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W.I – They’re Still Standing!

A group of ladies aged between 64 and 83 from the Elm Tree and Fairfield Women’s Institute have donned their wetsuits yet again and taken to the water at Tees Barrage International White Water Centre to challenge themselves to stand up paddleboarding.

After receiving a talk from Jo Moseley, a writer, filmmaker and self-proclaimed mid-life adventurer about her experience of paddleboarding the length of the Leeds to Liverpool canal to help her tackle her personal demons and improve her mental wellbeing, the ladies at the W.I were inspired to get stuck in and try it for themselves.

The ladies also visited in 2022 where they participated in a kayaking session and were hungry for a second visit! Christine Bell, president of Elm Tree and Fairfield W.I in Stockton, who arranged the session said “These are the things I should’ve done 40 years ago but I’m doing them now, so I don’t miss out forever. You’ve got to keep going, we’ve got people here today who have osteoarthritis but if you just sit and let it seize up it’s never going to help so you need to keep trying to move.”

Led by watersports instructor Sam Ferguson, after a few early nerves were paddled away it was a really successful session with the ladies getting stuck in and most importantly enjoying themselves. When asked how they were feeling once on the water, Maureen Howes said “I’ll be 78 next month, at this age anything is possible.”

The positive feedback continued as Julie Tyreman said “I feel wonderful, I’ve never done this before. It’s lovely and it’s easier than it looks – it’s more fun than I thought it would be, it’s so calm on the river. It’s everything I thought it was going to be and more!”

Julie continued “Be open to try new things, if it doesn’t work – well you’ve tried haven’t you. I absolutely see why it helped [Jo Moseley], we’ve only been on a few minutes, and I feel great. We’re loving it and we’re having fun together and that’s what it’s about isn’t it?”

The ladies were truly inspirational when facing a new challenge, approaching it with enthusiasm and humour. When asked about the stigma that older women shouldn’t take on such physical activities their message was “Just give it a go, use it or lose it.”

Speaking about the session, Tees Active’s Community Engagement Manager Allan McDermott said that “The ladies who have attended todays stand up paddling session are living proof of the saying “Age is just a number” They should all be proud of themselves and they are an inspiration to everybody who is thinking about attempting a new challenge. The most important result of the day is that everybody has left with a smile on their face.”

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13th July 2023