Congratulations Neal

Outstanding Contribution Award

The Sharks’ Neal Underwood has received the Outstanding Contribution Award by British Canoeing for his contribution to paddlesport over the last 50 years!

The award was made at a ceremony during the last day of the World Championships, where Neal was a guest of honour by Professor John Coyne CBE, Chair or British Canoeing, along with three other people who were being recognised for their contributions to canoeing.

The award recognised the contribution Neal has made over may years, since he started paddling in 1973, with what was then Whitmore Canoe Club, based at Whitmore High School in Harrow; he has also been an active member of Chalfont Park Canoe Club, when they ran slaloms at Hambleden, before moving to Sunderland Canoe Club (training in the docks seeing ships being built on the Wear). He was a member of Gateshead Kayak Club, where he raced Wild Water Racing in the 1980s, when the were Britain’s number one WWR Club, Gateshead was also where he started Sprint and Marathon racing. On moving back South he was actively involved (Chair of) Hemel Hempstead Canoe Club, where he concentrated on Marathon Paddling (including the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race).

For the past 15 years, Neal has been behind the rise of The Sharks, a Club with a difference, the Club works at grass roots level, in local communities, providing after school clubs, PE, lessons in schools, and affordable community sessions for groups and individuals, to learn and to train, some for recreation, some for serious competition, but always for fun. The Sharks were recognised by Sport England as running the best Satellite Club (after School Club) in London at Osterley Park. In recent years more accolades have come in: Engagement club of the year in 2021, which you will remember was a particularly difficult year for everyone, and 2022, the Ed Ecclestone Award for services to Slalom.

The concept at The Sharks is to have many community based hubs, where people can get involved in the sport, making it accessible to all, irrespective of income, age, or ability. We have created a relaxed, fun environment for people to enjoy the sport in their locality, we currently run sessions in Greenford (Ealing), Harefield (Hillingdon), Harlesden (Brent), Southall (Ealing), and Summer family fun sessions in Osterley Park (Hounslow). We are working with developers to provide new community hubs in 2024 in Hayes and another in Southall.

Woking in the community has enabled the Club to reach large numbers of people, with over a thousand different people each year sitting in one of our boats. This gives people the chance to try the sport and if they like t to take it up, we run competitive squads in: Marathon, Slalom, Sprint, and Wild Water Racing. We want to start a Canoe Polo Team, if anybody wants to help us get started, please call/text on 07951 770241 or email: We have paddlers at every level from beginner to international, so now limits on where you can go.

Neal has been involved at all levels of the sport, competitively and as a coach, he still races, because he enjoys it, so why not come along and join the fun? Contact us via email: , text or call 07951 770241.

The Final comment goes to Neal: “I would like to thank everybody who has contributed to this, I am still involved in the sport after 50 years, because I enjoy it and the main reason for all the fun, is the community of people that make the sport so great. I enjoy what I do, the success of The Sharks is due to the team we have, the coaches, the participants (young and old), parents and our partners, which vary from commercial companies to community groups, statutory bodies, Schools, developers and charities. Please come and join in the fun, that is Canoe Sport.”

So many memories … So may people …

Published 6th October 2023