After 149 days, 7 hours and 36 minutes of paddling covering 2377.29 kms of which became the longest Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) journey in history via open water, The Great British Paddle sadly came to an abrupt end.
It wasn’t the never-ending series of storms, the psychological torture of waiting for a weather window each day or the physical effects of fatigue and exhaustion from paddling what’s considered one of the toughest coastlines on the planet – it was a simple series of email exchanges and a phone call from Scottish Government officials informing my team that to continue would be in breach of new coronavirus regulations and laws.
We could have tried to fight and argue our case further given that many professional sports teams continue to play each week across the nation, but I felt even though I was only 23 kilometres away from making adventure history at John O’Groats that this was a time to lead by example and do the right thing. I said from day one that this was never about records, awards or any kind of applause or acknowledgement from the public, it was about inspiring young people both overseas and back home through the gift of education and the spirit of adventure. It was of course with great sadness and frustration the journey ended here but wow, what an adventure it was!
Where do I start? Well firstly I need to say a few thankyous to people and organisations that allowed me to follow this dream, so let me thank my incredible personal sponsors of Eton Harris and Chartercross based in the United Arab Emirates who have stuck with me through these challenging times, I am forever grateful and consider you my family.
Then there are the amazing ladies from Angel Call Handling (the main expedition sponsors), a small business having a huge positive impact who are based in the same Hampshire town that I reside in these days in Andover. Sarah and Angela who have become true great friends and real life “Angels” since the start of this expedition and have always been on hand to provide advice, support and help in any way they could from day one. I know that we will go on to do more great things together in the future, they are already asking me what we are doing next!
I feel very blessed to have had the most incredible team that kept getting bigger and stronger as we progressed on by far the most enduring and challenging adventure I have ever taken on to date. They say you can never achieve great things in life alone and I absolutely couldn’t agree more. The team was the main reason that I could keep paddling at sea longer than anyone has ever paddle boarded before on the open ocean anywhere in the world. I can’t thank them all enough from the bottom of my heart, for their support and first and foremost for believing in me and staying in the game in some incredibly challenging environments both onshore and offshore. I salute each and every one of you and look forward to a time when we can share a beer in the future and smile about what we collectively achieved. A huge thank you Alex Alley (Project Manager), Paula Reid (Adventure Psychologist), James May (filmmaker), Alfie Marsh (filmmaker), Katie Brooks (PR / Website), Tori Wells (1st Mate), Mia Mallison (Social Media / 1st Mate), Freya Barnes (Social Media), Max Rivers (Skipper), Daz Cox (Skipper), Stu Edmonson (Runner), Ashton Grayson (Standy Support) – you are all legends in my eyes and incredible people that have made a huge difference in the world and I’m proud of each and every one of you for stepping up and being counted for.
Throughout the journey I met many amazing people, brands, companies and organisations that went above and beyond on daily basis, some of them became team members, some of them taught me how to paddle, some of them made sure I had the right clothes and equipment, some of them came to even join me on the open water for a leg here and there, I learnt so much from all of you. There are far too many to mention but the beauty is, they don’t even need to be mentioned because they helped me out of the goodness of their own hearts and for that I will be always grateful and will never forget their efforts and support, you know who you are.
So far, we have raised over £82,000 for Frontline Children from this project and I hope we can push closer to my £100,000 target in the coming weeks and get that school built that I promised those young children in the Horn of Africa 2 years ago. Thank you to everyone who has supported through donations, every penny really does count.
I would like to share with you with a few life lessons I learnt along the way:
- REMEMBER YOUR WHY – When work, life, love or just getting out of bed gets hard, always remember your why. I found this little simple mantra is super powerful and helped me a lot over the last 6 months. My “why” was to keep a promise to 250 children in a refugee camp on the Horn of Africa. I promised them a school would be built 2 years ago and that “why” kept me paddling harder and further than ever before because I knew how ever a bad day I was having, those children whose lives had been torn apart by war had had a lifetime of bad days. When times get tough, never forget why you started, this alone will keep you going on the darkest and toughest of times, purpose is an enormously powerful driver in life.
- IT’S NOT THE CRITIC THAT COUNTS – in the digital world we live in these days you will always find haters, trolls, detractors, non-believers, especially online and with social media – when you aim high in life you will stumble across many people who have given up on their dreams long ago who make it their mission to try and detract you from yours. I’ve come to learn and live by that unless those people are in the arena getting their butt kicked alongside you, don’t even give them the privilege of being in your head space. There is no time for negative vibes when you are on task and have your goals in sight.
- STAY IN THE GAME – life can be very tough sometimes and 2020 has been a very rough ride for everyone. Many people have lost their jobs, relationships have broken down and even more tragically many people have lost loved ones. When I was paddling, every day was a battle and the best piece of advice I was given early on in my expedition by a fellow adventurer was just to try and “Stay in the Game” and take one day at a time. So, I say metaphorically speaking – keep your paddle active, always be physically present and mentally engaged with your mission. Don’t stray. Don’t get distracted. Don’t quit through choice. Tomorrow is always a new day and the sun will shine again.
- FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS – Focussing on the task in hand or on the mission ahead is so important because it is the gateway to all thinking: perception, memory, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. If you can’t think effectively, you definitely can’t produce the quality of work necessary to be successful. Every morning and evening before my paddle I re-aligned my focus onto the paddle, the weather, the environment, the risks, the equipment – my focus was always on performing to the best of my ability and giving myself the best chance of progress the moment I stepped onto the board. I say whatever you are doing in life, keep your head up and look forward. Concentrate on the direction you are going, visualise your target, goal, or objective. Focus to motivate. Focus to concentrate. Focus to keep your balance…
- STAY TRUE TO YOUR VALUES – Your values are ultimately your internal compass to help you navigate life. If you compromise them, you will get lost quickly and stop moving forward. Never forget who you are and what you stand for. The military core values are what I used every day on my paddle, and they are the forefront of my mind in all aspects of my life. They are perhaps the best decision-making tool that I have ever discovered, and they are embedded in my life still over 10 years after leaving the Army. Your values may be different than mine, but it is Courage, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty, Discipline and Selfless Commitment than have brought me where I am today after 37 years and it’s these values that I hope will guide me to the right choices, decisions and opportunities for many years to come.
Finally, before The Great British Paddle started, I had been on prescription drugs for my mental health (severe depression and chronic anxiety) for over 4 years and perhaps the biggest win for me over the last 5 months since I started paddling is that I have been completely pharmaceutical free.
I’m not sure what exactly the secret is as I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but I know that there is a magical power that the proximity to water and coastline brings. There is also a lot to be said for the powerful blue therapy I have experienced including the physical activity, natural surroundings, wildlife, fresh air, purpose, motivation, hope, sense of progress and achievement, joyful moments, team spirit and support. I am immensely proud to have come off the medication knowingly, purposefully and responsibly and I hope my journey will show others that with the right PEOPLE, a strong PURPOSE and with lots of PASSION that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
Read the full interview with Jordan inside Pathfinder’s January issue HERE!