Scroll through your Instagram page on a Sunday night, and within 30 seconds you are pretty much guaranteed to see three things: 1 – a Kardashian, 2 – a Sunday Roast and 3 – someone’s weekend in the wilderness.
Coming out of a tough year, everyone is desperate to spend more time in the great outdoors. Living in the UK we are so lucky to have the pick of some of the most stunning beaches, forests and Munroe’s to explore.
However, for me – it is not as easy as sticking on a pair of trainers, and starting my new outdoor adventure.
My name is Heather, I am 26 and live just outside Glasgow. I was born with Spina Bifida. This is a physical disability that is caused by the spine and spinal cord not developing properly In the womb. This means from the age of around 10, I have been using a wheelchair, and have limited mobility and sensation in my legs. Yes, it has its holdbacks, but I have always been determined to not let my wheelchair define me, and stop me from exploring new hobbies!
I have family based in Bedfordshire, and now that the Covid restrictions have eased a little, I made the journey down to visit them. My Uncle Max, a well-known tv presenter and up-cycler, and has always encouraged me to look at thing differently. He is also a keen Stand Up Paddleboarder, so his most recent pet project was to get me on one of these things. Problem number 1 – I can’t stand up, Problem number 2 – I WAS SCARED! My gut instinct shouted – NO! Why do I want to sit on a wee board, in the middle of freezing water? I will fall in, I will get wet, what happens if I cant get back on? Who helps me? All of these anxieties washed over me.
However, my curiosity was peaked. I had seen Max’s pictures from his paddleboarding trips and they looked beautiful, picturesque and relaxing. I had another search online, and saw that this new sport was really gathering pace with more and more people taking it up. Lochs, Rivers, Canals were all being explored.
With Max’s encouragement, and some help from a fantastic instructor ( Lesley from Heron & Hush) next thing I knew I was on a paddleboard, MYSELF, floating down the canal with ease! I LOVED IT! It felt amazing to do something like this independently. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Paddle Boarding would be accessible to me. It was great getting to see the countryside from an entirely new perspective. I even had a cheeky G&T on the board to toast my maiden voyage.
Since overcoming my initial fears and having my first lesson, it is safe to say I am now hooked! I have found another instructor local to me who is going to help and train me on my PB journey. I have set up an Instagram page @thesitdownpaddleboarder for people to follow my journey of PB with a disability. I am already amazed at how many people have got in touch with words of encouragement, or asking how they can get involved.
If I was to give anyone else in the same position as I some top tips to start their paddleboarding adventure they would be:
1 – Get an Instructor. I could not have done this without the help from Lesley @ Heron & Hush. She reassured me, calmed my nerves and most importantly kept me safe.
2 – If you can do this on a calm body of water, it makes things so much easier. My uncle lives in a houseboat on a canal, which was perfect. The water was smooth and easy to navigate.
3 – Bring something to eat and drink for after your adventure. Physically and emotionally my first experience at paddleboarding took it out of me, so a wee treat after is perfect.
My friends and family are really proud of my accomplishment, and so am I. Being in a wheelchair has it challenges, but overcoming these and achieving things that I thought were impossible just proves that if you put your mind to it– anything is possible!