Paddleboarding with North Devon’s Ukranian community

One of the aims of our Vitamin Sea Project is to help connect people to blue spaces near to where they live. Local communities are best placed to protect local places, and by introducing our participants to ways to enjoy the water near them, we hope to empower them to spend more time there, for the benefit of their wellbeing.

We have recently linked up with Wings in North Devon to connect with Ukranian refugees who have relocated to the area, and to help them get to know their local waterways.

We recently took a group of 12 women and children paddleboarding on the most beautiful Friday evening. The water was calm with little wind, and the sun was shining.

None of our participants had ever been paddleboarding before, so after a quick lesson on land and a safety brief, we headed out onto the water! With Cal and Lorna both SUP instructors, and Andy from Wings a paddlesports instructor too, we had enough people on the water to give plenty attention to those wanting to learn better technique, and enough space to allow those wanting a peaceful paddle to have just that.

The feedback was brilliant, with most of our participants wanting to come paddleboarding with us again! One young lady said she had never really been interested in water – the sea or rivers – and tended to prefer land-based activities. She absolutely loved our session, was grinning as we paddled back to land, and was the first to ask to come back. Several of the women said it was incredibly relaxing for them, taking their mind off their worries and allowing space to enjoy the evening and the water. 

We plan to set up more regular sessions for Ukranians who are settling into our communities, as a space be mindful on the water, and meet other people who speak their language. We hope this translates to a better connection to where they are living, an appreciation that the rivers and beaches locally can be places to spend time to relax, and an interest in blue spaces and their protection. 

Huge thanks to Palm Equipment for helping us out with our very smart PFDs, and quick release waist belts which are essential bits of safety kit for paddling on rivers! We tried out the new waist belts on this session and they were so comfortable and easy to use, and arrived to us without any plastic packaging!

Massive thanks to Starboard SUP for helping us out with our fleet of excellent quality stand-up paddleboards. The iGO 10’8” boards are absolutely perfect for our sessions – easy to inflate and deflate and to carry around for our participants, and stable and manoeuvrable enough on the water to give a really enjoyable experience.

Thank you as always to the National Lottery for helping fund out Vitamin Sea Project in North Devon, and to TTVS and Andy at Wings for helping us to link up with the Ukranian community here. Lastly but by no means least, huge thanks to Rhys and Harriet from Dead Sharp Media for capturing the evening with the beautiful pictures you can see here.