Giving Back to Bermuda: The SUP’r Kids Paddling Program
Plastic Tides is an organization that uses paddleboarding as a means to improve the aquatic environment for all those who love it and live in it. Founders Gordon Middleton and Christian Shaw are constantly coming up with new and creative ways to employ SUP in their environmental research, inspire others to become stewards of the seas and yes, to have as much fun along the way as they possibly can. In line with those efforts, their crew has been frequenting Bermuda for years to spread environmental awareness around the island, and last year hosted Bermuda’s first-ever SUP race, The Devil’s Isle Challenge, a 40-mile endurance event held to raise funds for the local community and conservation efforts. The second Devil’s Isle Challenge is coming up May 6, and registration is filling up fast! And as if that isn’t cool enough, Plastic Tides also created a youth program in association with the race—The Plastic Tides SUP’r Kids Bermuda Paddling Program—aimed at giving local Bermudian kids the opportunity to standup paddle while simultaneously teaching environmental awareness with the goal of a far-reaching impact. Here, Shaw breaks down exactly what Plastic Tides is doing for the world with the Devil’s Isle Challenge and the Plastic Tides SUP’r Kids Bermuda Program.–MM
Where did the idea for SUP’r Kids Bermuda Program come from?
From the very beginning, Bermuda outreach was core to the Plastic Tides mission and we were doing school visits in the area as early as early 2014. When we returned in 2015 student outreach was our primary objective. The energy and enthusiasm these local kids displayed for paddling was really inspiring, and after working with a few other kids programs on the island we decided to build our own that mirrored the Plastic Tides mission.
How did the program evolve from concept to reality?
When Plastic Tides came up with the concept of Devil’s Isle Challenge as a race, setting up an associated kids’ paddling program was a no-brainer. There was nothing like SUP’r Kids on the island and while there are a ton of great philanthropic and environmental causes in the SUP community, we didn’t see any geared specifically toward kids. So we created the SUP’r Kids Bermuda Program to fill that void. We established the program last year with a really small budget raised from the first Devil’s Isle Challenge race. We put all the earnings into the program, bought boards and paddles and ran some really phenomenal early sessions with the kids.
What impact do you feel programs like these have on local kids who otherwise may not have the opportunity?
The goal is to give these kids an experience that shows them how rewarding it is to be a standup paddler and athlete and environmentalist. We want to share that connection between the ocean and conservation, using paddleboarding as a means to help people tap into the environment and inspiring them to protect it. Our hope is to give the kids a source of ownership in the natural resources around Bermuda and a sense of stewardship to protect it.
What kinds of activities does SUP’r Kids do on their paddling outings?
We take the kids paddling through mangroves and pull all sorts of trash out along the way. We talk about the Plastic Tides’ and other environmental initiatives throughout, teach what we can and do cleanups in different areas. There’s a holistic theme behind the paddling intended to help the kids realize it’s about more than just going out and paddling. Hopefully in some cases it can be that single experience that sets a kid out on a better path.
How do you hope to see the Plastic Tides SUP’r Kids Bermuda Program grow?
Our goal is to see every public school student in Bermuda have the opportunity to try standup paddling and to learn about the environment. We’re also really hoping the funds from this year’s race (coming up May 6!) will allow us to hire a local ambassador who has a passion for it and can keep the ship running when we’re not on the island. And, it’d be really cool if one day down the road, a kid who comes through the SUP’r Kids Bermuda Program ends up winning the Devil’s Isle Challenge!
SUP’r Kids Bermuda Participant Testimonials
“I really enjoyed learning how to paddle board. It showed me that other than swimming this is another fun activity we can do in the water. I learned that if we want to have fun in the water we also need to take care of it by keeping plastic and other waste out.” –Isaiah Williams
“Learning how to paddleboard was a lot of fun. It was funny watching my friends fall off into the water! I learned that it is important to make sure we keep chemicals and other things that can pollute it out of the water because the water is not just for us to have fun in but also for the sea animals to live in.” –Akira Woods
“I was amazed at how quickly the students learned the techniques of paddleboarding. It showed that when they are doing something enjoyable they can learn. I loved watching the faces of the parents as they were watching their children. They were extremely proud and excited for them.” –Mrs. Moira Daniels, Teacher
More about the upcoming second annual Devil’s Isle Challenge