After 149 days, 7 hours and 36 minutes and 2377.29 KM, The Great British Paddle has sadly come to an abrupt end. We have been informed by Scottish Government officials that to continue would be in breach of new COVID-19 regulations and laws. We could have tried to fight and argue our case further but I feel even though I was only 23 kilometres away from a new world first at John O’Groats that this a time to lead by example and do the right thing. I said from day one that this was never about world records, awards or any kind of applause, it was about inspiring young people both overseas and back home through the gift of education and the spirit of adventure. It is with great sadness and frustration the journey has ended here but wow, we have paddled further and harder for longer than anyone has ever paddled on the open ocean by Standup Paddleboard (SUP), what an incredible adventure it was!
Where do I start? Well firstly let me thank my incredible personal sponsors of Eton Harris and Chartercross who have stuck with me through these challenging times, I am forever grateful for your support and consider you my family, we will continue to do great things. Then there is the amazing ladies from Angel Call Handling (the main expedition sponsors), Sarah and Angela who have become true great friends and real life Angels since the start of this expedition and have always been on hand to provide advice, support and help in anyway they could from day 1, I know that we will go on to do more great things together in the future, they are already asking me what we are doing next!
I feel very blessed to have had the most incredible team that kept getting bigger and stronger as we progressed around one of the toughest coastlines in the world, they say you can never achieve great things in life alone and I couldn’t agree more. The team was the reason that I could keep paddling at sea longer than anyone has ever paddle boarded before on the open ocean anywhere in the world. I can’t thank you all enough from the bottom of my heart, for your support and believing in me and staying in the game in some very challenging environments both onshore and offshore. I salute each and everyone of you and look forward to a time when we can share a beer in the future and smile about what we achieved. A huge thank you Alex Alley (Project Manager), Paula Reid (Adventure Psychologist), James May (filmmaker), Alfie Marsh (filmmaker), Katie Brooks (PR / Website), Tori Wells (1st Mate), Mia Mallison (Social Media / 1st Mate), Freya Barnes (Social Media), Max Rivers (Skipper), Daz Cox (Skipper), Stu Edmonson (Runner), Ashton Grayson (Standy Support) – you are all legends and incredible people that have made a huge difference in the world and I’m proud of each and everyone of you for stepping up and being counted.
Throughout the journey I met many amazing people, brands, companies and organisations that went above and beyond on daily basis, some of them my great friends, became team members, some of them taught me how to paddle, some of them made sure I had the right clothes and equipment, some of them came to even join me on the open water for a leg here and there, I learnt so much from all of you. There are far too many to mention but they don’t even need to be mentioned because they helped me out of the goodness of their own hearts and for that I will be always grateful and will never forget their efforts and support.
So far we have raised over £82,000 for Frontline Children from this project and I hope we can push closer to my £100K target in the coming weeks and get that school built that I promised those young children in the Horn of Africa 2 years ago. Thank you to everyone who has supported through donations, every penny really does count.
I would like to leave you with a few lessons I learnt along the way:
1. REMEMBER YOUR WHY – never forget why you started when times get tough, this alone will keep you going on the darkest and toughest of times, purpose is a very powerful driver in life.
2. IT’S NOT THE CRITIC THAT COUNTS – you will always find haters, trolls, detractors, non believers when you aim high in life. Unless they are in the arena getting their ass kicked alongside you, don’t even give them the privilege of being in your head space.
3. STAY IN THE GAME – Keep your paddle active, always be physically present and mentally engaged with your mission. Don’t stray. Don’t get distracted. Don’t quit through choice. Tomorrow is always a new day.
4. FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS – Keep your head up and look forward always. Concentrate on the direction you are going, visualise your target and objective. Focus to motivate. Focus to concentrate. Focus to balance.
5. STAY TRUE TO YOUR VALUES – your values are your internal compass to help you navigate life. If you compromise them, you will get lost quickly and stop moving forward. Never forget who you are and what you stand for.
Finally, although many of you would not of known, before The Great British Paddle started I had been on prescription drugs for my mental health (severe depression and chronic anxiety) for over 4 years and perhaps the biggest win for me over the last 5 months is since I started paddling I have been completely pharmaceutical free.
There is a lot to be said for the powerful blue therapy I have experienced including the physically activity, natural surroundings, wildlife, fresh air, purpose, motivation, hope, sense of progress and achievement, joyful moments, team spirit and support. I am very proud to have come off the medication knowingly, purposefully and responsibly and I hope my journey will show others that with the right PEOPLE, a strong PURPOSE and with lots of PASSION that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
Thank you to you all once again and wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas.
Be the difference that makes a difference. JW