Community Interest Company (C.I.C.) Let’s Paddle – Providing a solution to the ever increasing issue of mental health

Following a year of trial sessions with London Fire Brigade, East of England Ambulance Service, Blind Veterans, Essex Police and NHS A&E teams, Let’s Paddle was founded at the end of October 2019 by Chris Harvey and Lisa Pope, two BSUPA paddleboard instructors and water sport enthusiasts.

The not for profit company was set up with the following goals in mind:

  • To improve mental and physical health and general wellbeing
  • To enable children and adults better cope with school and work environments
  • To reduce stress, anxiety and depression leading to decreased visits to GPs
  • To promote family, work place and community cohesion

We have all heard about the well-documented benefits of spending time in nature, often referred to as “Green space”, but in the past few years the concept of “Blue space” and “Blue Gym” has evolved and it is reported that time spent on or near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and oceans can provide similar or even greater benefits to our mental health and general well-being. See the following link for a review of 35 studies on blue space and associated health benefits: https://www.isglobal.org/en/-/una-revision-de-35-estudios-muestra-los-beneficios-de-los-espacios-azules-para-la-salud-y-el-bienestar

The brand new not for profit community interest company, Let’s Paddle, has been founded by two qualified BSUPA paddleboarding instructors, Chris Harvey and Lisa Pope. After a number of years of experience on paddleboards, Chris and Lisa undertook a two day intensive instructor course through Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust (Milton Country Park, BSUPA training centre, Cambridge). The course proved to be extremely rigorous but immense fun, covering equipment, the teaching of basic paddleboarding strokes, capsize and recovery and the all-essential safety aspects that a user must consider before going out onto the water. All course attendees were encouraged to step as far as possible out of their own comfort zones, a reminder to us all of how novices may feel the first time that they get out on a board.

So just where did the idea for Let’s Paddle stem from? Chris has already spent a number of years volunteering with an epic charity “The Wave Project”,  which provide surf sessions for children with a broad range of mental health issues, and has witnessed first-hand the amazing changes that the water and immersive sports can provide. Late in 2018 Chris came up with the idea that he wanted to provide SUP sessions to people suffering from stress, in particular he felt drawn to initially reaching out to both our emergency services and armed forces, having served in the armed forces himself (This work was carried out under the name Services SUPport, see the following link for an overview: https://www.citrusornge.com/tackling-trauma-by-keeping-each-other-afloat/). Chris felt that this would be an amazing way to give back to those people that are immensely valued in our society. Day in day out these professionals put themselves under enormous amounts of stress and pressure and even risk their own lives at times to keep us and our country safe. After meeting at the BSUPA instructor training course, Lisa Pope was so taken with the potential community benefits of the idea that she decided to join Chris in order to help build and run this new community interest company: in October 2019 Let’s Paddle was officially born.

Photo of Chris (left) having fun with a senior paramedic from the East of England Ambulance Service.

In the run up to the official registration, Let’s Paddle has already provided a number of trial sessions involving the following: London Fire Brigade, East of England Ambulance Service, Blind Veterans, Essex Police and NHS A&E teams; totalling nearly 100 front line staff. Feedback from these sessions has been extremely encouraging, some of the most important feedback being that these people were able to completely 100% switch off from all thoughts about their normal every day working lives. It is clear from this trial that Let’s Paddle has already made a tangible difference. Looking back upon the session with the London Fire Brigade (some of whom attended the Grenfell Tower disaster), after an hour long session on the water the senior officer noted “With increasing budget constraints on all our emergency services, this fills that gap and is an absolutely fantastic opportunity for our members that will help with their long term well- being.” For a short video clip taken from the session please see the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1u1q45pq3qwlgoy/SUP%20mini%20vid%20-%20chris.mov?dl=0

Lisa (left) and Chris (centre) with the boys from the London fire brigade.

Chris and Lisa both have a history of enjoying life to the full on the water. Their enthusiasm for water sports has become a routine part of their family lives and between their two families they enjoy, sailing, surfing, paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, snorkelling …….the list goes on. These two BSUPA instructors  both have passion and drive to facilitate getting others onto the water to relax and most importantly to switch off and de-stress from the challenges that modern day life brings to us all. There are clearly exciting times ahead for Let’s Paddle, who are keen to go from strength to strength with their activities. The company is also engaging with a local university who is keen on documenting the progress this new company makes and the benefits it can provide! Watch this space or “Blue Space” !!!! for further news on Let’s Paddle.