AFLOAT FOR LIFE
Spending time on or next to the water is recognised as something that benefits health and wellbeing. We’re working with Sport England and London Sport to make it easier for more people to try water sports on the Thames for the first time and enjoy these benefits. Work is in hand to develop online booking, secure more coaches and boost the number of clubs on the river.
Water sports on the Thames is accessible to virtually anyone. In the following case studies a handful of people who enjoy sport on the river share their experiences: what prompted them to give it a go and what they love about it.
The range of sports you can pursue on the Thames range is broad and not yet fully reflected here. We’ll be adding more case studies over the coming weeks, so please check back to hear more people’s stories.
Anna Costantini, Cox, Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club
I originally joined the club to row and meet new people. When I mentioned that I’d dabbled in coxing at university, I was enthusiastically encouraged to give it a go again. As soon became clear, coxswains are valuable commodities! An introvert by nature, asserting authority over eight individuals at a time four days a week had its challenges, but well worth the rush you get from all the action a tideway race has to offer. Your line set on a trailing sunset over Chiswick Bridge on a summer’s evening, the ninth seat will always be the best in the house!
Jo Broadhurst, Captain, Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club
Joined Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club in 2009 as a complete beginner, now captain of the club.
Learning to row with BBLRC eight years ago was transformational; with a clutch of semi-grown children and running a tiring business from home, I approached 50 unfit and fed up. My son (rowing with Emanuel School) insisted I join the rowing club next door and learn to row because he liked it so much.
I found a community of able women enjoying a whole new world on the Tidal Thames, and am now fitter than I have ever been, enjoy both racing and paddling, and am fully involved with the club both on and off the water.
STAND UP PADDLE BOARDING
My decision to start this sport was purely an impulsive one, and I don’t have any regrets at all. I have been on the river since last summer and have only missed just a few weeks. I adore the challenges; the wind, rain, cold and snow test you, but the beauty of the sport always overpowers your willingness to give up. Admittedly, I’m addicted. For me, being on the water is therapy, its calming effect is difficult to replicate. In London, we often look in awe at the Thames, but rarely venture in and it’s a shame, because the view from nature into the urban life is a rare and beautiful one.
The discovery of Stand up Paddling (SUP) has changed the course of my life, forever. My first ever SUP lesson was on the Regent's Canal in London, back in October 2015 - I had decided that I needed to try one new thing a day, for that entire month, and SUP was activity number 10 - I definitely fell in more than once but I loved how the sport is the closest thing to connecting with water, and life around it, without necessarily being 'in the water'. This discovery led me to plan the world's first ever descent of the river Ganges in India, called GangesSUP - I undertook this 101-day, 3000-km expedition to raise awareness around access to cleaner water and the empowerment of women. Somewhat amusingly, for a girl who first took up paddling at the age of 31, I broke the female world record for the longest continuous Stand Up Paddled distance, at the age of 33, through my journey. Living on my board for 3.5 months fostered an intimate connection with rivers, with India (my country of birth), the people who inhabit the banks, their lives and their challenges. So much so, that I have now swapped my London life of investment banking for a life of adventurous activism !
Fenella Bolton, RYA powerboat instructor
I started volunteering with Sea Cadets when my children joined. Having been a stay-at-home mum for 16 years, it was a way to rediscover Fenella, to put myself first. I gained qualifications and experienced things I never had as a child. But there was one thing I was afraid of – water! Although terrified of capsizing, I tried sailing. I was so proud of myself.
I gained my RYA Sailing Stage 1, then signed up for RYA Level 2, mostly to improve my confidence. I wasn’t worried about passing, I just wanted to have fun. I cannot wait to try again!
London Youth Rowing – Thames Tradesmens Rowing
London Youth Rowing established the junior rowing section at Thames Tradesmen Rowing Club in 2014. It is one of four clubs across London that allows students from our school indoor rowing programmes to develop into on-water rowing. Thames Tradesmen – located next to Barnes Bridge – now boasts 41 female athletes between the ages 11-18 years. All of them train anywhere between 2-6 times a week, racing all over the country at local regattas and national level events.
‘Joining Thames Tradesmen was one of the best decisions I have ever made,’ said Emily, who has rowed at the club since it started up.
‘My teammates and coaches make rowing enjoyable because not only do they motivate and inspire me, but they create such a friendly atmosphere in the club… I have learned what limits I set myself, and how to push those limits when racing and training.’
TRADITIONAL CUTTER RACING
Debbie Ashby, 54, Deputy Manager, Shorne Village Pre-School
My love of rowing started at the age of 11 when I joined Sea Rangers Youth Group. I have always enjoyed being on the river, whether it’s a motorised boat, kayak, or rowing boat. It is my time to switch off and enjoy something I love, the river is ever changing but very tranquil with a wide variety of wildlife. Also, enabling me to keep fit and being part of a team, all having to pull together to move the boat through the water and with a great bunch of friends.
Ida Bensted, 53, Gardener
Rowing on the river Thames is a great reminder of how exhilarating life can be. Once on the water we are quickly made aware of our own fragility, against the mighty force of the river and it is very humbling, it gives me a sense of freedom. Whilst rowing I get to see boats arrive from all over the world and have seen seals swim by the boat. I find rowing to be a true bonding experience.
Angela Jeffrey, 51, Financial Services Manager, PLA
From going on a trial rowing session only a few years ago, I’m now a regular rower on the River Thames, always looking for the next challenge. It’s a great way to keep fit and meet lots of people who are so enthusiastic about the sport. Being part of the PLA’s ladies racing team is both fun and a continual test of my ability as a rower.
Sarah Cairn, AHOY Centre
My name is Sarah Cairn and I am 53 years old. I row with my team in East London (we keep our boat at the AHOY Centre in Deptford). My story: I learnt to row when fundraising for the AHOY Centre by rowing the Channel. I didn’t do sports before but training on the Thames had me instantly hooked. I now own a boat with 12 like-minded women, the purple cutter 'Emmeline'. We row every week on the Thames, training for a race or for fun. Rowing has given me great friends and a reason to keep fit and strong. We row in all weathers and it can be tough – but so are we and there is magic on the river, it never fails to lift the spirits!