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'Paddling has been my lifesaver'

Like so many people following the pandemic, paddlesport instructor trainee Karen Williams has felt the mental health benefits of paddling. 

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Karen, who is originally from Edmonton, moved to Waltham Abbey when she was a girl.

The community engagement officer said exploring the Lee Valley area on her bike was probably the start of her love of the outdoors.

Her interest in paddling was cut short first by the Covid pandemic and then life-changing events in her personal life.

However, as lockdown eased, Karen got the opportunity to start using a Stand Up Paddleboard.

“It was a life saver mentally,” she said. 

“Being able to just enjoy nature and see other people, it was the best summer, like being a kid again on an adventure.”


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 >>


Karen is one of the women being trained by Lisa Dickinson ahead of the World Slalom Championships at Lee Valley, in September. 

“It’s been a really good experience, it’s been great to be with a group of women who are pretty much in the same boat," said Karen.

“None of us are overly confident at kayaking.

“I was a bit scared about capsizing, that’s been a real fear of mine."

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Karen used the skills she has learned to introduce paddling to women and girls at the This Girl Can festival, in July 2023.

She will also be able to take her own classes once she has completed her own course.

“It’s a male dominated sport," said Karen. 

"It can be a little intimidating when you come along, even though the guys are really welcoming.

“It is a bit nerve wracking so it’s nice to be around other women. It’s been a really good experience.

“It’s really important to [be a] role model in the sport.

“We still have a way to go [before we] start taking people out on to the water and [begin] a love affair with paddling too.”

Paddling takes me out of my comfort zone >>
From 'petrified' kayaker to paddlesports instructor >>
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Tickets for the World Slalom Championships, at Lee Valley, are now on general sale >>

There are also a host of hospitality options available for the event so visit this page to find out more.

Additional information on the tickets available and the event as a whole can be found in this website’s FAQs section.

Terms and conditions are available on the Ts&Cs page.