I am an ocean advocate and veterinary surgeon, raising awareness of important environmental issues through my expeditions. I’m also a public speaker, presenter and campaigner for the importance and health of our oceans.
I’m a passionate surfer, kitesurfer (my friends call me “Conifer Cal” for my affinity to trees whilst strapped to a power kite), stand up paddleboarder, scuba diver and open water swimmer.
Through my expeditions I hold several world records and world firsts, including the first and fastest person to stand up paddle board the whole length of the UK, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. My expeditions are mostly feats of physical and mental endurance, regularly throwing me way out of my comfort zone into fear, solitude and exhaustion: This is where I have learned the most about myself, have grown the most and developed the deepest respect for the power of nature.
In 2018 I was honoured to receive the Prime Minister’s Points Of Light Award on World Oceans Day for my Paddle Against Plastic campaign, protecting the oceans from plastic pollution.
Since a very young age, I wanted to work with animals, and age 7 I proclaimed I would be a “lady farmer”. This quickly became a mad desire to become a veterinarian, and in 2007 I started vet school in Edinburgh. But the year before, I had been introduced to, and fallen in love with, the underwater world and its incredible creatures through scuba diving.
After moving to Devon to work as a vet, and rekindling my love of surfing, I started to become acutely aware of the plastic I was finding on every beach after every surf session: be that crowded beaches in Cornwall or remote Scottish islands. My resolve to do something about it was set. I joined forces with Surfers Against Sewage, running beach cleans in my local community and talking to people about what we were finding. I realised that the message needed to be simple, actionable and positive.
In 2016 I began the Paddle Against Plastic campaign. Doom and gloom turns people off environmental campaigns, so positive engagement became my mantra, and I used epic stand up paddleboarding expeditions as my vehicle to do this. The first expeditions were embarked upon with dangerous naivety, and the steepest learning curve was that of respect for the power of the open ocean. I also gained a profound respect for my own strength and resilience; if you had told me before setting out on any of my Paddle Against Plastic expeditions some of the situations I would have faced, alone at sea with no phone signal and nobody to bounce ideas off, I wouldn’t have believed I could face them alone. But in those situations, with no choice but to find a solution, I realised I had all the decisions, power and strength inside me waiting to be realised. Only through circumstances out with our perceived ability does true growth happen. See my expeditions here.
I became more convinced that as a society we are disconnected from nature, and that reconnecting to the oceans would be imperative if we are to stand a chance in protecting them. I also wanted to demonstrate how time in nature could help us reconnect to ourselves too, to what it means to be a human in that environment, and to new reserves of physical and emotional strength.
The oceans face huge threats; from over fishing, plastic pollution, climate change, coral bleaching… They are also our life source, producing over half the oxygen we breathe on Earth and home to the most incredible animals, plants and diverse ecosystems. Entire underwater worlds all functioning without our input. The oceans are vast, powerful and demand our respect. But they are also vulnerable to our actions on land and in the sea. I believe that together we can protect these incredible places; our lives our not separate to their health but intrinsically linked, and we share them with the most wonderful animals; beautiful, wild and fragile.
I now concentrate on communicating this message to people through film, writing, speaking and presenting. I aim to inspire an understanding of the importance of, and a love for, the oceans, and to empower people to protect them in a way that is meaningful for them.
I believe in positive, collaborative change. The momentum in the movement tackling single use plastic is proof of this - individual voices coming together to demand change from the government, companies and businesses, and change is happening! But there is still a way to go.