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Jo Moseley: How Paddleboarding Gave Me Purpose In Midlife

Jo Moseley: How Paddleboarding Gave Me Purpose In Midlife

4 min read

She learnt to paddleboard in her 50s after menopausal symptoms gave her serious anxiety and knocked her confidence. Jo Moseley, 54, is a mum of two sons and lives on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Happiest in a wetsuit, she is an advocate of tiny adventures in the sea and hills for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. She does a 2 Minute Litterpick each day and her next goal is to train to become a Stand Up Paddleboarder Instructor. This is her inspiring story of renaissance. Because midlife is just another adventure.

Hello, this is Jo Moseley and I have just arrived in Gool”. Smiling, drenched from a huge thunderstorm, I am speaking to my camera and showing the arch of a beautiful rainbow behind me. Yes, I have reached the end of my 162-mile PaddleboardTheNorth crossing coast to coast from Liverpool and my voice shakes. I fight in vain to hold back the tears.

I have accomplished my personal challenge and for the first time in decades, backed my own dream. I hope I have also won a small victory for midlife women by becoming the first woman, at 54, to stand up paddleboard the northern crossing. I am full of joy, gratitude, and purpose.

Six years earlier, I was sobbing in public for a very different reason. Overwhelmed, anxious and desperate for a good night’s sleep, I burst into tears in the biscuit aisle of our local Tesco with my boys, then 16 and 12, by my side. Looking at the chocolate HobNobs, I wondered how my life had come to this. A single working Mum, with both my parents going through chemotherapy, I was hanging on by my fingertips. In hindsight, I realise I was also experiencing perimenopause, something I knew nothing about at the time.

I told a friend about my Tesco moment and she suggested exercise might help, kindly gifting me an old indoor rowing machine. Within two weeks of rowing in our little kitchen, I began sleeping and life was brighter and better.

A few months later, on the 21st December 2013, my mum died of Lymphoma. Our hearts broke. She had been the centre of our world. Unexpectedly I found myself still going to the gym. I was comforted by the simplicity, the need to do nothing but row. To honour my mum’s life I decided to embark upon a huge fundraising challenge for MacMillan Cancer Support. On 5th May 2014, my parents’ wedding anniversary, I started my challenge. Over 8 months, I rowed a million metres and 2 half marathons. It was a simple routine of 10,000 m every other night after work. On the 1st anniversary of mum’s death and 5 days before my 50th birthday, I rowed a marathon. Yes, 26.2 miles! We raised over £10,000 with Gift Aid.

I realised that moving had helped my grief. It had also helped the symptoms of my perimenopause – crippling anxiety, sleepless nights, muscle & joint pains. Fundraising had given me a purpose and I was grateful for the opportunity to make a difference.

I decided to move out of the gym and into the fresh air. I started bodyboarding and wild swimming. I began running at 52. My 53rd birthday present was a 3-day surf camp. For 4 seconds I popped up and surfed, screaming with joy all the way.

My greatest discovery was learning to paddleboard one Saturday afternoon in September 2016 in the Lake District. From the very first moment I stood up, I felt calm, strong, confident and happy. I took my paddleboard out onto the sea, getting a little braver each time. I learned to ride slightly bigger waves and went further from the shore to a beach at the edge of the bay. I carried bags with me so that I could do a 2 Minute Beach Clean, my way of saying thank you to sea that brought such joy and physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

I have been invited to speak at adventure festivals sharing the sense of purpose doing a 2 Minute Litterpick each day has given me. A short film I created on my iPhone called “Small Things, Great Love” was screened in London. Another called “Finding Joy” based on my poem about rediscovering happiness has been very warmly received at film festivals. I’ve learned new skills and built my self-belief by saying ‘yes’ to projects I would have been too afraid to when I was younger.

My PaddleboardTheNorth challenge this summer paddling along the canal and river, fundraising for the surf therapy charity The Wave Project and environmental organisation, the 2 Minute Beach Clean, was the next step.

It became a dream to pull me to the future knowing my youngest son would be starting university in October. It was a chance to show myself that I could take an idea and make it a reality.

After 11 days and 162 miles immersed in nature along our glorious waterways, I reached the goal I had dreamed of for months.

On my paddleboard under that incredible rainbow, I also stood on the threshold of a new chapter. Empty nester. Filled with joy, gratitude, and purpose. I was ready to turn the page.

Beginners SUP tips

  • Have a lesson to learn safety tips and technique
  • Join British Canoeing britishcanoeing.org.uk for a Waterways License for canals and rivers and go to www.gopaddling.info for more tips
  • Remember we all start out as a beginner – believe in yourself
  • Enjoy it! Do it for your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing
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