Welsh circumnavigation on a SUP
Last month Sian Sykes of Psyched Paddleboarding set out on her SUP to circumnavigate Wales to help raise awareness of single use plastic, and raise some much needed cash for charities that help clean up and fight against it. We caught up with Sian to ask her a few questions about the experience…
What was your main motivation for the trip?
Over the past couple of years, I have successfully completed the first SUP solo of the National 3 Lakes Challenge, followed soon after by the first SUP circumnavigation of Anglesey. After that trip, I hatched the plan to aim bigger. This time with a deep and more meaningful connection, the aim of my next planned trip was to highlight the massive epidemic we face; single use plastics. I wanted to raise awareness of this issue. I have always appreciated the stunning environment around me, however over the years I have seen an increase of single use plastics washing up on our beaches and discarded. The aim of this trip was to bridge the gap between urban areas and the coastline. What gets dropped on a canal or in a river ends up floating out to sea. Sadly a staggering 8 million pieces of plastic enters our seas every day. 80% of it is from land based sources. And I wanted to help do my bit by raising this awareness with others. To inspire and educate consumers about single use plastics, that’s where SUP Against SUP (Stand Up Paddle boarding Against Single Use Plastics) stemmed from, to circumnavigate Wales, a 1000km journey along the canals, road, rivers and the sea. And Wales is a perfect country to highlight the connect between the waterways and roads into the sea. My mission was to make my expedition single use plastic free. A tricky task when you add into the mix my dietary requirements too. Luckily with a bit of research I hunted down alternatives. For example, I discovered expedition food provided in bio degradable bags, toothpaste in glass jars, suncream in a tin, shampoo and deodorant in a bar and toothbrush made from bamboo.
What was the biggest challenge you faced on your trip?
It wasn’t a challenge but I guess a tricky time was the apprehension of surf landing and launching. You acknowledge the fact you might have to swim and get a beating, the ocean wins. You prepare for a surf land, after a monster day of paddling, hungry and dehydrated. You check everything is securely fastened, everything away in waterproof bags, check the zips are closed, helmet on, pausing on your board whilst checking the potential landing spot. You always know its not going to be an elegant land when you see surfers in their element enjoying the beauty of the rolling waves around them. You time it with the rolling sets going into the beach, assess and go for it: you know the sea will win, you will be tipped off, go for a swim, hit by the board, another wave comes, hit with the board again, you muster all your energy to flip over the heavily laden expedition board before the next wave crashes on top of you. You are absolutely exhausted and soaking wet when you reach the shore, buzzing from the beating you got. You soon set up camp, get into dry clothes, have a hot drink and some food and take comfort from your getting into your tent whilst listening to the crashing waves as you drift off to sleep.
Was there any points where you thought you wouldn’t be able to finish?
I allocated 60 days and I was bang on with that estimation. When you are stand up paddleboarding you are in the hands of the weather gods. Frustratingly I had 23 days off the water once I reached the estuary and coast. However there was never a time I wanted to quit, its not how I work, I am one driven and determined woman. It was just a question of being patient to wait for the right conditions to jump back on the water.
What was the first thing you did when you made it back home?
I finished on the Friday, went for a celebratory meal, then Saturday I went paddleboarding on the Menai Strait and Sunday I went paddleboarding around North & South Stack and had a picnic on the beach in the sun, pure bliss.
Who was the biggest help on the trip?
Coastguard, RNLI and NCI – great intel, super helpful and supportive.
Was it difficult to cut down your packing to what would fit on your board?
Totally, I struggled during the canal section, but by the time I was on the coast I had it mastered. I had the opportunity to swap kit, send kit home and it made it easier to manage and carry.
What was your kit list for the trip?
Tell us bit about the charities you were raising money for.
I was raising money for Surfers Against Sewage, North Wales Wildlife Trust and RNLI.
Would you do it again?
Totally, I absolutely loved the experience, to be honest I didn’t want the trip to end, I could of carried on. I enjoy the simplicity of expedition life and thrive from just being on the water. Well and truly psyched for more trips, so watch this space.
For more details and pictures of Sian paddle head over to the Psyched Paddleboarding Facebook page where you can see her day by day reports and much more!
Interview by Ibbo at Peak UK.
Images courtesy of Ian Finch & Eastwood Media