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It feels like yesterday was the first day I stepped on a stand up paddleboard. Now that I take a moment to reflect and look back on my journey as a paddler it has been a long one. It’s been filled with so many highs and lows, but every bit of it has been worth it. I only look forward to paddling for the rest of my life. My name is Maddi Leblanc, I am 22 years old, I am from Welland Ontario Canada, and this is my paddling story...


Maddi Leblanc On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser Canada

Maddi Leblanc by Stephanie Lannacchino


Have you ever had a moment in your life where you feel as if everything that happened to lead to that moment was a result of perfect timing? That is how stand up paddling happened for me. I tried stand up paddling for the first time when I was ten years old. I saw two men standing on these giant yellow boards, and I had to ask them what they were standing on. That moment instantly changed my life. I was always the kid that wanted to try everything and once I discovered paddling there was no looking back. The men had lent me one of their boards to try and once I was on, I didn’t want to get off! I wish I could go back to that beach and tell those men what they did for me that day. By allowing me to try one of their boards they completely changed my life. If I’ve learned anything from stand up paddling it is the importance of giving back to your community and creating opportunities for others. If those men didn’t do that for me that day I wouldn’t be where I am today. Stand up paddling saved my life.


Maddi Leblanc On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser Canada by Lucas Murnaghan

On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser by Lucas Murnaghan


My stand up paddling journey didn’t really take off until 2012 when I was able to purchase my first board. A year prior my life changed dramatically. In 2011 I lost two friends of mine to cancer within nine months of each other. My next door neighbour Lynn Lambert 37, passed away due to a rare form of skin cancer that March, and in December my high school friend Julia Turner 15, passed away due to glioblastoma which is a super aggressive form of a brain tumor. I was devastated. There were so many long hard days that came to follow. Luckily I was fortunate to grow up in a small community that pulls together when needed, and that is exactly what happened after these two young ladies passed. Many events were created in their memory and everyone was starting to look at their lives as inspirational instead of the initial sadness that once overwhelmed us all.


Maddi Leblanc On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser Canada by Lucas Murnaghan

On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser by Lucas Murnaghan


In the spring of 2013 I was able to take out my brand new board. As I paddled down the Welland Canal I couldn’t help but think of my two friends. I decided right then and there that I needed to do something for them. I needed to showcase how important they were not just to myself, but our community. That is how On Board was born. On Board is an annual stand up paddleboard fundraiser that raises money for brain cancer research in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society. I decided to match my love of my friends with my new found love for paddling. Six years later On Board has grown more than I could have ever imagined and I have learned so many things about life, love, and passion because of this event.


Maddi Leblanc On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser Canada by Anthony Galacio

On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser by Anthony Gallaccio


The event in itself consists of a 5km leisure paddle from the Welland Community Boathouse, to Lincoln Street Bridge and back on the Welland Canal. We have a free BBQ hosted by Mr Mikes Welland, and new this year, races with the Ontario SUP Series to kick off the event. Anyone, and everyone is more than welcome to attend this fun filled event! This year the event will take place on Sunday July 21st 2019 from 9am - 4pm at the Welland Community Boathouse. For more information you can check out my website.


Maddi Leblanc On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser Canada by Lucas Murnaghan

On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser by Lucas Murnaghan


I still continue to question daily, why were Julia and Lynn taken away by cancer. Why them? I look back now, and I see how much Julia and Lynn’s passing has shaped my life. If they had not died, I never would have been motivated to do much else with stand up paddling. I never would have created On Board. If I never created On Board I never would have met so many special people that continue to influence my life on the daily. I never would have grown in the paddling community. I never would have got my SUP instructor certification. I never would have met ‘Surf the Greats’. I never would have started SUP racing. I never would have been sponsored by Starboard, and most recently I never would have been able to represent Team Canada in Wanning China, at the ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships in November of 2018. So many domino like pieces fell together after Lynn and Julia passed and it was not until years later that I began to see fate take its course.


Maddi Leblanc On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser Canada by Lucas Murnaghan

On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser by Lucas Murnaghan


The first year I paddled for On Board, I was on a 10’6 all-round board, wearing gloves, and had a novice style like stroke. I look back now and think about how I definitely did not know a lot about paddling at all before I took on the first ten kilometers in 2014. But I paddled anyway. I knew at the time that I loved the feeling of paddling, and that I wanted to take stand up paddling to the next level. And look at where that attitude has gotten me today. If I have any advice that I can give that I have learned from my paddling journey so far, it’s that you should live your life to its fullest and allow those you once knew to shape your life as you continue to grow as a person. Laugh lots, enjoy others and surround yourself with kindness. Life is too short to grieve. So have fun, paddle, and continue to have fun along the way!


On Board SUP Fundraiser Maddi Leblanc by Anthony Gallaccio On Board Standup Paddleboarding Fundraiser by Anthony Gallaccio

1 comment

  • Fantastic article in such a super kind, sweet, thoughtful soul! 💖 We could use more giving peeps like her!!!! 😊

    Louise Leblanc

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