Well what an amazing start to the trip. I’m sitting on the train to Gatwick and my phone pings at me. It the Easy Jet app telling me my flight has been delayed. This was going to be a late flight anyway, but now I won’t leave the UK until almost 11pm and won’t arrive in Palma until 02:17! I Think I’d better get as much sleep as I can on that plane.
So Just a brief blog post to tell you all how I’m feeling now that I’m on my way.
You know that feeling when it’s your first day at a new school, or a new job? or the feeling you have when you have to talk in front of a large group, or maybe in the car on your way to Uni? Well that’s the same feeling I have now. A real mixture of excitement, anticipation and nervousness. I get the same feeling before every SUP race I do, especially the endurance events and especially the Great Glen race. The Great Glen is 92km long often in strong winds and big waves, and a significant proportion of it in the dark. There’s a significant amount of prep required and a mad scramble in the early hours with everyone getting their stuff together, having breakfast and checking all their kit three times. The thoughts running through your head are numerous, will it be windy? What direction? Have I got enough food and hydration? What’s that twinge in my shoulder that’s appeared from nowhere? Who do I have to beat? Who can beat me? Have I got the right clothing? Where’s my leash? Those who have witnessed me in these moments will know that my stress levels rise and I just can’t settle. That’s exactly how I feel now. However all that prep pays off and you rarely forget anything and are usually more prepared than you think you are. As soon as that race starts though the nerves and anticipation are gone and I just go for it.
Well tomorrow the adventure starts. Do I feel ready? No. Will I smash it? Hell yeah!!
Just got home from an epic few days in North Wales with my two boys. We decided to make the most of the last week of Easter holidays. We were wild camping in the van and hitting the mountain bike trails, walking and visiting some of the attractions. More on that in a future blog.
“don’t come, have you seen the wind forecast!?”
While laying in bed one night parked in a layby just outside Llandegla Forest, and with the sweet sound of one of the boys snoring in my ear, my phone pings. It’s a message from Ruben at elnino surf centre saying “don’t come, have you seen the wind forecast!?” oops!, too late, flights are booked and I’m almost ready. I jumped on my phone and checked out the Wind Guru forecast. What I saw was some awesome weather for windsurfing, but not so great for paddling 350km on an inflatable board. Trying to complete this challenge in seven days is hard enough without loosing one, two, or more days to the wind as well.
I can’t pull out now, Im still going and I’m still going to attempt to circumnavigate the island. I may just need to apply some imaginative thinking to the challenge.
The wind was always going to be the one element I have no control over. If I had unlimited free time or the ability to take holidays from work whenever I wished it wouldn’t be a problem. I’d just pick a weather window and last minute flight and go for it. However I’m an ordinary guy with work and family commitments, so that’s just not an option. I would take anything else, rain, cold, heat, snow or hail, but wind is a real problem.
So now the packing starts. I’ve got almost everything I need. I just need to get a few extras and start to pull it all together. Come back tomorrow for an update on what’s happening.
I’ve fancied attempting a multi day SUP challenge for a while now, I’ve seen others set off on their own adventures and longed to be going along too. Well, now I’ve decided that it’s my time and I’m off on my own adventure.
I’ve looked at London to Paris, but the paperwork involved was a real downer. Then I looked at the River Douro, but just didn’t have the time. I needed to find somewhere else, somewhere warm where I could start and finish at the same point. I have absolutely no idea where it came from, as its somewhere I’ve never been to before and does have a bit of a ’Brits abroad’ image, but it looks beautiful and such an amazing place to paddle. Plus the flights are cheap, really cheap!
And the winner is…… Mallorca. That’s right Mallorca (Majorca) the Mecca for Brits abroad. Towns like Magaluf attract thousands of holiday makes, of which most only ever see the inside of a bar, at night. That’s not my plan, oh no, not at all. I’m planning to Stand up Paddleboard around it, all the way around it. Paddling for 350 to 550km, depending on how close I hug the coastline.
I can’t wait to discover this island and have my own adventure. Make sure you check back on the blog to see how I’m getting on.
It’s around 02:00 on Sunday morning and I’m lying in a bag at the bottom of a soggy field. I’m cold and I feel like I’ve been awake for hours. It’s really not all that bad though, I’m gazing up at the clearest starry sky and I feel alive and free.
How did I get here and what am I doing?
Well I recently got involved with a collection of fantastically diverse dreamers; people who refuse to accept the ordinary and pledge to ‘say yes more’. They are all members of the Yes Tribe. Their leader is a guy called Dave Cornthwaite, a guy who once picked up a skateboard and skated across Australia. He is now on a mission to complete 25 human powered journeys over 1000 miles each. A few years ago he decided to see how many of his Facebook followers he could turn into real friends and organised a camp out to see who would turn up. Nineteen people did show up and the Yes Tribe was born.
Dave and the tribe have converted an old London bus into an inspiring base camp in West Sussex. It’s just the type of place that you’d expect to find 10 like-minded people who think it’s perfectly normal to sleep outside in gale force winds and driving rain, protected by nothing more than a Tarp and a Bivvy bag. They are all here to learn more about wild camping from Dave who has bedded down in some weird and wonderful places across the globe. I found several variations of the spelling for the Bivvy, but I’m gonna run with this one.
Bivvy bag: short for Bivouac. a collapsible bag made of weatherproof fabric that is used to provide shelter usually for a single person in the wilderness.
We started out in the bus at 16:30 by spending a short time introducing ourselves and learning more about why we are all there. Dave explained what a Bivvy was and introduced a basic itinery. Then we were outside for a walk around the site looking at possible sites to bed down for the night. We checked out fields, ditches, woodlands, disabled toilets, wood sheds and shipping containers, all of which have been used by our host over the years. I truly have never seen anyone get so excited about the prospect of sleeping on the floor of a disabled toilet in my life.
After some discussion about the do’s and don’ts of wild camping, interspersed with the dangers posed by foxes, wild boar, the military and ticks……. I told you this lot were dreamers; Dave demonstrated several ways of setting up a tarp and Bivvy bag and discussed the technique for getting inside and what to do with all your other kit. We then got to work setting up our camp sites. Some went for tents and others stretched their tarps over picnic benches.
I found my ideal spot between two logs at the bottom of the field. I decided to go hardcore, no tarp for me! Once set up we retreated to the upper deck of the bus to shelter from the atrocious weather and to geek out on wild camping kit; hammocks, cookers, Bivvy bags, sleeping mats, apps, mapping, GPS trackers and emergency locators were all discussed. It was great.
Tarp: a piece of material (such as durable plastic or waterproofed canvas) used especially for protecting exposed objects or areas.
After a spot of dinner, some birthday cake and a bottle of beer, we couldn’t put it off any longer. It was time to venture outside and climb into our Bivvy bags. The weather had calmed a little by this point and the torrential rain had eased to an annoying drizzle. I navigated down through the wet grass to my little camp nestled between two big logs at the bottom of the field. Here I met with my first dilemma. How was I going to get out of my wet gear and into a nice cosy sleeping bag without getting everything wet through? The answer was, with a load of wiggling, hopping and shuffling down into the bag while stripping off the wet gear as I went.
The experience of sleeping out in a bag was worse than I thought it was going to be, and I can be pretty hardcore.
The sleeping bag was pulled up to my shoulders and the Bivvy zipped over my head. Suddenly I was gripped by a wave of panic, I felt very claustrophobic and struggled to find the zipper to let some air into the bag. The night basically went on like this, a bit of sleep, waking in a panic scrabbling for the zip then settling down again once I had filled my lungs with the sweetest West Sussex air. At around 02:00 the temperature dropped to below the 80C minimum of my two season sleeping bag, again kit selection, rather than the wild camping experience had let me down. I was bloody freezing! If I managed to get my arms under my body it wasn’t too bad, but it was bloody uncomfortable. I therefore had to decide between being uncomfortable and being cold. I could have got out of the bag and put my jumper on, but that was just a step too far at this point, so I decided to just go with it. During one of these frantic attempts to get some air I stuck my head out of the bag and looked up towards that starry sky, cold and uncomfortable, but happy.
Do you know what? The experience of sleeping out in a bag was worse than I thought it was going to be, and I can be pretty hardcore. But that was largely due to lack of preparation and poor gear selection on my part. Just goes to show that if you’re intending on wild camping, it’s worth getting in touch with the Yes tribe and asking for advice. I wouldn’t have changed a thing though. I had a great time and leaned so much in a safe and reassuring environment, with a nice warm bus, log burner and a lovely cup of tea to warm me up the morning after.
So if you’re interested in wild camping get in touch with the Yes Tribe and get your Bivvy on.
Well that was a pretty EPIC Weekend! FULL ON!!!
A few weeks a go I found out that a race I never even knew was on was being cancelled and rearranged by Joanne and Pete Vale (UK SUP Clubs) and Tony Bain (Green Dragon Activities). I’d been looking for a new challenge for some time and had eyed up the Great Glen before, so I quickly cleared my calendar for that weekend and paid the reduced £30 entry fee. Now all I had to do was show up and paddle.
I decided to take the day off work on Friday so I could drive the 600 miles up to our accommodation and base at Fort Augustus, with a slight detour to Widnes to pick up my new friend Tony Bain. Driving from Southern England to the Scottish Highlands really does put the size of the British Isles into perspective, setting the scene for the epicness of the weekend to follow and setting us on a journey in more ways than one.
The initial plan was to start the paddle from Inverness at 5:30am, however with still an hour and a half of journey time left and with an ETA at Fort Augustus of 10:15; we were called by Pete and told that everyone else had gone to bed and the new start time would be 3:00am. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to work out that we would have to be awake at 2:00am and as a result only get around 3 hours sleep!! We could have started later, but felt that this was an event where we should all start together.
The pedal was firmly pressed to the metal and we made good time, being greeted outside our digs by Pete at 10:06. We unpacked and hit the sack as soon as possible, probably drifting off around 11:00. “Three hours”, I thought, “that should just be enough”. Our roomies however had other ideas, a certain Bart de Zwart and his lovely wife Dagmar were awake at 1:00am making breakfast and getting ready for the race. Two hours sleep to paddle across Scotland…… So much for preparation.
We packed up in quite a rush and headed off to the start line in Inverness. I was now the furthest north I had ever been in the British isles. We placed our boards on the water to a 10 min countdown from Pete and before we knew it we were placing the first few paddles of the thousands that would follow over the next few hours. The first few km’s along the canal were pretty hot with paddlers stripping off a little if they could. We portaged around the first lock and headed off towards the entry to Loch Ness, where Jo HV offered a wee dram of whisky to Nessie and asked for safe passage. The next 37km would test all of us and Nessie decided to throw up some pretty testing down-wind conditions, with half of the distance being covered in the dark, and boy was it DARK!!! Thankfully daybreak arrived, the torches were turned off and we were able to enjoy the amazing downwind conditions on the Loch pretty much surfing the wind swell all the way to Fort Augustus, and our first support stop for over 37km. Bart arrived first with Jo arriving 25mins later and myself a further 5 mins after that. Bart and Jo spent minimal time on this stop, I however was offered a bacon buttie, an offer I just couldn’t refuse, so not surprisingly I took a little longer to get back on the water. After refuelling I set out on the steady paddle along a short section of canal and on to Loch Oich, a beautiful little Loch, but not big enough to sustain a wind wave so no down winding here.
I was really looking forward to getting to Lock Lochy and getting out into the wind again. The entrance to Lochy marks about two thirds of the journey from the Inverness end and I was told that there was 20km of Loch and 10km of canal left to the finish. Lochy did not disappoint. As we made our way down the Loch the wind strengthened and started to push some awesome waves down the 20km stretch of water. For me this was the best part of the paddle, real down winding with thigh high rolling wind swell just pushing us along to towards the end. You really had to work the board to link the swells and prolong the glides, just awesome!! and so much fun I actually forgot I was towards the end of a 93km paddle.
After Lochy the pace slowed somewhat as the exhilaration of the glide passed and was replaced by the last 10km slog along the canal into Fort William. This was definitely my lowest point. My lack of sleep the night before hit me like a train and I actually thought I was gonna fall asleep while paddling. My knees, back, calf, and shoulders were all aching and I knew I just had to get through these last few very bendy km’s . I finally rounded the last bend and could now see Neptune’s Ladder and the finish line. I crossed the line to cheers from Jo, Pete, Dagmar and Bart. It was Great that they could hang around for a bit after their finishes. I Paddled up to the pontoon i third place. Absolutely knackered, but with a great sense of achievement and was asked If I enjoyed it and would do it again, the answer to both questions was NO!!! However I’m already planning how I can beat my time next year and also thinking about what I could do for my next challenge.
I’d just like to shout out to all the guys, and gal who completed this epic challenge. Really well done to everyone. It was fantastic that everyone finished and with times they were happy with too. Bart de Zwart, Jo Hamilton Vale, Tony Bain, Allistair Swinsco, the blind and dangerous Dean Dunbar, Glen Parry (surf Ski) and Tom Wakeford. I actually never met the last two guys as it was a rush in the dark when we set off and I was sparko in a nice warm van when they finished. Sorry guys.
And a big thanks must go our to our support crews, we couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thanks a lot.
Also a big thanks to all those who sponsored me. I have managed to raise over £500 for the Save the Children, Syria emergency fund. Its not too late to add to this great cause if you wish.
Just click on the link below, or text ‘ISUP97 £2’ to 70070
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A couple of weeks ago I committed to complete the Great Glen Challenge. This is a non-stop 97km paddle along the Caledonian Canal, from Fort William to Inverness. I have decided to do this on my Stand-Up-Paddle Board.
Last week I saw a video on social media detailing the events in Aleppo and focusing on the kids caught up in this horrific conflict. It made me feel like I should be doing something to help, but I really didn’t know what I could do, or how I could help.
I have decided to use my paddle to raise awareness of the situation and raise some money in the process, so that the aid is there when the guns stop and the aid workers can get in.
I can’t change the attitudes and views of either side in this conflict, and I don’t really have much to give myself. What I do have however is my health, my freedom, my sense of what is morally right, and some pretty awesome friends.
I want to make a bit of a competition out of this, and wanted the prize to be something active that the whole family can do together. Some of my friends in the SUP industry have agreed to give up their time to deliver either a SUP lesson, or experience to the winner and their family. These guys are spread around the country, so we should be able to put you in contact with a SUP instructor near you.
All you have to do is have a guess on how long you think the challenge will take me to complete, and leave your time as a comment below my ‘Great Glen’ life event on my facebook page.
The winner will be the one closest to my actual time (hours and mins). Entries left after 6am on the 15th October will not be counted. After the event I will contact the person with the closest time. I will require the winner to provide proof of their donation, so please keep your confirmation emails and text. Minimum donation is £2, but please feel free to donate more if you wish. You can also donate by text by texting ISUP97 and the amount ie £2 TO 70070.
Click on the Just giving icon below to donate.
I have chosen to support the Save the Children Syria emergency fund as I believe that this is the best way of getting the money raised to those innocents who need our help.