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From 'petrified' kayaker to paddlesports instructor

Paddlesports instructor Lisa Dickinson is training five women to become instructors themselves, ahead of the World Slalom Championships at Lee Valley, in September. 

Remarkably, Lisa, a #ShePaddles Ambassador in 2021, has suffered from a fear of both water and the cold.

British Canoeing is using the World Slalom Championships to shape positive environmental and social change.

One initiative is to train female paddlers to become instructors and leaders, which Lisa is leading.

“I got in my first kayak the night before my 30th birthday. I was petrified," she said.

"The two things I used to say I hated in life were the cold and water, and I’m now a white water kayaker in the UK!”

Lisa, from Lee Valley Paddlesports Club, is now training five women from non-kayaking backgrounds to become instructors.

By the end of the programme, which is funded by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, British Canoeing, Better Leisure and Lee Valley Paddlesports Club, they will be able to run their own sessions too.

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Lisa is training May Malcom to become one of the instructors

“I spend a lot of time as part of the she paddles programme supporting women and building their confidence on the water and especially white water,” she said.

“I have absolutely loved working with the five women.  

“We started in March, when it was still cold and we've been working on building up our skills and confidence.

“Hopefully [we will get] to the point in September, when we do our paddlesport instructor qualification, they’ll pass and be running sessions at the world slalom championships.

“It feels like we’re a little family and we’re on the same journey together.”

“Women and girls are underrepresented in sports as a whole, and paddlesports, I know we’ve seen growth in membership, but we’ve got a long way to go."

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Lisa heads out with her kayak

More than a hundred women and girls took part in the This Girl Can Broxbourne Festival, at Lee Valley White Water Centre, on 22nd July.

Lisa was at the festival to help out on the water.

She said it had been an “amazing opportunity” to promote paddlesports to women and girls in the Lee Valley area.


The University of Hertfordshire are the official social impact partner to the World Slalom Championships.

The Herts Sport and Physical Activity Partnership, based at the University, has been delivering the social impact partnership programme. Find out more >>


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