Hiya, Vicki here. Over the last 15 years I have based my career in the outdoors, with my Mantra “Pass it forward”, and i have been supporting others to access the great outdoors in ways in which they haven’t before or wouldn’t otherwise.
Six years ago I had the pleasure of meeting and befriending Sarah Gerrish, founder of the Wonderful Wild Women Community. We connected over a shared passion to share the waters and mountains of the Lake District with others and support the access to that space as much as we could.
Now I am here sharing our experience with RED, hoping to inspire other brands and businesses to follow in their footsteps and honour the importance of firstly, supporting accessibility and secondly supporting the grassroots communities on the ground.
Social media is a funny place, we’ve covered that threefold. It mixes your opinions up, makes you think deeply and sometimes, makes you laugh uncontrollably just as you are supposed to be falling asleep. However, I have to admit that I have always had a niggle when it comes to the gifted kit / stays / adventure days that largely end up in the hands of the influencer and can often bypass those who need that “starting somewhere” moment, all the while we stand here and shout about equal accessibility and having the right to access the outdoors, how flipping good it is for you, how to keep safe and mostly “don’t be a d%*£” and ruin it.
I get the bigger picture. I understand the business plan. I support those who have worked hard to create an audience and use their platforms for the greater good. But that education, understanding and knowledge doesn’t seem to settle my brain and it certainly doesn’t stop me from asking, “why not throw another yurt up and offer a stay to someone who may never have ever had the chance?”. The return? Instead of 5 minutes of brand exposure, someone who needs it gets a life changing moment.
I spent six years working in Morecambe, known to be one of the most deprived areas in the UK. The sea just a stone’s throw away with views over to the mountains and lakes, accessed with a short train or car journey. Yet accessing these outdoor spaces is not something that is prominent in the lives of many of the children and adults I worked with. There are many barriers, but we can help to break them down. All it takes is that first introduction to set off sparks of possibility and if we did that every time we could, well… I think you get my drift.
It’s like RED read my mind and through WWW they offered to support us to organise an event, enabling us to create an activity packed day that we could offer out to our community for FREE. Yes, social media helped us get here, my contradiction is apparent, but as much as we can we use it for the greater good. It’s in sync with our ideals so off we went. In true WWW style we also decided to mix in some fundraising and asked those that felt they could, donate to our chosen charity Wave Forward.
We ended up collaborating to create one of my “can’t believe we made this happen” days of work. One that I am super proud of and had the exact effect we hoped for.
RED provided paddleboards and we worked with local qualified women across industries to deliver a wonderful locally sourced lunch, a guided walk, an art session and two coached SUP sessions.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather, the venue was perfect and with some great team work from the WWW team Kate, Sarah, Katie and myself managed to bring together a fantastic group of women.
Being able to coach and use RED SUP boards, RED changing robes and the RED coolbox made the use of quality kit and supported many to feel safe and lead them to success. It was priceless in supporting those to stand up for the first time. We used the RED Paddle Co 10’8” allowing beginners to feel stable and safe to push their boundaries even further.
The entire day everyone was beaming, wearing their new RED hats with pride and making new connections with others from the community. It always amazes me when you bring what started as a
bunch of strangers together and within minutes there is comradery, interest and friendship building. Some women came alone, some had persuaded a friend. Those first steps are the hardest but knowing you’ll be looked after for the day and provided for make it easier. The planning and safety were left up to someone else, taking away a barrier to “starting something new”. We divided attendees into two groups; the larger group, all beginners, having never been near a SUP before.
This is where I get even more passionate. We coached throughout so to enable participants to go out and do it again safely. Everyone has to start somewhere and if we start with all the knowledge we need, we can pass it on too …. “Pass it forward” doesn’t always have to be from a coach. If this is done well, then those that gain this information can then go and access the outdoors and show others how to do so too.
All and all, it was a memorable day, I think the below comments from one of the attendees supports my words and why I wanted to write this blog.
I have been intending to write this for some time, sorry I have only just got round to it!
I attended the RED Paddleboarding day and had the most wonderful time. As an unfit, overweight
woman in my 40s I don’t have much confidence with outdoor activities, whilst at the same time being
really keen to try things. I grew up in suburbia and have only recently discovered the great outdoors. The
day was so welcoming and inclusive – and helped me to feel that these days and activities could be for me.
I was so delighted that I managed to stand up and properly paddle board (due to excellent coaching from
Vicki – who really understood my limitations and gave me a different technique to stand up). The friend
who came with me is on universal credit and would never have been able to afford such an opportunity at
full cost. The day felt like a much-needed retreat for both of us. The impact that you personally, and
WWW are having is incredible. Please be proud.”
I guess all I am leading to is, if we can hold a space in our minds more for making the outdoors more accessible to EVERYONE, then we can make it happen together. With both exposure and that potential life changing moment for someone. If that’s not spending your marketing budget well then, I don’t know what is.