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Volunteers honoured at the 2018 British Canoeing Volunteer and Recognition Awards

On the evening of 9th March Eastwood Hall in Nottinghamshire hosted the annual British Canoeing Volunteer and Recognition Awards.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners at the 2018 Awards ceremony. Below you will find a little more about each of the winners from the night, and look out for official photos from the event on our Facebook page later this week.

Eleri Spencer - Young Volunteer of the Year sponsored by Wave Sport

Eleri’s dedication and commitment to volunteering has seen her become a fixture at Pennine Canoe Club, representing other young members at committee meetings, consistently being the first to volunteer with ‘less glamorous’ tasks and facilitating a number of coaching sessions. Within sessions, Eleri takes young people under her wing, overseeing the introduction of prospective members and providing safety and rescue cover. Pennine Canoe Club have stressed that many sessions this past year would have been challenging to deliver without Eleri’s contribution to coach ratios.

Eleri’s passion for paddling has taken her around the world, and her volunteering has taken her beyond Pennine Canoe Club too, taking on roles at events such as the English Open Canoe Symposium and more recently the role of Junior Representative at the Yorkshire and Humberside region’s Washburn Committee.

Eleri’s award was presented to her by world record holder and ten time World Champion Claire O’Hara, Britain’s most successful Canoe Freestyle athlete of all time, who will be awarded an MBE for services to Canoeing later this month.

Claire stressed the importance of volunteers within paddlesport and explained how they have been key to her success throughout her career.

I’ve paddled for over 20 years and at every single stage, what I have done has been down to volunteers. The sport wouldn’t exist without volunteers and at every single level within paddlesport volunteering is so crucial, and often so under recognised, but for those who are working with them at whatever level, they are valued so much.

– Claire O'Hara 10 time Freestyle World Champion

Graeme Haigh - Volunteer of the Year Sponsored by Jaffa

Graeme has been an active member of Trentham Canoe Club for many years and is always on hand to support, willing to help out in any way he can; whether that be coaching, cleaning, organising or acting as a handyman.

Despite having a busy day job Graeme always makes time for the club,  having undertaken a range of committee roles to ensure the club meets its full potential.

Despite his love of being on the water he is always happy to step back when the need arises and this year has seen him organise and lead their local Hasler race, and he even spent 24 hours in a car supporting two paddlers attempt at the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race.

His continued dedication and love of the sport makes him a great role model for upcoming coaches and paddlers of the future.

I don’t think anyone does it for an award but it’s nice to be recognised. I had no idea I had been nominated, let alone even won until a letter came through the post so it was a great surprise.

– Graeme Haigh

Helen Griffith - Impact on Equality and Diversity sponsored by Pyranha

Leaside Canoe Club cannot remember a time in the past 20 years where Helen has not volunteered her services.

Leaside, in Hackney is a melting pot of different cultural and religious backgrounds and Helen has used paddlesports as a tool to encourage many young people and adults to come together. 

Through her volunteering work at Leaside Helen is very much trusted within the community, and that trust has made her sessions become accepted as a regular activity within the community.

Norwich Canoe Club - Club of the Year sponsored by Errea

Open seven days a week Norwich Canoe Club provides a great experience for everyone who wants to come and paddle, by encouraging an environment that’s safe, inclusive and exciting.

From Paddle-Ability events which see Paddle-Ability paddlers come from all over England, to female orientated sessions, Norwich Canoe Club is dedicated to widening participation.  

The club pride themselves on ensuring that their members have a really fun and diverse experience of paddling, training and essentially hanging out together, and they offer diverse opportunities for paddlers to do other things outside of their regular disciplines; such as long distance tours, white water trips, multi craft sessions and exchange trips abroad.

This award is a recognition of the brilliant year we have had. A huge thank you to our 200 members, volunteers and our fantastic team!

– Norwich Canoe Club

Fiona Quinn - John MacGregor Outstanding Challenge Award sponsored by Towergate Insurance.

Despite a fear of the sea Fiona Quinn became the first person to iSUP the length of Britain, covering 800 miles mainly paddling along the coast over 81 days. Although having experience of inland waterways, because of her fear she’d only SUPed on the sea 3 times before taking on the challenge, totalling around 2 hours on the ocean.

Starting at Lands End she paddled 3 miles off shore up the west coast of Cornwall before paddling over to Lundy Island and then on to Pembrokeshire in Wales. After waiting 2 weeks for a weather window Fiona continued paddling, becoming the first women in history to SUP across the Irish Sea.

Combined with having walked and cycled LEJOG in 2017, Fiona’s iSUP challenge also made her the first woman to complete a length of Britain triathlon.

My story shows what can be achieved if you dream big. I'm not a professional paddleboarder. I started with little experience on the sea and yet, against the odds, I've managed to take on something that had never been done before and succeed

– Fiona Quinn

Cliff Melhuish - Impact Award sponsored by Cotswold Outdoor

Through the creation of his Facebook group ‘Slightly White Water Kayaking’ 2 years ago Cliff has encouraged people to get back into paddlesport who were lacking confidence or support.

The group has grown considerably due to the positive and supportive values started by Cliff and there are now 1900 members.

He has brought together a world of knowledge with an enormous amount of experienced paddlers, manufacturers, coaches and even British freestyle team members to assist the lesser experienced members to improve their development. All these people have and are helping each other because they love the group that Cliff started and continues to support.

Andy Garlick - Clear Access Clear Waters Award sponsored by Peak UK

Challenged with seeking publicity for a clean up event on the River Medway in 2018, Andy rose to the challenge with the majority of the work falling on his shoulders. Over 120 paddlers participated and more than 60 bags of rubbish were collected.

Andy was able to generate considerable publicity both for the issue of litter in rivers in general, and for the efforts of the canoeists and kayakers to clean it up. Local papers ran short pieces about the event, but the major exposure came from BBC South East News who sent a film crew to cover the story for a 5 minute slot in the local news that evening.

As well as generating a fantastic amount of publicity, the work behind the scenes has been used as best practice, including the risk assessment he prepared for the project, which has been used as a basis for the British Canoeing River Clean Up kit which supports paddlers and canoe clubs across the country to hold their own events.

I think it was lovely to win and have the recognition but for me this award is spread across all the paddlers who took part on the day, and the support people too - those who walked the banks collecting rubbish, provided refreshments and cleared the rubbish at the end of the day. Everyone is so valuable and it really is a team effort

– Andy Garlick

Woodmill Activity Centre - Go Canoeing Award sponsored by Palm Equipment

Self described as ‘a little paddlesport specialist centre with big ambitions’ Woodmill  Activity centre is an integral part of the local Southampton Canoeing community, providing the gateway to many of local first experience and progression within paddlesport. Woodmill runs starter sessions throughout the year and over the summer their canoe hire has seen an amazing rise in popularity.

Both of Woodmill’s Adult and youth canoe clubs are ever popular and  provide a path way into personal paddling awards, as well as in some cases coaching awards. From discovery days, and seasonal events through to their paddle ability and school community outreach programmes Woodmill are using paddlesport as a vehicle for positive change.

This award is thanks to all of our staff, volunteers and those who engage with us. Without them all we wouldn’t have been able to achieve this.

– Woodmill Activity Centre


A full image gallery is available on our Facebook page!