Tandridge Canoe Polo League was established in 1994 by a Youth Worker, Richard Swire, assisted by a Venture Scout Leader, Christine Norris. They wanted to provide enjoyable and challenging activity at a reasonable price for Tandridge’s teenagers.
The League proved an instant success, attracting 8 teams of 4 players immediately, as well as extra adult helpers, many of whom had a Scout and Guiding background. Some of these early volunteers are still involved today – Alyna Cope, Graham Copeman, Dave Exall, Paul Knight and Les Saunders.
The continuing success of the Club can be attributed to the willing input of a strong and enthusiastic team of volunteers, some of whom have given additional time to train as coaches. Some of the newly trained coaches created specialist sections enabling the Canoe Polo League to evolve into Tandridge Canoe and Kayak Club, which still runs the canoe polo along with three further sections:
Slalom – created by Peter Bedingfield, then led by Shiona Shaw and now Bev Morgan
Freestyle – created by Phil Davies, then led by Eddie Eddington, followed by Debbie and Jonny Stitt, now Dan Daley.
TYKs – the recreational section for juniors, created by Nick and Amanda Westall
The focus has always been around motivating juniors, encouraging them to set and achieve personal targets. As well as learning kayak skills, there are opportunities to acquire life skills such as lifeguarding, first aid, canoe safety and rescue, junior coaching, canoe polo refereeing, slalom judging, fundraising and assisting with events. Those over 14 years of age can have their achievements recognised through participation in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The reward has been to see the progression and achievement of young people. This is why we exist and we see for ourselves how achievement builds self esteem, how participation encourages independence, training leads to informed judgement about risk, and involvement with events develops confident social interaction with people of all ages.
Recognition is not our raison d’etre – but is welcome all the same and our “little” club in East Surrey has not gone un-noticed by our Governing Body – Canoe England and the British Canoe Union (BCU).
A key moment in the Club’s history was in 1998 when Sue Hornby, the BCU’s Paddlesport Development Officer at the time, encouraged the club to apply for a National Lottery grant for canoe polo equipment.
To meet the application requirements, the club’s committee produced a three year Development Plan, with a child protection policy, a volunteer screening process, a declared aim to compete at regional level and introduce members to other aspects of paddlesport. The work paid off and the Lottery grant enabled us to purchase our very first set of equipment.
The Development Plan focussed our minds and gave direction, particularly around the importance of recruiting, training and supporting a strong team of adult volunteers. This enabled us to enhance the breadth of opportunity across different kayaking disciplines (recreational – placid rivers, whitewater rivers, slalom, freestyle, and canoe polo), whilst continuing to develop personal canoe skills, safety awareness and leadership skills.
Success in these areas meant that the BCU awarded us Top Community Club Status in May. We were the first canoe club in England to be given this award, which has to be renewed every two years.
The good work continued and Sport England awarded us the Clubmark, which recognises a safe and well-run club.
Peter Bedingfield started up Blades Slalom Section with training at Hedgecourt Lake
There was further recognition of our Club, awarded a Silver Certificate by Active Surrey.
Two junior members, Joe Davies and Tom Webb, successfully applied for funding to develop the Freestyle section of the Club, which was led by Phil Davies.
Nick and Amanda Westall started up TYK’s (Tandridge Young Kayakers), opening club membership to children of all ages
Our continuing successful development was acknowledged by Canoe England with the Top Club Gold Award, bringing the total to just 8 Gold Clubs out of over 400 clubs in the country by 2011.
Peter Bedingfield was awarded Canoe England’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Paddlesport Development.
Christine Norris was awarded Canoe England’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Club Development.
Canoe England Top Club Gold Award
Dave Exall – Tandridge Sports Awards Adult Volunteer of the Year
Jonnie Stitt – Canoe England’s Award for Outstanding Junior Contribution
Nick Westall – BCU SE Region Coach of the year
Amanda Westall – BCU SE Region Coach of the year
Canoe England Club of the Year award
We are grateful for funding over the years from Surrey Youth Service, National Lottery, Awards for All, Oxted Parish Council, Limpsfield Parish Council, Tandridge District Council, Surrey County Council. Surrey County Playing Fields Association, Sport England, Rotary Club of Caterham, Lions Club and the Gatwick Airport Community Trust.
From the first meet night the canoe polo league proved to be a great success. Most members tend to join as beginners and formed teams from Scouts, Guides, Ventures, Air Cadets, canoe clubs, schools, ‘detached’ (street) youth projects, Young Farmers and a specialist school for young people with speech and language disorders. Now many people join as individuals or groups of friends.