A chat with the travel presenter, SUPYoga teacher and 2020/21 British Canoeing #ShePaddles ambassador from August 2020
Pics: India Pearson
Instagram: @with_india. Web: http://www.yogawithindia.co.uk
Before we start – let our readers know a little about yourself, background, family, etc…
Hi! I’m a travel presenter and yoga teacher based on the Kent Coast. I grew up in Surrey, but have always felt most at home by the sea so now live on the coastal town of Hythe with my boyfriend Barney and dog Merlin.
You came to SUP later in life after working in London – what did you do in London?
I was working as a dancer and commercial model, going to auditions and trying to book performing jobs. I had done a dance degree at uni, so felt I ‘should’ work in the industry and London would be the best place for this. The busy city life and unforgiving pressures that can be felt in the performance industries were not for me and after what felt like a ‘mid 20’s crisis’, I changed my mindset and started focusing on what fuelled my soul, instead of what felt expected. I left London, moved to the Kent coast, trained as a yoga teacher, found a job with a local company as a travel presenter and learned how to surf, skateboard and of course SUP – phew! Finding yoga and SUPyoga was so enlightening for me, I found a place where I could move with the grace and power like I did as a dancer, but without any judgement.
So where did the inspiration to change and live in Kent come from?
I spent most of my childhood holidays down in Cornwall and have always felt a connection with the sea. I knew I needed to live by the sea but Cornwall felt too far away from my family in Surrey, so Kent seemed like a great option. I also already had friends from uni who lived down this way so that helped too!
So you learned to surf and skateboard but you say more importantly, SUP. What’s special to you about SUP?
Paddleboarding is a form of meditation for me. Meditation is about clearing the mind, to let go of thoughts and feel completely present in the here and now – paddle boarding does this so well. You are so focused on staying on the board, becoming aware of your breath, your body, the sounds of nature around you, that during your time on the board – nothing else matters.
When and why did the idea of tackling plastic pollution first come to mind?
As a travel presenter, I have seen the impact tourism can have on a destination both good and bad. In 2018 I made a film in Cape Verde about the impact of tourism on such a small island and it opened my eyes to the devastating effect of plastic pollution on an island that didn’t have the infrastructure to recycle properly. This experience has never left me and I felt a need to not only change my own lifestyle choices but also encourage others to do the same. I believe small acts can amount to big changes, so regularly run beach cleans at my local beach in Hythe and in June paddle boarded the 28-mile stretch of the Royal Military Canal, collecting litter as I went to raise money for a ‘2-Minute Beach Clean Board’ on Hythe Beach.
What effect do you think the Covid-19 crisis has had regarding pollution?
To begin with I thought it would have a positive effect, with more people spending time walking and connecting to nature I hoped it would encourage people to want to look after our environment more. But sadly I feel it is quite the opposite. As lockdown restrictions were lifted more people started venturing to parks and beaches and the devastating images of litter with over flowing bins was so sad to see. I have also seen so many disposable masks on the beach recently, which will end up in our seas and cause harm to marine life – it is very worrying.
We have all seen the recent images of over crowded beaches during the crisis and the mountains of litter left behind. What more can be done to drive the message home?
I believe in spreading the message ‘take your rubbish home with you’, as even if rubbish goes in the bin, it can be blown out by the wind or seagulls can get to it. As I mentioned earlier I am a supporter of the 2-Minute Beach Clean movement by a charity called The ‘2-Minute Foundation’. Their ‘2-minute beach clean stations’ do not ask you to clean the whole beach, it doesn’t make you feel guilty for not being able to make every organised beach clean or for that matter solve the entire crisis. It simply says, “Do what you can,” two minutes on every trip to the beach or in fact anywhere, just pick up a few pieces. I think we need more litter pick stations like these ones to encourage local communities to ‘do their bit!’
How can we as paddlers get more involved?
Every time you go out paddling do a two-minute litter pick, its so simple! You can also join organised paddle litter picks, the environmental organisation Plastic Patrol, run loads of these all over the country and they are free to join! After every event they ask the volunteers to register the rubbish they find into the Plastic Patrol app. This helps to gather crucial data that would help conduct the world’s largest survey of inland plastic pollution that can be used to approach brands that are causing the pollution from the source.
What does it mean to you to be an @ShePaddles ambassador?
I am so proud to be one of ten #ShePaddles ambassadors for British Canoeing. Paddle boarding has changed my life in such a positive way, and I want to encourage other women to do the same. My SUPYoga classes attract mostly women, and it can be a great introduction to SUP. The boards are clipped to a buoy so there is no danger of floating away and you can learn to find your balance on the board too. I love receiving messages from women after my lessons saying they now feel like they want to try paddle boarding properly.
Why do you think there’s been an enormous influx of women to SUP?
I have always found the world the SUP world very welcoming, accessible and open to all levels and abilities. Paddle boarding is a very un-intimidating sport, as you can start at a very gentle pace and slowly build up your skills without feeling defeated. I think this is a big reason there has been more women on SUPs, and it’s awesome!
Anything you would do to bring more women to the sport?
I would like to see more paddle boarding brands using marketing images with women of all different shapes and sizes, to show how accessible SUP is to everyone. I think this would inspire so many more women to ‘have a go’ if they see images they can relate too.
Does living outside of the big city provide balance and self-awareness?
For Sure! Being able to walk on the beach with a cuppa after a day work is the best way to switch off.
We know you love dogs, as do we – do you take your dogs out to SUP?
Yes! I have a Jack Russell called Merlin, who regularly comes on my SUP with me. He quickly learned that if he leans over the board to drink out of the canal he will fall in – so now keeps all four paws firmly on the board!
What piece of kit do you rely upon the most?
My waterproof phone case. It means I can always take my phone with me as a safety measure, and gives me confidence when I am paddle boarding by myself.
You are a yoga teacher, do you teach on SUPs and why is that an advantage?
I love teaching SUPYoga!
It allows you to take your yoga practice off the mat and onto water so your SUP becomes a floating yoga mat! Whether you’re a seasoned paddle boarder or experienced yogi this practice gives a whole new experience on the water as it’s a fun way to keep fit, maintain a healthy mind and connect with nature. I have many people attend my SUPYoga class who have never done yoga or paddle boarding before.
I tell them we are all beginners once, this sport is for everyone, just go at your own pace – even if you stay on your knees and stay attached to my board for the whole lesson – you are still doing it! I also believe paddle boarding can have a huge positive impact on the mind and body.
If you could head anywhere in the world to SUP, where would it be and what appeals about that location?
I would love to SUP in Norway through the fjords and wild camp at night! The scenery looks so dramatic!
What’s the most enjoyable encounter with wildlife that you’ve had whilst paddling?
I was once paddle boarding just off Folkestone Harbour and was joined by two seals! They were so inquisitive and wouldn’t stop staring at me – it did feel quite intimidating at one point!
Are there any issue that stops you sleeping at night?
The throw away culture we live in. If something is broken, why don’t we look to fix it instead of going out to buy something new and creating more waste for this planet. I am big believer of the 3 ‘Rs’… reuse, recycle, repair.
If you could paddle with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Sir David Attenborough, he has inspired so many of us to love and care for the planet. I would like to say thank you to him for that, and then listen to stories about his travels!
What do you do to relax?
Other than taking my SUP out I love walking my dog along the beach, whilst listening to a podcast.
What would we find in your fridge right now?
A lot of courgettes! I started a veg patch in my garden over lockdown and am now overwhelmed with courgettes!
If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
A vegetarian curry inspired by my trip to Kerala in India at the start of the year. I would make it outside in my garden over a fire – you can’t beat alfresco cooking and dining!
Who are your SUP buddies?
I love going paddling with my boyfriend Barney, we have a campervan and love packing up the boards and going on SUP adventures together!
Any final shout outs?
I would like to give a shout out to Cadi Lamber and Rebecca Loveatt from British Canoeing and say thank you for all the hard work they put into the a amazing #ShePaddles innovation. Another shout out goes to Jo Moseley, who inspired me to do my litter pick paddle trip after watching her efforts last year as she paddled and litter picked 162 miles between the two north coasts of England. Jo is also the person who encouraged me to apply to be a #ShePaddles ambassador, and for that I am always grateful!
As you paddle off into the sunset, we thank you India for your time and the very best of luck for the future:)