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Unleashing the Power of Blue Therapy: paddle your way to wellness (and an AquaPaddle!)

A blog written by Claire

Being a solo adoptive parent to a son with complex additional needs, mental health awareness has to be a priority. Two years ago I also became sole carer to both parents travelling their own cancer journeys.

As many of us do given this situation, I didn't prioritise myself. I found I was juggling a full time job, caring for my son and trying to attend the myriad of hospital appointments for both of my parents.

One day I recall only too well, my Dad was an inpatient in Southampton and my Mum was having biopsies in Dorchester. With my son safely ensconced at school, I was just leaving Dorchester with Mum when the phone rings, Dad had been discharged and was sitting in reception at Southampton General! From then on my anxiety spiralled every time the phone rang or an appointment letter was presented to me. I became victim to anxiety disorder. 

I hadn't paid attention to the warning signs. Now I was forced to slow down, I was signed off from work and started therapy.

During therapy we quickly established that I wasn't looking after myself and that this was now a necessity. I began by getting outside as much as I could, and I worked on and overcame my fear of being "unavailable" when I was needed.

I'd been watching the growth in paddle boarding with interest. I'd grown up on the coast and took part in plenty of watersports as a child and young adult. Being by the water has always been beneficial to me. How come I'd forgotten that?

I took the plunge by purchasing a board in July 2023, I messaged a friend who

paddleboarded and she took me out for my first session on the River Stour. The sense of calm that came over me in that first session was addictive. Paddleboarding has become my therapy, I know that after just a few minutes on the water that sense of calm will come!

I am so fortunate to have met some amazing people, many are also managing their own battles and use the water as escape and therapy. I have most definitely found my tribe in these people and am thankful every day. It has opened up opportunities and the people I have met along the way have been game changers. Being part of a community where I am accepted, supported and encouraged is so precious.

With a season of paddleboarding behind me, I felt determined to become more efficient. My aim, not to be a racer, but to be able to paddle the distances I wanted to. I was introduced to Ripple Rebels by one of my paddle buddies. Their ethos of "paying it forward"  fitted perfectly with me and I got into contact with Lynne. I booked a plan of 4 sessions.

Not only do you get access to an amazing blue therapy space but Lynne is an amazing coach. She tailors each lesson to what YOU want to achieve. She studies your technique, recommends ways to adapt it and helps you to progress further. I have fibromyalgia and therefore I am not as flexible as I'd like to be! Lynne recommended improvements to my body position, my stroke and most importantly gave me new ways of being able to self recover easily in water out of my depth! The increase in confidence that this gave me meant that I was paddling in standing position more often, taking more risk and not worrying constantly that I was going to fall in and not get back on my board.

Ripple Rebels also host the Bournemouth AquaPaddle.  AquaPaddle UK is a charity aiming to help people's mental wellbeing and physical health through paddle sport through a free-of-charge, timed 5km paddle for all abilities, on waterways across the country. 

AquaPaddle was frequently mentioned during our progression sessions by those that had completed one or had volunteered. When I began my lessons I was adamant that I wasn't interested and wouldn't be doing one. I didn't want to race!

As my confidence grew and my stroke improved and I realised I was actually quite strong, I began jokingly racing my paddle buddies. The distance didn't worry me, it was the speed that worried me. The more people mentioned it, the more I declined. Until one day, I didn't! 

I registered.

When it came to the day, I still wasn't convinced I was going to take part. I recall saying to Lynne, "I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing here?" and this was my thought even when I was on the water. I told myself I'd just pootle around at leisure just like a morning on the harbour! Ha, as if! I found myself pushing hard. I used all of the stressors from the previous weeks to fuel me. I was going to give up at lap 2 BUT the thought crossed my mind that my Mum can't give up her cancer fight!

So the next 2 laps I had a mantra running through my head and to be honest I probably shouted it a few time " F you Cancer" Who knew? I finished. I was elated to have finished but I vowed I would never do another!

And guess what? Yes I've registered for the next one.!!

Unfortunately, the cancer journeys have begun again and I am midst caring for my parents again but this time, I have my therapy space to escape to and this amazing community to hold me up!

I will be forever thankful.


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