It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but fear not, if you have been following my little thought clouds, I haven’t dropped off the planet.
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster time both physically and mentally since attempting circumnavigation of Malta by SUP, November 2016. Difficulties with my body not tolerating any deviation in heat particularly well, possible seizure investigations, funny spasms, and all manner of scullduggery in between has led to a plummet in my physical condition (putting on 2 stone!), confidence, and to be honest, overall well being.
Also, since moving to South Wales, I have found it particularly hard to find a coach who has the confidence and creativity to get me back on the water properly. Sure, I can paddle, but sometimes for confidence, to feel safe, and to check in with technique (that may have altered due to physical changes such as assymetric strength) and rescue skills, it can be just the ticket to ignite the engine.
After an epic fail in finding anyone seemingly confident to take me on (I’m not that high maintenance…seriously!) the water, with the exception of sprint kayaking….but I’m not one for competitions, give me an adventure any day, something has begun to stir in me.
Let’s just step back from paddling for a minute so I can do some scene setting for you so it can all become clear.
So, I was watching my dear friend, Erin, waiting to start her little jaunt (ha!), that is, the London Marathon. Whilst stood there, I noticed that there was a little group of people stood in front of me waiting to start running too – they were all in MS Society running vests. It suddenly hit me out of nowhere; I have a condition that people are willing to challenge themselves both physically and mentally for, in order to raise funds for a charity for the condition. I started to cry. I think it was the sudden realisation and acceptance that yes, I do have this condition and no, it’s not going away, and actually, it is kind of a big deal…I mean, people RUN for it. And those people are likely raising money for developments of the very medication that I take to stop me from being too poorly. Yes, I know, it’s only taken me 4.5 years to realise this but better late than never!
Watching Erin hobble her way to us at the end after a marathon in scorching heat, I could not have been prouder of her. Yes, she is super hench anyway, but kayaking is one thing, running is an entirely different ball game, and to have limited experience of running to then completing that epic beast, she deserves that nice shiny medal, with bells on! To essentially start from scratch with a skill, going from zero to hero, was incredible. Her mum said that despite all the things she has done, this was the thing she was most worried about; I won’t lie Erin, me too – but you did it!
Anyway, this made me have a long hard think, and feeling inspired, I knew that I simply must DO something to raise money for MS to say thank-you to all those who have historically and continue to fund raise, to try to keep us MS folk, in relatively good health.
So what did I do? Well, I signed up for and roped a friend (possible two so far) into training to run for the Cardiff 10K in September. Well this will be very interesting indeed.
But that’s not just it.
With strength and conditioning training for paddling, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands…in the absence of a coach (one that is creative but doesn’t molly coddle me! Chris Brain, please can you move to Cardiff my dear coach?hee hee) I am becoming my own personal coach…and have arranged the challenges of ALL challenges so far…
MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE(s) YET
When in Malta, we met some really nice people who were a great help to us who were from the paddling community; Georgina Maxwell and I are going back in September, where it is our aim to circumnavigate Malta by sea kayak in ONE DAY.
So that’s a 10K and then an epic sea kayak….legs, core, and arms…gosh, you’re not going to recognise me! I’m not going to recognise me!
I know what you’re thinking – “for goodness sake Sonja, couldn’t you just, you know, ease yourself in, do a paddle around Cardiff Bay and maybe a 5K?”.
Yes, I completely hear you. Especially because right now I have had to pick up my walking stick for the first time in a very long time due to leg pain….but you know what, sod it. If I end up walking the 10K who cares! If I end up having to paddle Malta in 2 days….who cares, but I’m going to give it all a bloody good go. Word on the street is there may also be the London Kayakathon end of September too….
You see, I’ve been further inspired by some tutoring work I’ve been doing over the past year.
I now do some work for Disabiltiy Sport Wales as a tutor. Due to my clinical working background and personal journey using water sports for rehab, they have teamed me up with Ben from Surfability CIC, to deliver a classroom and water based course, endorsed by The Welsh Surfing Federation and Disability Sport Wales, which is all about adaptive and inclusive surfing.
Just over a week ago we were in Jersey delivering this course to an amazing new charity called Healing Waves; it has been some of the most meaningful work I have done in a long time (not that helping people to hear isn’t meaningful of course!) – giving surf coaches the confidence to work with people with a variety of conditions and giving them the hands on practical support too. On the last day, we took out a couple of service users on our adapted boards…rather than read about it, I think you should watch this video: https://vimeo.com/269290338/recommended
You see, this work with Surfability has reminded me of my mission to spread the word and create tangible opportunities for inclusive and adaptive paddling. This desire was a little lost in the depths of trying to get my head around everything that has been going on.
First, I will work on my personal strength, but in the background, I intend to do something for the paddling community, exactly like we have been doing with Surfability. I’m aware of various modules you can do with governing bodies, but it’s clear to me in my own journey, that the key messages are not entirely filtering through in paddling(bearing in mind I am on the Board of a governing body…*these are my own views*), but they clearly are with surfing . It’s one thing to go on a course and say you are now inclusive in your behaviour, but it is another thing to BE inclusive. I really want to work with interested parties to change that – watch this space.
So, here’s to a future of challenges…both personal and those challenging others (be that volunteers, coaches, leaders…anyone at all interested in paddling!) to genuinely BE more inclusive – let’s get more people out on the water!