Skip Graham is halfway through an epic 1,000km prone paddle following the coastline from Minehead to Poole to raise money for #2minutebeachclean, and doing a few beach cleans along the way. Finisterre E-Commerce Manager Bex joined him for a paddle as he passed the Finisterre Workshop to find out more.
You’re nearly midway through your paddle around the south west to raise funds for #2minutebeachclean, what made you decide to do this?
I wanted to do something that upped the anti on things I have done previously. It had to be suitably long & testing, but within a certain time frame & budget. It also had to be a little bit different. There’s been some super cool challenges by various people lately; I wanted something a little unusual (or stupid as some of my friends might say).
Could you explain what prone paddleboarding is for people who might not know, and why you chose it?
Most people are probably familiar with the yellow Surf Lifesaving rescue boards they see at the beach. My board is essentially a bigger version at 14ft long. Paddling with your hands, you either lay prone, or you can kneel. Though with all my kit on, it’s top heavy & too unstable to paddle from knees, which does make for a stiff neck after a while.
You’re doing your paddle completely unsupported, what extra challenges does this add?
I’ve had to keep everything super minimal in both weight & bulk. Sleeping is a bivvy bag, lightweight sleeping bag, & z-fold mat. Sleeping is wherever I pull up for the day. If possible a sandy beach. But occasionally it’s more rocky or just a strip of concrete. Not having space to pack a camp stove & food, I plan my stops according to where I think I can grab food, & the essential coffee!
What gear have you taken with you?
Solar charger & 2 battery packs keep my GPS watch & phone charged. The watch is essential to help me judge what’s going on with the water. For safety I’ve got a Spot tracker, VHF, & a flare. For clothes, I have neoprene legs & tank, rashie, pair of boardies & a shirt. Also an insulated jacket & lightweight rain jacket. Then it’s just some random bits like ding repair kit (which I’ve had to use a few times already), & in my bid to avoid plastic & single-use, I have a keep-cup, bamboo toothbrush & toothy tabs. Shaving & such will have to wait till I finish!
How far are you aiming to paddle each day, and what does a typical day involve?
I typically aim to do 15-20 miles a day, depending on conditions, tides etc. with the longest day being about 26 miles. I’ve had to sit out 3 days due to bad conditions, plus a couple of shorter days. It can be frustrating, but I knew there would be times when it would be unsafe to venture out & think it’s best to err on the side of caution with something like this.
Is it all just head down paddling, or do you get to appreciate your surroundings?
I default into head-down paddling & have to remind myself to take in the scenery. However, I’m also wary of how quickly the conditions can change. Around the next headland can often be very challenging conditions compared to what you have just come from, so I try not to linger.
Best moment so far?
It’s hard to pin it down to one single thing: Those moments of beautiful glassy water, the fiery sun setting into the sea, or the millions of stars on display when you’re looking up to the sky from your bivvy on the beach.
Worst moment so far?
There’s been a few! The first week or so was really challenging. My kit bags catch the wind & raise the centre of gravity, which make for very challenging paddling when the wind, swell & chop gets up. Sometimes every second stroke is to stop you being thrown off the board or correcting your line, which after a few hours, becomes a little tedious!
What’s next for you once you’ve finished?
Adventures & challenges are quite addictive. If I can find a backer, then I’m sure there’ll be something bigger & more challenging for the next one.
Finally any advice for others wanting to do something similar?
Do it. I think it’s always good to challenge yourself & what you think you are capable of.
Thanks Skip, good luck & low chop for the rest of your journey!
You can track Skip's progress and sponsor him on barefootskip.com