Man is first to make it all the way around the country on a paddleboard
He has had close encounters with orcas, sharks and more dolphins than he could count. He has negotiated fierce tidal flows and picked his way through offshore windfarms, shipping lanes and busy ports.
After an adventure lasting 141 days Brendon Prince, a former teacher, has become the first person to complete a circumnavigation of mainland Britain on a standup paddleboard, covering nearly 2,500 miles.
Prince, 48, a father of three children, paddled for up to 16 hours a day. The last leg yesterday involved a 25mile trip along the Devon coast to his home in Torquay in relatively benign conditions.
“It feels great,” he said as he paddled to his final destination on his board, which he nicknamed Scarlet after the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel. “There have been some challenging times when I’ve felt exhausted or fearful at a big swell or giant waves, but it’s a matter of understanding the fear, channelling the fear and getting on with it.”
Prince began his trip at the end of April when, in his words, he turned right out of Torquay then headed clockwise around Britain. He estimated that he had plunged his paddle into the water 8m times.
It was done in the spirit of adventure but also to raise awareness over water safety. Prince was an off-duty lifeguard when he took part in an attempt to save some holidaymakers in trouble in the sea off north Cornwall. Three of those people drowned.
From that day, he said, he had made it his life’s mission to teach drowning prevention. He founded the charity Above Water, and money raised during his circumnavigation is to be used to develop a water safety app for schools. “The most important part of this whole adventure is to spread the important message of
‘I fell in the water the first time I saw an orca and it glided on by, massive, majestic’
Brendon Prince Standup paddleboarder
water safety and drowning prevention.” If just one child stayed safe when near water having heard about his feat it would have been worthwhile, he explained.
Prince said the north of Britain was the coldest, the east the windiest, the south the most “gnarly” (which he defined as a state that left you somewhere between feeling uncomfortable and feeling endangered), while the west was the wildest.
He saw the irony of doing something hazardous at sea to promote water safety. “There’s a balancing act. You’re doing something that has not been done before because it is dangerous and difficult. You have to have that level of experience to understand the risk.” He stayed out of the water on 22 of the 141 days because the conditions were not safe.
His brushes with sea life were a highlight of the trip, he said. At one point a 2.4-metre long porbeagle shark cruised close to his board just off the Mull of Kintyre, southwest Scotland. He also saw orcas three times on a single day. “I fell in the first time I saw one and it glided on by – massive, majestic. Later, one appeared in front of me. I turned around and there were two behind me. I felt as if I was being hunted but when they realised I wasn’t food they went on their way.”
He saw dolphins on 60 consecutive days and never got used to gannets diving into the water centimetres from his board. “It made me jump every time,” he said.
Prince paddled without a support boat and the longest distance covered in a single day was 47 miles. The shortest, when the weather was particularly poor, was just over a mile. He said paddling in human-made environments proved trickier than in natural ones. “Nature is easier to predict than humans.”
As long as his record attempts are ratified he will be crowned the first person to circumnavigate mainland Britain on a paddleboard, and will take the world record for the longest ever journey on such a craft.