The Guardian

Man is first to make it all the way around the country on a paddleboar­d

- Steven Morris

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.

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 ?? PHOTOGRAPH: WILL REDDAWAY/WR ?? ▲ Prince with his board Scarlet during his circumnavi­gation of Britain to raise funds for a water safety app for schools
PHOTOGRAPH: WILL REDDAWAY/WR ▲ Prince with his board Scarlet during his circumnavi­gation of Britain to raise funds for a water safety app for schools

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