WOLFVILLE, NS - In an age when young girls are constantly bombarded by messages that serve to undermine self-esteem or draw body image into question, a relaxing group outing on paddle boards can be highly therapeutic.
Girls On Boards founder Mia Lockhart of Wolfville said she would begin facilitating group paddleboard trips for teenage girls again in June, once the water starts to warm up. She also facilitates trips for women.
“They pay for a nice three or four-hour experience out in St. Margaret’s Bay and doing that, they’re also helping to pay all the expenses of running the teen trips,” Lockhart said. “It’s kind of a nice circle of sharing and it’s fun for everybody, really. Everybody enjoys the days out on the water.”
Lockhart takes groups of approximately six girls at a time on paddle boarding trips to various lakes across the Annapolis Valley, Lake Banook in Dartmouth or St. Margaret’s Bay. She’s currently looking for a couple more leaders to facilitate additional trips.
Her love of paddle boarding began when she was in Costa Rica with her daughters. She said sharing that empowering experience and connecting with them on the water was what brought the Girls On Boards initiative to fruition.
“Paddle boarding is fun, it’s new, and it’s something that a lot of girls haven’t tried,” she said.
Lockhart was recently nominated by Women Active Nova Scotia for a provincial Trendsetter Award for her role in founding Girls On Boards. She said Women Active is a national organization with the goal of getting more girls and women out participating in sports and physical activity while supporting them with coaching and leadership.
Lockhart said data from a study conducted a few years ago illustrates that Grade 11 girls are among the unhealthiest people in the province. A lot of girls end up leaving traditional sports between Grades 9 and 12 because of body image, the competitive nature of the activities or simply because it’s no longer fun for them.
Lockhart said getting them involved in paddle boarding is a nice way to introduce a different sport that is rather trendy and an enjoyable recreational activity. The sport is gaining in popularity across the country. She said it’s all about inspiring lifestyle changes that will help girls be more active.
Lockhart said she dealt with eating disorders during her teen years and recognizes that girls that age are often faced with issues surrounding body image. Lockhart said it’s important to find healthy things that feel good for your body that aren’t focused on image, especially now in the age of social media.
She said paddle boarding carries the added benefit of the “meditative state” involved in getting out on the water and enjoying nature.
“Any time you get out on the water, you get to leave everything behind, so that’s the benefit and it is a good workout,” Lockhart said. “Taking the girls out, I love the fact of taking them away from their phones and their life.”
She said some of the girls are scared at first but she takes things slowly as they learn to embrace the new skills. After paddling a bit, they huddle up on the water and talk. Conversations often surround body image, pressures the girls are facing or things in their lives that they love.
“The conversations are better on the water, basically,” Lockhart said. “They open up a bit more.”
Girls On Boards is raising funds this summer for a trailer to haul paddleboards. She said they would be promoting the organization and the fundraiser at the Wolfville Farmers Market sometime in June and people can donate online. For more information on Girls On Boards or to make a donation, visit www.girlsonboards.co.
Lockhart also teaches SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) Yoga classes at the Town of Wolfville’s Reservoir Park during the summer months.