are and know I’ve inspired them in their journey.  

You can follow Kimberley's adventures at: Twitter @kim_woods_95 Instagram @kimberleywoods Facebook @kimberleywoodsslalom

Pam Philips - White water level 3 paddler

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Never underestimate an old woman with a kayak!

– Pam

In March 2015, one year after retiring from my career as a children's physiotherapist, I accepted an invitation to take 6 free kayaking lessons offered by the 'This Girl Can' initiative. Aged 65 and never having sat in a kayak, canoe or any other small craft, I was somewhat reticent, especially as I'm well known for being a chilly morsel! However, I thought 'how bad can it be?!’

Twenty women and girls ranging from 65 down to 14 years, were expertly coached, supported and encouraged. I came home after my first session elated and quite smitten - the rest, as they say, is history!

Two of us continued to take courses to level 3 and this year my partner in crime took the rafting path, achieving a place in the UK women's masters team!

I describe myself as addicted and am so lucky to live a stone’s throw from the wonderful white water facility at Lee Valley. As important as the water time, is the camaraderie and friendships that are forged on and off the water and the help and encouragement everyone so generously gives me, not only at  Lee Valley but on river trips too. I always feel safe, included and valued; a truly satisfying and uplifting experience going into a new sport at any age but especially as a senior.

People have been very complimentary about my paddling progress, which I appreciate very much. This may have something to do with the 8-10 hours per week I paddle during the warmer months (a little less in winter)! How I look forward to progressing to the Olympic course some day!  I know I am extremely fortunate to have the good health and strength to pursue a sport which I never dreamed I would grow to love and hope I will continue to paddle for many years to come!

I feel fortunate and privileged to have such an amazing opportunity in later life and would love to think my story could inspire and motivate women to try something they never imagined was possible for them.

You just never know what's around the corner!

You can follow Pam's adventures at: Instagram @pam.philips2

Shena Mathers - sea kayaker, canoeist and white water paddler. Qualified Paddlesport Leader.

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What started out as a hobby and a way to escape the stresses of everyday life, quickly became my passion and escalated into a fantastic new way of life!

– Shena Mathers

I started paddling nearly 4 years ago, I did not know at the time this was to be a massive turning point in my life. I had just had a baby, I had a job and I was in the middle of completing a 3 year masters degree. I had spread myself pretty thin and was working long hours while being sleep deprived. It’s fair to say I definitely felt the strain.

Friends introduced me to kayaking as a way to chill out and escape the deadlines and time pressures that I had inflicted upon myself. From my very first outing I was hooked. The peace and serenity I found from being on the water was just fantastic. Exactly what I needed to re-balance me emotionally and physically.

I immediately purchased my first kayak and a set of roof bars for my car, and off I went. Paddling whenever the opportunity arose. Not surprisingly, once I made myself take time away from the books etc, the standard of my work improved, I produced it faster and I slept better, so I was able to go about everyday life in a much more balanced way.

Having progressed from a sit on top to a sit-in crossover kayak, I initially decided to go for my BC 2* certificate and I then completed a Foundation Safety Rescue Training course. I still believe this was a good progressive path to take, as these courses (along with some brilliant course providers) acted as great stepping stones that inspired me and quickly led me on to do numerous 3* certs.

I am now progressing through my leadership and coaching qualifications because I love introducing new people to the sport and seeing them make the most of their time on the water. In my eyes there is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone’s delight as they learn a new skill or find the adventure/escape/equilibrium they were looking for.

For my own personal paddling, I love distance challenges and mini expeditions (whenever time allows). I adore the escapism and the freedom kayaking and canoeing gives me, plus the sense of achievement I get when I complete a journey I had to work for. I also regularly take my son and my mum out for paddles, sometimes on journeys, sometimes just splashing around on the beach or playing games, whatever fits the mood on a given day.

I feel extremely lucky to have been able to go to some fantastic locations during my training and development, these include; The Ardeche (South France), Copenhagen, Scotland, South Wales, North Wales/Anglesey, Dartmoor, Jurassic Coast, South and South-east England, The Midlands and also The Solent - crossing from Hayling Island to the Isle of Wight and back (one of my fave trips).

In summary, I am a 30-something yr old mum who was introduced to paddling slightly later than most. I could not be happier that I said yes to that initial river journey and I am massively grateful to my friends for getting me to give it a go. I am now incredibly excited about the future and all the paddling opportunities yet to come. So many new places to go and explore, both with existing and newfound friends and with my son. No doubt we will be entertained for many years to come. 

If you’ve not tried kayaking or canoeing before, I hope some of you reading this will give paddling a go, even if you later decide it’s not for you. Some things are just worth trying and I truly, genuinely believe that paddlesports is one of those things!

For those who already paddle but want to progress personal paddling skills, why not set yourself a training goal or a challenge to complete? - I know that’s what I’ll be doing! :) -

Hopefully I’ll get to see some of you on the water.

You can follow Shena's adventures at: Twitter @ShenaMathers Instagram @shenamathers

Amy Blaker - White water recreational

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The more welcoming I can help to make paddlesport to everyone, the more friendships there are to be formed!

– Amy

I got into the sport through local clubs and am now the President of the University of Kent Canoe Club and I coach at Seapoint Canoe and Kayak Centre. I now want to pass on all the time and effort my coaches in previous clubs have spent with me by offering up my experience and support to all newcomers, regardless of gender and acting as a peer and role model to female newcomers to the sport.

I’ve been paddling for about 8 years and have got to know several inspirational female paddlers over this time. However the vast majority of people who have shaped my paddling career have been male. Whilst this is not a problem, I feel as though young women like myself would progress more quickly and become a stronger part of the paddling community if female instructors and role models were celebrated equally.

At the 2018 Hurley Classic event, I hopped on the water on the Friday evening for a sunset surfing session with a few others; amongst them was slalom athlete and white water superstar, Nouria Newman. My first few attempts at dropping into the wave were feeble but Nouria encouraged me with a few words of advice. If I can exert only a fraction of the effect this had on me on others then I will be extremely happy.

You can follow Amy's adventures at: Instagram @amy_blaker