Our Sponsored Kayaker during Covid-19

Payara Services is governed by seven core values, designed to underpin everything we do. These are Community, Excellence, Growth, Openness, Initiative, Passion and Trust.

We chose to sponsor Team GB Kayaker Emma Witherford because she embodies these values. After renewing our support for 2020 – 2021, we decided to check in with Emma on how she has coped during the inevitable challenges and struggles of lockdown and the pandemic. We found that she is living our values more than ever before:


Emma made the quick decision at the onset of lockdown to convert her family’s summer house into a gym.

Realising that she likes a set space to work out in, Emma used her initiative to ensure she could continue to train despite water courses and gyms closing: borrowing weights off a neighbour and giving the space available to her – the summer house – a lick of paint, to find a solution.


Emma was open to new forms of training, seeing change as a positive. Rather than viewing movement restrictions as setbacks, she embraced an evolution in the way she kept in shape, enjoying the opportunity to do long runs and cycles that wouldn’t be possible as part of her usual routine.

She considered it a positive to be able to do something different without worries that it would throw her off her training – and it’s a benefit of her Malvern location that this also meant she could enjoy the countryside!


Emma reflects that the pandemic has brought the Freestyle Kayaking community together, with everyone working collaboratively to coach and push each other both in the UK and aboard. Like many during lockdown, this included making the most of social media, banding together around Instagram tags and videos to share expertise and training programmes.

This is even more the case within the Team GB team itself, which is usually split up during summer. Travel restrictions have meant that everyone was at Nottinghamshire’s Holme Pierrepont training base, where they have been pushing each other and giving each other challenges.


Team Payara constantly strives for excellence, and Emma is also driven by always wanting to improve. She told us that her training during lockdown was motivated by this: “Why am I training? So when competitions do resume, I can return stronger and better prepared.”

This included going a step further and visiting Makinito in the South of France to practice. This location had a high standard of whitewater features essential to freestyle kayaking, and is really good to learn new tricks in – even though the pandemic meant they had to cut the trip short, Emma made the most of the time by camping out and visiting the sites every day to hone her skills.


Emma’s love for the sport was reflected in how she enjoyed the structure it gave her during lockdown.

Even though she has now returned to Nottingham, taking up a job at a therapeutic school, this hasn’t dampened her passion for kayaking. Instead, she trains lightly before work then heads to the white water course on the way home – and even chooses to do sporting activities in her free time too, regularly enjoying rock climbing on so-called “rest” days. Payara’s passion value is all about having compelling energy and investment in our actions, something summed up by Emma’s love of what she does!


Payara’s Trust value sees us commit to keep our promises but also have the honesty and trust in our team to speak up if they become unachievable.

This is a value that Emma reflects as she is used to adapting and responding with resilience, even pre-Covid-19; in the world of freestyle kayaking, challenges such as sudden weather changes and high water levels means plans can often change. In Emma’s words: “We are taught to control the controllables. If there is nothing you can do about it, why waste energy worrying” – a good lesson for everyone!


The next big step in Emma’s growth is the 2021 Team GB Freestyle selections on October 24th, now to pick a team for the World Championships next July. Held in Holme Pierrepoint in Nottingham, this will also double up as the British Championships due to Covid-19.

This change in schedule will require Emma to change her approach, as the British Championships are judged on best ride, requiring you to go all out for each session – whereas for the team selections the tactical approach is to pull it back a bit and play it slightly safer, as two rides count. Emma will be concentrating on the GB selections as the priority and modifying her approach to give herself the best chance, as continued improvement is at the heart of her, very “Payaran”, mindset.

Keep following Payara for more updates on how Emma progresses in the Team GB Freestyle selections and British Championships, and make sure you follow her on Instagram and her blog.

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