09:30AM, Monday 25 October 2021
A pair of paddleboarders who set out to become the first to cross the length of the UK have completed their challenge after almost three months on the water.
Cookham-based Dave Chant and Sophie Witter, from Reading, of SUP It and Sea, completed the 1,700km challenge in 89 days and, so far, have raised more than £2,400 for charity.
The expedition saw the novice paddlers with less than a year’s experience take on a challenge to traverse some of the UK’s most challenging waterways from multiple headlands such as Morte Point and the Mull of Galloway, to paddling under the Severn Bridge on the Bristol Estuary.
Their journey was a mixture of supported and unsupported as volunteers joined them for stretches of their expedition to help with logistics.
At other times the pair would work logistics themselves, requiring them to either camp for days or for one of the pair to wait while the other did a relay using public transport back to their support vehicle.
The pair spent the 89-day expedition camping out, without staying under a roof for a single night.
Speaking to the Advertiser, Dave said: “It was a great experience; I think you have this view that adventures and expeditions are going to be all positive, but it was an utter mix.
“It was very rewarding, but also very challenging particularly when things don’t always go according to plan.”
Dave added that along the way, the pair had various challenges to navigate such as losing their support crew after two weeks, boards falling from their roof rack with one going missing and another damaged, their van breaking down, isolating after a member of their support crew tested positive for COVID and ‘being chased by multiple seals’.
He added: “On day 13, believe it or not, we heard a clank and one of the boards was hanging off the side of the van whilst the other was completely missing.
“We managed to get in touch with somebody we knew that sells boards in Wales and they just so happened to have a shipment coming through the following week.
“They lent us an inflatable board for a week, and referred us onto somebody who was able to repair the board that we still had, so, amazingly, we managed to get back on the water after only three days off.”
Dave and Sophie completed their challenge on Tuesday, October 12.
They had been due to arrive in John O’Groats the following day, but completed 57km on the last day as the wind, weather and tidal flow were ‘the best it was going to be for a week’.
The proceeds from the fundraiser being split between Wilderness Foundation UK, RNLI and Frontline Children. You can find out more about the expedition, including how to donate, at www.supitandsea.uk and on Facebook and Instagram @supitandseauk.
There will be displays at Windsor Racecourse and Legoland, local fireworks in Burnham and Twyford and smaller displays at schools in the Royal Borough.