Back in 2019, Jo paddled 162 miles from Liverpool to Goole, all to raise money and awareness for 2 Minute Beach Clean and The Wave Project, picking up litter along the way.
We spoke to Jo about how she found it, what she found and what’s next.
Hey Jo, so how was it? In one word?
Lifechanging! Is that two words or one?!
The adventure was wonderful, demanding, joyful, life-affirming, heart breaking (the plastic pollution), great fun & at times the hardest physical effort. I laughed and cried. I was exhausted and also felt incredibly alive & full of energy. It was everything I hoped for and more and I do believe my outlook on life and my future has changed.
Tell us about your best day…
Friday 2nd August 2019 – I paddle boarded 25 miles (I’d never done that before!) from just outside Burnley to Skipton. I wanted to make up some of the mileage I had lost with the thunderstorms & the weed. I also wanted to get home to Skipton as an emotional milestone.
The route was stunningly beautiful, I went through a mile-long tunnel and was lucky enough to have friends join me at different points on the route. One of my 2 MinuteBeachClean friends came all the way from Essex and walked the towpath picking up litter. A journalist from our local paper who has been incredibly supportive of my adventure found me by running along the canal to get a photo!
As dusk fell I paddled under bridges and by fields that I knew from my training, listened to oyster catchers overhead and sheep grazing. I was joined by a family of swans & cygnets, then geese and then a group of about 15 male swans. Some of the narrowboats I passed had twinkling fairy lights and so did the houses on the route into town. As I squeezed under Niffany Bridge in the dark, I remembered meeting Jason Elliott near there at the beginning of the year when PaddleboardTheNorth was still just a dream and silently thanked him for all his amazing support.
I was 15 mins from home by car and yet it felt like the most amazing evening of adventure. My heart was bursting with joy. I had my safety lights, I knew what I was doing & where I was going and I felt very confident. For someone who usually doubts herself every day, this was such a magical moment for me. I wouldn’t have done this anywhere else but I knew I could do it safely at home & I did.
The other high point afterwards is knowing I’ve made a difference with the fundraising for The Wave Project & 2 MinuteBeachClean.
What was your lowest point?
The most heartbreaking bit was the plastic pollution. It was so much more distressing than I had imagined and I saw the effects that it was having on the birdlife in particular.
There were a few low points when I made a mistake and paddled back to where I had come from (doh!) or the weed and algae that made paddling very hard. I was tired, behind schedule & a little bit tearful. But none of that compared to the plastic pollution and the impact it had on the birdlife.
Which areas did you did you find the worst?
Burnley was the worst. Parts of Leeds, Liverpool & the River Aire too.
Did you notice any themes/recurring items – in the plastic you saw?
Yes! Plastic bottles were number one. Also crisp packets, takeaway packaging, polystyrene, disposable cups, cigarette packets. Also tennis balls & footballs – but nothing compared to the plastic bottles.
Any advice for people attempting a similar expedition?
First of all, belief in yourself, plan, train, ask for sound advice & the biggest – do it! Do it if you’re not totally ready, do it if you’re not completely confident, do it even if someone says you can’t… but do it!
I would also say, would you do it if no-one else knew about it or nobody on social media said “well done!”. Are you doing it for outside recognition or for yourself and your personal growth or the difference you can make (ie. doing a litter pick!).
If the answer is the first, then think very carefully if it’s the right thing to do. If no one else knew I had done this, it would still have been extraordinary & life-changing. I’m so grateful for everything I learned and experienced.
Working with Passionfruit pictures, we produced a short film called Brave Enough – A Journey Home – you can find this here https://vimeo.com/ondemand/braveenough/500142055
I’ve also published my first book – Stand-up Paddleboarding in Great Britain. It highlights 32 beautiful places to SUP in England, Scotland and Wales – you can find this here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stand-up-Paddleboarding-Great-Britain-paddleboard
And I’m not stopping there!
I’m currently working on my second book and am researching how to qualify as a SUP instructor so I can share the love!
I hope this will encourage others to have adventures on their doorstep, especially women of my age. I also hope it will highlight the problems of plastic pollution and show what we can do to make a difference.
I find myself going back to the areas with the worst plastic pollution (Burnley, parts of Leeds and the River Aire) with friends to do group litter picks. Together we can make more of a difference! I’m so grateful for Bluefin SUPs support with this. It’s going to make a difference!