Fast-growing paddleboard group backs water safety campaign
- Credit: Darren Reeve
A fast-growing group for paddleboarders which focuses on keeping them safe on the water has thrown its support behind this newspaper's Play It Safe campaign.
This newspaper launched the campaign at the start of last month to ensure everyone visiting Norfolk's waters this year stays safe and remembers their day out for all the right reasons.
Backing the campaign, Darren Reeve, known as Captain Baldie, who runs the Norfolk Paddle Meet-Up group which has over 650 members on Facebook, said it was "shocking" how little most people know about water safety.
He said: "I'm a massive supporter of this campaign.
"When I first got a paddleboard I didn't understand the dangers of the water, I just thought I'll throw it on, I'm on a boat, I'll be fine.
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"I capsized and got myself in a bit of trouble and I was lucky that a guy on a speedboat managed to come and get me.
"I had no whistle, no lifejacket, no leash, nothing and I panicked.
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"Afterwards I thought, what an idiot I am, I went in a river I knew nothing about."
Mr Reeve started the group last year in August with around 20 members joining him, however lockdown meant he was unable to arrange any meets.
When restrictions were eased, Mr Reeve restarted the group in April and was inundated with new members, meaning no one had to go out alone.
However, after realising a lack of water safety knowledge among members, when one told him he should be wearing a lifejacket, the group became more serious and safety focused.
He added: "I realised some members were naïve on safety and I thought 'how many more out there have just got a board from the supermarket and have no idea what they're doing?'.
"People just go straight on and risk their lives without thinking of the dangers."
Mr Reeve is now organising safety meets on beaches such as Walcott to teach people how to paddleboard responsibly, with plans to run a larger event later in the year in partnership with the RNLI and Coastguard.
He says the most common issues with people on paddleboards are those who are unable to self rescue, those who do not wear a lifejacket and people with ankle leashes rather than chest ones which are quicker to remove.
Anyone wishing to learn more about paddleboarding should visit Norfolk Paddle Meet-Up on Facebook.
If you would like to support our water safety campaign, posters can be ordered for free from here, where you will only pay for postage: https://www.norfolkstore.co.uk/store/Play-it-Safe-Water-Safety-Poster-Just-pay-P&P-p372304298