NORTH Town Primary School is one of the only state schools in the country to give their youngsters a chance to learn stand up paddle boarding. Reporter Daniel Milligan joined one of their classes on the River Tone to give it a go.
How primary school PE lessons have changed since I was at school - sweaty changing rooms, lost property kit and dozens of children stuck in a hot, stuffy gym – just some of my personal memories.
A complete contrast to the exciting, give-it-a-go approach that teacher Mark Templeton and Active Adventure South-West have set up for the children at North Town at their stand up paddle boarding sessions – and they love it.
Weak knees and trembling at the prospect of getting drenched in the River Tone, I made my way onto the water with 11 eager and fearless youngsters.
There was no way I was leaving the session dry – one of the first activities is to try and balance one end of your board in the air and then before I knew it I was plunging into the murky river and having my first taste of the Tone water.
But no matter what your ability level is, the sport is inclusive - games involve problem solving, encourage teamwork and it develops the core principal sport traits of agility, balance and co-ordination.
Mark said it is also important to teach the children there are more sports than just the traditional ones of football, rugby and cricket.
He said: “Our philosophy is very much aimed at providing a rounded education for our children with academic, social, cultural and sporting elements of great importance.
“It is all about getting children to try something they have never done before and shows them there are lots of opportunities out there to get involved in sport.”
The school first experienced paddle boarding during a visit to Croft Farm in Tewkesbury last year and ambitious head teacher Mike Snowden decided he wanted to include this into their sporting curriculum.
They have invested thousands of pounds in equipment since September last year and they share some of the equipment with Dave Jackson, of Active Adventure South-West.
Dave said he estimates in the last year they have introduced more than 500 people to the sport and its popularity is rising dramatically.
The emerging sport has a Hawaiian history with the craze starting in the 1960s.
Boards are usually around ten to 12 feet long and around a foot wide and sessions teach you to be confident on the water, how to manoeuvre the board and it is all in a safe environment.
Taunton Adventurous Sport and Canoe Club also run sessions along with canoe and kayak classes on the water.
If you are interested in giving stand up paddle boarding a go, Dave runs sessions on the River Tone near Taunton Canoe Club on Monday’s from 6-7.30pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
*TO see a race between reporter Daniel Milligan and Harvey, one of North Town’s top paddle boarders, click on the video below.