Promoting responsible paddlesports in the Derwent Valley
Claire O Hara - Ten Times World Champion, MBE and Mum!
Having always been super sporty as a kid, I jumped at the chance to go canoeing on adventure holiday in Wales when I was about 12 years old. On that lake on a cold rainy Welsh summer day I instantly feel in love with the sport and the freedom and enjoyment that came from being out on the river in a boat. I returned home to the city of Leeds thinking that my opportunity to do more paddling was now gone. Little did I know there was two canoe clubs in Leeds and my journey had only just begun. With the help of friends at Leeds Canoe Club I quickly learnt the skills needed to move from the lake to the rivers and from there I was well and truely hooked for life. The challenge, the adrenaline, the adventure of sitting at the top of a river, setting off into the unknown was so addictive and so fun.
Fast forward 25 years and I have now traveled all over the world with my kayak. (Nepal, New Zealand, Africa, Europe, Australia,Argentina, America, Norway, Canada the list goes on). I hold 10 World Championship titles, performed a showcase at the London 2012 Olympics, achieved 2 Guiness World Record filmed live by CBBC and most recently was awarded an MBE in the New Years Queens honours list for my services to canoeing. The opportunities the sport can give you are unreal and the places of natural beauty it can take you are so special. You get a perspective of the world very few get. I would never have imagined that sitting in a canoe that first time all those years ago as a kid would change my life so much.
What’s crazy is even now almost 3 decades on, as a professional kayaker, British team athelte and coach I am just as addicted and in love with this sport as I was that first time. In fact even more so. Every chance I get to go out on the water is amazing as the first. I doesn’t have to be a hard run either it could be a local pool with young kids or the middle of Africa with the best of the best. The sport of canoeing offers so much. I even met my husband kayaking and we just welcomed our little girl into the world and we can’t wait to give her the chance to experience this sport that has given us so much.
Paddle Peak is such a great project and I am extremely honoured to have been asked to be an ambassador. I hope that it inspires and encourages more people to get out and enjoy the amazing rivers and waterways around the Peak District and enjoy a sport that offers so much. I highly recommend everyone goes out for a paddle, you never know it might truly change your life.