Avonbridge mum’s 70-kilometre paddleboard race efforts raise £4200

A mother-of-two stood up, quite literally, to be counted and raised £4200 for two worthy causes in the process.

Paddleboarder Emma Hepplewhite in action
Paddleboarder Emma Hepplewhite in action

Emma Hepplewhite (38) was one of 33 paddlerboarders, and 11 women, who competed in and completed a 70-kilometre, two-day race along the rivers of the Norfolk Broads in the name of charity.

The Avonbridge woman, who owns the Paddlefast equipment company, generated the funds by successfully tackling her first ever stand up paddleboard (SUP) race in 12 hours, 46 minutes and 22 seconds. She will now present The Wave Project Scotland with £2600 to supports its work measuring change across young people’s well-being.

Emma will then hand over the remaining £1600 to the international fund of the women-only Forth Valley Chorus which she is also a key part of.

As she reflected on her achievement, Emma said: “It was definitely tough, one of the toughest things I’ve done, but the thought of the funds I had raised and the people it would help, kept me going, along with my aunt’s flapjacks and the vision of a hot bath at the end of the day!

“I only decided to take part in the race in January, so I didn’t get the longest time to train.

“Given this and the fact it was my first endurance race I’m pleased to have finished.

“The event was really well organised and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone else looking for a new challenge.”

In preparation for the event, Emma trained along the Union Canal between The Falkirk Wheel and Fountainbridge in Edinburgh.

Her longest training paddle was 24km which she completed it four times, with each one taking around four hours.

Her main goal was to sustain a speed of 6km-per-hour to meet the race requirements for the check points and cut-off times.

Having never attempted a race like this before, Emma discovered a few challenges during training that she hadn’t expected.

She explained: “Similar to marathon runners and cyclists, endurance paddleboarders have to be prepared for a fair bit of chafing.

“I discovered that my hips were the area most prone to chafing due to the rucksack sitting on top of my waistband and rubbing as I paddled.

“During one of my training sessions I encountered some rather aggressive swans. They were particularly defensive due to the time of year.

“I also became the subject of a few rescue attempts by an over-enthusiastic retriever.

“She launched herself at me trying to save me which came as a bit of a surprise as I had my headphones in. Besides that, my only other training challenge was juggling childcare.”

The race and her gruelling training regime haven’t put Emma off paddleboarding or racing.

In fact she was back on the water within 48 hours of the race and has even started considering her next challenge, which is a far cry from paddleboarding.

“My next challenge will be a musical one,” she said.

“While the Great Glen challenge is on my doorstep and I’m tempted, I’m hoping to be in New Orleans that weekend competing in the finals with Forth Valley Chorus. So maybe in 2020!”

Alison Young, of The Wave Project Scotland, said: “We were delighted to learn that Emma was undertaking this mammoth paddle to raise funds for our charity.

“The Wave Project relies heavily on funding and we are so grateful to Emma for this donation which will allow us to continue to provide surf therapy in Scotland.

“This month we have welcomed 24 new surfers ‘on board’ and their time in the water with a surf mentor is literally life-changing, boosting self-esteem and happiness and building resilience.”

A spokesperson for the Forth Valley Chorus management team said: “We are in awe of Emma’s wonderful paddle boarding feat and delighted that she chose to help raise funds for both the Wave Project and the Forth Valley Chorus international fund.

“Emma has been a valued singer in the tenor section for ten years and she knows the hard work it takes for the chorus of our size — over 100 — to organise and fund the international trips which put Forth Valley on the map in a cappella singing circles.”

This September, Forth Valley Chorus will represent the UK and the Netherlands in New Orleans, Louisiana and are pinning hopes on breaking into the hallowed Top 10 among over 600 Sweet Adeline’s international choruses around the globe.

Emma’s fundraising will help to add to the target which will make registration and hotel costs a little easier for the group.

Visit www.paddlefast.co.uk for more information.