The 2021 British Canoeing Annual Awards provide a chance to celebrate the fantastic spirit throughout the paddling community. These awards look to recognise paddlers, clubs, coaches, leaders, volunteers or individuals who gave up their time and went the extra mile over the past year to make a significant contribution to their community.
We are pleased to present the following individuals with the 2021 British Canoeing Annual Awards…
This award was for an individual or group who have quite literally gone above and beyond in their community.
Winner - Yvonne Merrills-White!
In 2019, Nicola suddenly lost a large percentage of her sight due to narrow angle glaucoma. Which despite quick intervention, eventually led to Nicola being registered as blind/severely visually impaired. For the last two years since Nicola felt very isolated and the pandemic put a stop on Nicola attending support groups.
Yvonne Merrills-White, who was one of the coaches at Manvers Waterfront Boat Club, where Nicola had been attending with her husband enquired as to why Nicola remained on the bank instead of getting involved in any of the wider activities. From there, Yvonne went above and beyond to offer Nicola an opportunity to be introduced to kayaking. On introduction day, Nicola was greeted by a very calm and enthusiastic coach who made efforts to understand what such a sport would entail for someone in Nicola’s position. For the first time since Nicola’s initial diagnosis, Nicola said “For the first time since my initial diagnosis, I felt like someone was really talking to me instead of about me or looking to my husband for the answers.”
Nicola goes on to say…“If there was ever someone who embodied the idea of going above and beyond for those they were teaching then it would be Yvonne. She gave back to me something I had lost and had nearly accepted that I'd never been able to get back. Though there is still a very long road for me, I can say with honesty that this woman and the wider community of this club may have saved my life.”
In communications since, Yvonne has shown a clear understanding of what it takes to help Nicola along and offered to regularly continue these sessions at no cost, simply out of the goodness of her heart and ambition to help Nicola succeed.”
Runners-up: Ben Griffin, Sarah Jane Coombes & Daniel Hall
This award recognises someone who has inspired others around them, whether that be through performance, adventure, adversity or another inspiring reason.
Winner - Richard Arden!
Richard, aka Boggit, has worked tirelessly for over 40 years delivering kayak and canoeing activities for all age groups in Scouting. He has in the past few years also introduced Bell Boating and Stand Up Paddleboarding activities.
Many of today's paddlers are the result of his inspiration, dedication and encouragement. Richard is well known around the region and beyond, and has been a member of British Canoeing for some 40 years where he has dedicated nearly all of this time to coaching.
Roger Goodchild & Robin Wright said “He is an amazing guy who is always so motivated and out coaching most weekends throughout the year. We cannot think of anyone more deserving of this particular award.”
Runners-up: Kevin Dobson & Megan Rudkin
This award recognises an outstanding young person(s) who have contributed to their club, local group or community as a volunteer, coach or leader.
Winner - Aimee Collins!
After gaining her instructor award in April of this year, Aimee has been coaching Slalom on Monday evenings with a big smile and positive attitude. On Wednesday evenings, Aimee coaches the beginner paddlers with equal positivity, as well as being hugely welcoming and reassuring. Alongside coaching, Aimee is training hard in Slalom where she is now in the premier division and competing strongly.
Richard Carter said, "There are only ever positive responses to any problem thrown at Aimee and she deals with all of them admirably and nothing is too hard for her to deal with."
Runners-up: Pheobe Harbridge-Hui & Nardia Page Moore
This award recognises an outstanding individual who has made a significant difference through coaching. The winner of this award will be the English nomination to the UK Geoff Good Award.
Winner - Mark Collinson!
Mark is the chief instructor at the Anderton Centre which he set up in 2018 Mark set up the Anderton Centre Paddlesports Club to help engage the wider community in paddling activities.
Emma Kitchen said, “Mark is one of the most caring and genuine people I know who will bend over backwards to help anyone. Mark is also incredibly kind towards everyone. Even after a full 10hr day at work, he will be down at the club for another 2-3 hours chatting to members old and new, helping members get to grips with a new craft or develop skills. He is an incredibly talented paddler and very modest. He quietly goes about it with a smile on his face and his passion for paddling shines through constantly. No matter what age or stage someone is at with their paddling, Mark will happily give his time to help anyone. I can’t think of someone who deserves the award more.”
Runners-up: Attila Herbent & Sarah Jane Coombes
This award recognises someone or a group of people who have engaged paddlers and/or the wider community in paddling.
Winner - Neal Underwood!
Neal Underwood set the Sharks up well over a decade ago. The Sharks are based around some of the most diverse and economically disadvantaged areas of London. From having nothing but an idea, Neal has built up teams of experienced coaches and introduced canoeing and kayaking both for fun and competition to thousands of people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicity.
Neal has worked with Local Councils, members of Parliament, developers, the local Communities, other sporting organisations, Local Councillors, Sports clubs and businesses to provide facilities for paddle sport to take place. These have included small scale to large scale developments.
Runners-up: Cliff Meaden, Mike Sunderland & Lainey Drake
This award celebrates individuals, groups, clubs or organisations that have made a clear positive impact on access and environmental issues.
Winner - Woody Snapper!
Aged just 17, Woody Snapper became the youngest person to be presented with the Community Champion award sponsored by Peak UK following his excellent workaround cleanups with his local club at Holme Pierrepont.
Whilst on the water, Woody takes time to speak to members of the public to educate them about paddle cleanups and highlight their importance. Not only does this draw people’s attention to the problems of water pollution but it also enhances relationships with the public and anglers, which is imperative in supporting future access.
During one recent cleanup, Woody helped clear an area covered in vast quantities of rubbish being used by birds to nest. The birds were raising their young amongst the litter, risking entanglement or ingestion of the debris. Thanks to the efforts of Woody and his team, the area was cleared, and now provides a safe and tidy area for the wildlife to flourish.
Runners-up: James White & Andy Gee
Congratulations to all of our annual award winners for 2021! Over the last five weeks, we have received 21,100 votes making this our most successful Annual Awards yet. Thank you to everyone who made a nomination and to all those who voted. We would like to also thank our award sponsors who have helped make these annual awards possible.