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Best friends Emma Armstrong and Jessica Lund do everything together, and on July 24, they will both stand up and paddle in support of youth mental health.
Despite being novice paddleboarders, the teens will compete in the Champion of the Crescent Stand Up Paddle Races to help raise funds for a new Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Stabilization Unit (CAPSU) at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
Everyone who participates in the event – which includes a 10-kilometre competitive race, a five-kilometre recreational race, a kid’s race, and a corporate relay – will help more than 800 youth receive treatment each year.
“Mental health issues affect children and teens and it’s okay to talk about it,” Armstrong said. “Creating awareness is important and if we can do that and have fun at the same time, then what better way to spend the day?”
Armstrong and Lund have watched fellow classmates deal with mental health issues and want people to know that youth aren’t immune.
“There is a lot more pressure on teenagers to fit in and a lot of stress to conform to how society thinks we need to look and act,” Lund said. “Emma and I want to participate in this race so we can help bring awareness to the mental health issues kids face.”
Both teens found paddleboarding easy to pick up and said anyone interested in supporting kids’ mental health shouldn’t let being a beginner stand in their way.
“You can do anything that you put your mind to,” Armstrong said. “Paddleboarding isn’t as hard as it looks. Once you get your balance, it’s pretty relaxing to be out on the water and it’s super fun when you get to do it with your best friend.”
Armstrong first tried paddleboarding on Skaha Lake in Penticton. She remembers watching some people doing yoga and tricks on their boards and wanting to try it out.
“Within a few minutes, I felt like I was a pro and was up and paddling around the lake,” Armstrong said.
Lund was introduced to the sport at a summer camp at White Rock Beach.
“The longer I stayed on the board, the easier it got,” she said. “I found it quite relaxing to be on the water.”
In addition to competing in the five-kilometre race, Armstrong and Lund will volunteer at the event, which will also include an exhibition and family activity zone.