SUP Isle of Skye
A solo, unsupported 200 mile stand up paddleboarding expedition circumnavigating the remote Scottish island.
Expedition life had got under sky skin, and a year on from my Cornwall expedition, with new found respect for the power of the oceans, appreciation of their beauty and the joy that being immersed in nature can bring, I began to gear up for my next expedition - to circumnavigate the Isle of Skye in Scotland by SUP: 200 miles of wilderness, wildlife and remote beauty. Completely alone.
The plan was to travel up to 20 miles a day around the island, wild camping along the way, and carrying all my own rations and camping equipment in dry bags on my board. I didn't know a soul on the island, and most of the time I had no phone or radio signal. The adventure began.
The Isle of Skye pushed me to my limits. On the first day, I nearly got blown out to sea by a sudden offshore wind: I spent that night exhausted and borderline hypothermic, with no doubt that I was calling the whole trip off! I awoke the next day to blue skies and sunshine and calm water with barely a breeze: I had to carry on. And so ensued 12 days of immersion into the most stunning nature - huge mountains rising tall from grey and blue water, enormous dolphins, seals and eagles soaring overhead. I came across beaches that were inaccessible by land piled high with plastic pollution, bottles and bags floating in the sea and fishing gear strewn across every beach I came to.
The most heartbreaking moment for me was coming across the beautiful beef cow in the video below eating a fishing net.
A few days later I pitched my tent to find I was in a field of Highland cows! The farmers came over to say hello, and we discussed the effect of plastic pollution on their prized animals who grazed right the way to the shore. They had had to have several of their beautiful animals operated on to have plastic removed from their stomachs.
These places may be remote and wild, but they’re no less vulnerable to our overuse and inappropriate disposal of plastic.
If you had told me before I set off on this expedition about some of the situations I would have got into, some of the decisions I’d have had to make, alone, with no signal to phone a friend, I would have categorically told you I couldn’t do it, that I’d need someone to bounce ideas off, to help me, to drag me to my feet when I was on the verge of collapse a mile away from safety, to tell me everything would be ok.
But we don’t give ourselves credit for our own strength, resilience and abilities! We spend so much time listening to the internal and external voices telling us what we are capable of that we are terrified to step outside of our comfort zone and test out that logic.
I realised I had all the strength I needed, and all the answers right there, when I just gave myself chance to find them. I learnt about wild camping, and hiking up hills for water; I comforted myself when the going got tough and indeed relishing my time alone in the wilderness! How we grow when we give ourselves the opportunity to do so.
But the biggest lesson of all from my Skye trip was that of our need as a society to reconnect to nature. I finished my trip feeling alive. Exhausted and very hungry, but alive. I’d had the opportunity to spend 12 days alone in nature, with huge dolphins and curious seals, eagles soaring above me over the enormous cliffs, and the ferociousness of mother nature all around me.
Returning to society was so hard! Shops full of plastic, everybody rushing around and a complete disconnect between our lives on Earth and that out to sea. The oceans produce over 50% of the oxygen we breathe on Earth - they aren’t just important for wondering at, they sustain our lives. It’s also where we can find peace and joy if only we allow ourselves time to reconnect.
I realised that reconnecting people to the importance of our oceans was going to be crucial if we were to stand any chance of empowering people to protect them.