By Sarah Thornely
Above Water is the water safety in education charity, with a focus on teaching today’s children to be the water-safe adults of tomorrow.
Please tell us a little about the Above Water Charity, Brendon.
I set the charity up after seeing a massive gap in teaching water safety to children. Although water safety/drowning prevention and swimming are in the primary school curriculum, I found that over half the schools I visited didn’t do any of this! There are many reasons for this, mainly lack of funds, curriculum time and facilities/resources. Above Water helps schools give at least one hour of training a year in water safety and drowning prevention. Water safety education is not limited to children and young people as we are finding most adults who are now venturing onto water via swimming through to paddle boarding have even less water safety knowledge. We are promoting Blue Space without also promoting Blue Space Safety!
Considering the considerable rise in recreational paddleboarders, how has the charity evolved since you set it up?
SUP is a fantastic vessel to get people on the water, which is one of the charity’s missions, but it is also one of our biggest concerns. There is now a vast majority of people that have a paddle board in the UK, but they are not paddle boarders, meaning they don’t know what they don’t know, which is a massive safety concern. Finding ways to speak SUP safety to these communities is a big part of our engagement. The thousands of children we teach are excellent at re-educating siblings and parents!
What are the donations to the charity used for?
Our focus for 2023 is to provide hub water safety training sessions that schools in a region attend with three or four Young Leaders (YL). These YL are trained to return to their schools to lead water safety training and become the school ambassadors for drowning prevention. This style of engagement is proving incredibly successful and celebrated by students, teachers, and schools. Hub sessions can have up to 50 schools attend, so incredible numbers benefit from this one session in a region.
Have you personally raced in the GBSUP series?
I’ve paddled at the Cardiff event a few times and HOTD but not what I’d call racing, more a focused paddle. I want this to change, but for the last few years, it’s been more endurance paddling and less speed work. I put a few months of speed work in at the end of 2022 (before Last Paddler Standing), and this gave me the best part of 5-10kg of muscle bulk, which didn’t end well for me in Florida.
Did you find GBSUP/volunteers and paddlers at these events welcoming?
Always; in a previous life, I organised triathlons, large open water swims, sportive and other endurance events. The people around the sport of SUP are genuinely incredible!
How did you feel when you knew GBSUP was supporting your charity?
Support of all kinds is fantastic, but support from an organisation helps promote water safety to a greater audience. Above Water is truly thankful for everyone’s support!
How could the paddling community support Above Water? For example, paddlers could fundraise for GBSUP or by sharing Above Water posts on social media, etc.
Precisely this, you can choose Above Water as your chosen charity on Just Giving, and then you are only limited by your imagination regarding how you help raise money.