I’ve always had a real love for anything water related, especially when it comes to sport, and the idea of doing a world’s first with a team of like minded women seemed like a no-brainer!
My real inspiration for gathering a team of women to stand up paddle board across the English Channel came from my late grandma. In 1955, as one of the only female participants at the time, my grandma attempted to swim the route from Cap Gris Nez in France, to Folkestone, England. The support vessel itself being a small fishing boat piloted by my late grandfather. I have an incredible set of photos of my gran being greased up in goose fat on the beach, ready for the 24-mile crossing. Due to a heavy mist, jellyfish stings and severe cramp, she called it quits at 21 miles (not bad hey!).
Fast forward 63 years, I set about sourcing a team of go-getting women to do our venture across the English Channel. I wanted to salute my grandma for her bravery and, I suppose, complete her journey. I knew that SUP’ing would be a dynamic and fun way to traverse the sea, and no all-female team had attempted it before.
Securing the right women around me was actually the toughest part, I had people drop out on me (for justifiable reasons), so it was important to find people with the same driven attitude and similarly at the right point in their lives to invest in this. It took a good five month’s worth of training last winter. The four women who joined me on this challenge are without doubt forces of nature. There was such an air of conviction, encouragement and positivity throughout the entire training period and the actual paddle itself. I honestly believe in the quote “you’re a product of your surroundings, surround yourself with the best”, so that’s exactly what I did.
The crossing itself began at 5am on a relatively calm Monday in May, the team relayed our way across 24 nautical miles between Dungeness and Boulogne Sur Mer. The journey was not without severe sea sickness, bladder issues, suffering from the cold and fatigue. But we prepared for everything and this merely coloured the journey. Six and half hours later, wind swept and tired, we arrived at the sea wall of Bologne Sur Mer – Anna was on this last leg, clawing the paddle ever closer to France. It was a great feeling to know the training had paid off and we’d made it in one piece! A big dream for me, finally completed – I had dreamt of smashing across the sea for as long as I can remember, little did I know I’d be doing it with such a knock-out team.
We blasted back on the support boat, clipping the waves, sun rays breaking the clouds and tears in my eyes under the hood of my jacket.
A cliché as it sounds I realised a few incredibly valuable things on this journey:
1) You don’t need to give yourself any better reason for doing something than “I can, so I will”.
2) Surround yourself with people that raise you up and inspire good vibes.
3) There will always be doubts. But you just need to face your fears head on and go into everything with immense trust.