John Gregory | Sportscene – Thirteen year old, Maia Wallace-Loizou from Enfield having just become the youngest girl ever to kayak across the English Channel, also has her sights on the 125 mile Devices to Westminster and is also being coached as part of the GB Canoeing’s Canoe Slalom club sessions on the Legacy Channel at Lee Valley. Wendy Lynch, Chief Executive at The Leaside Trust for whom Maia and Dylan Barber-May raised £4,000 told Sportscene that she thinks Maia “is an Olympian in the making”.
Maia and Dylan Barber-May, 15, from Hackney paddled the 20 miles in a K2 in 4 hours and 15 minutes. They did it to raise money for Leaside Trust, a youth charity in Hackney which they both attend. Maia and Dylan had also posted a video on YouTube to attract sponsorship. Maia said “The money raised is already being used to buy new kayaks. This will enable more kids to get involved”.
Maia and Dylan trained hard for the challenge throughout the winter. As Dylan explains “waking up at 6am to kayak in the cold and snow and going again after school was hard but worth it because this is for Leaside. It’s a great charity helping young people get out of the house, off the streets and do something fun which they can get good at.” Describing the Channel crossing, Dylan said; “It was challenging but more mentally than physically. I enjoyed it and we did it!” Maia continued; “It was alright up until near the end but we kept going and luckily the sea was nice and still.”
Maia has her eyes on the next challenges. Maia said “I know its [Devizes – Westminster] a really tough race so I am not sure when it will happen but I am building up my strength by continuous training.”
Sharon Wallace, Maia’s Mum, added; “I am still in awe of the total commitment of the coaches, trainers and organisers for seeing it through. It started as an idea from Maia and Dylan on the way back from kayaking trip and the club basically said 'OK, how can we do this'. There was no discouragement just careful planning and dedication.”
Asked about the personal contribution made by the volunteers to help Maia and Dylan make it across the channel Wendy Lynch commented; “Our adult volunteers here at Leaside, especially Alan Goode and Luke O’Bryan who did the Channel Crossing with Dylan and Maia, dedicated hours of their own time in training and helping the young people to train, both on the water and during fitness sessions. They even took the young people away at the weekends to train on the sea. We also had other volunteers who were involved with training Dylan and Maia and one, Stephen O’Flaherty, drove the support vehicle over to France on the day. As you know, there are lots of individuals who give their time and efforts to enable young people to develop their paddling skills. The Channel crossing event took a lot of planning and organisation by the Leaside team, most of whom have full time jobs. They supported the youngsters from start to finish. Our thanks to Leaside’s coaches and volunteers as well as Ultimate Kayaks who provided a double kayak and Berkeley First Ltd.”