My friend Del wrote a brilliant article recently where she called out 5 women who inspire her in kayaking; specifically, she stated the things she loved about these amazing individuals! We often use the hashtag #myfriendsaremyheroes, but I think that Del has hit on something vital here. It’s really easy to think well of people, but how often do we just up and say it!

In the whitewater community, we need to be building each other up and stating exactly why our friends are our heroes. So today’s article is about 5 inspirational people I am thankful for in our community.

Del

I couldn’t start this article without talking about the infectious ball of happiness and kindness that is Del! She is a positive presence wherever she goes, whether online or on the river. Always willing to chat and laugh as we float downstream. Full of passion for the sport and the whitewater community. So determined to improve her personal paddling that she inspires others to do the same.

If you paddle with Del, you will not be able to stop smiling! But the thing that will strike you most is her generosity. I cannot count the number of times Del has fed me snacks (or sandwiches), because “we can’t have you starving!”

Thanks Del for consistently pushing me to improve. For being a listening ear. Thank you for all the snacks! For your unbeatable smile.

Sharing some surf stoke with Del! Photo: Jack Grace

Jack Grace

“Can I take a playboat on the Tees please?” were some of the first words Jack ever said to me. That probably says quite a lot about him. The fact I said yes probably says a bit about me too…

It has been a privilege watching Jack grow from an enthusiastic youngster into the person I most enjoy kayaking with in the world! We’ve reached a stage now where we understand each other. Where most of our on-river communication is non-verbal. If Jack thinks it goes, I can trust him that it goes. When he’s feeling unsure, I usually am too – sometimes I’m already walking!

If you want to be in safe hands on the river, paddle with Mr Grace! He inspires confidence in those around him. And if the proverbial hits the fan, you can guarantee he is already in place to pick up the pieces.

On top of all that, Jack cares about people. Deeply. He’ll ask you how you are, then ask again! We need more of that in this community.

Thank you for keeping the most solid head on your shoulders. For your willingness to mega-train! Thanks for your kindness.

Riding the Lower Mawddach into the fields! Photo: Tom Clare

Tom Clare

Everyone’s favourite paddling photographer, I’ve had the privilege of knowing TC since our first year of uni together. From Scotland to Austria and everywhere in between, Tom has always been someone to depend on!

We’ve paddled in skins at HPP in March (a terrible idea in case anyone’s wondering). Due to navigational ineptitude, we’ve hiked the most circuitous route into the Pattack ever (and missed most of the river)! We’ve had interesting encounters with Mountain Rescue.

We like to joke that if nothing else, Tom can be relied upon to make everyone else in the group look good. But that suggests he doesn’t do anything else. And for all the times his lines aren’t stylish, Tom has been a faithful friend, a legendary cameraman and a smiling face on the bank-side end of a throwline a thousand times over!

Thank you for your selflessness. For your massive grin! And thank you more than I can say for making all this possible by creating the most amazing website.

Party waves with TC! Photo: Jack Grace

Joel

I’ve only known Joel for about a year, but he’s one of those people who you just get on with straight away. Though perhaps there’s something about running the Upper Dart together in high water that forges bonds of trust very quickly! Joel’s laid-back attitude and wisdom on the river make him an epic companion for adventures.

Joel is another friend on whom you can rely. Whether for safety on the river or stoke as you head to the next one, he is dependable. Not only that, but Joel loves adventure. When there’s biblical rain out on the moor, sure, you could run the Upper Dart on high, or you could go hiking and explore some silly ditch up above the tree-line!

But the most amazing thing about Joel is his giving nature. Thank you for being willing to drop your own interests to help others. For your stoke. For making me want to push my personal high-water mark!

Sharing the excitement of Jordan’s first lap on the Loop with Joel.

Ollie

Hands down, Ollie is one of the kindest, most self-sacrificing people in the whitewater community. Generous with his time, his energy and his home! Plus, he’s dog-father to the two best boys on the planet!

Ollie is not afraid to dream big. Ever since our uni days together, scheming up insane trip ideas and designing longboats together, Ollie has proved his genius time and again. Not only is he talented, but he is a considerate friend and an unbelievably kind man. Case in point, when I snapped my Odachis in half, he had them repaired with a new shaft in under a week. All while running his own business and letting me crash in his house!

Ollie inspires me to push forwards as a coach and a business-owner. To not accept less than my own best. His self-starting attitude and perseverance are a fine example to follow.

Thank you beyond words for your generous spirit. For early morning Green laps and gym sessions! Thank you for being an inspiration.

Making faces on the Cheoah. Photo: Sarah Ruhlen