Sonja Jones, a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer and Board Member for Canoe Wales, sets off today on a mission to circumnavigate the three islands of Malta as part of a team of four. With winds reaching 30 knots right now, and waves currently several feet high, this isn’t just a quiet paddle in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
If there’s a sport that captures this year’s zeitgeist, it’s standup paddle boarding (SUP). Everyone has been keen to get in on the act, with Orlando Bloom paddleboarding naked, Bill Bailey appearing in the Guardian discussing his love of SUP on the Thames, and even Countryfile and Waitrose magazine featuring SUP. And there are a number of reasons why SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the UK and the world right now:
- It’s accessible. Anyone; young, old, able, less abled are able to get on a board and paddle.
- All you need is water. Unlike most other board sports, you can SUP 24/7. Admittedly some conditions are better than others; sun drenched waters and light winds are particularly appealing. But SUP is independent of waves or wind. Although there are speciality boards for racing, or for expeditions, or for surfing, or for riding river rapids, a single all-purpose board can do all of this reasonably well. And you can SUP anywhere; river, lake, sea or canal. So there will always be somewhere to SUP within a few miles.
So to demonstrate just how accessible SUP is, four watersports enthusiasts have just set off on an epic expedition to circumnavigate the three islands of Malta. One of the four, Sonja Jones, has Multiple Sclerosis, and is using the expedition as a way of retraining her body in her daily battles with her condition.
The other expedition partners are Chris Brain, Georgina Maxwell and Matt Haydock, all of whom are outdoor activities and watersports instructors with many years of experience of training others to respect and enjoy the water environment safely. The other experience they share, or rather lack of experience, is that none of them have ever been on a SUP expedition.
McConksUK, one of the expeditions sponsors, will be sharing regular updates of the team’s progress on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram using #MalteseSUPProject. Follow @McConksUK to make sure you get updates in your timeline.
Andy McConkey, Director of McConks said:
“Paddling the Mediterranean in November isn’t as easy as people might imagine, and is possibly more difficult than the team themselves realise. A full circumnavigation would be a challenge for experienced SUP riders. If this team can achieve it, it really demonstrates how accessible SUP Fingers crossed for a safe trip!”
Notes to Editor
Georgina Maxwell, is an experienced waterperson and outdoors instructor. She has been found on grade 4 and 5 whitewater all over Europe. But these days she prefers to concentrate on developing others in the moving water environment and the mountains, whether that be schoolage children or the military.
George is using a bespoke McConks inflatable paddleboard designed for the expedition. You can r
You can read more about George’s training and to get live updates on progress on her blog https://georginamaxwell.wordpress.com/
Sonja Jones is a Board Member responsible for inclusiveness and safeguarding at Canoe Wales, the national governing body for paddle sport in Wales. Canoe Wales:
- Represent the interests of our club and individual members
- Advocate on behalf of the interests of the sport in Wales
- Provide coaching and development programmes from local to international level
- Stage national and international competitions.
Sonia took up kayaking, as you will see in this documentary, as a fun and exciting way to rehabilitate and work her way to freedom and strength.
From this seed of rehabilitation, has grown a life long passion for adventure kayaking and promoting the sport itself far and wide. In order to help spread the message of how awesomely inclusive and varied the sport is she’s now the Safeguarding and Inclusion Director for Canoe Wales, as well as a regular feature writer for The Paddler International Magazine.
Sonia believes paddle sport to be one of the most social, adventurous, exciting, inclusive, accessible, and exhilarating sports in this world and I intend to spend my life working towards inspiring others to get on the water, no matter their perceived abilities or backgrounds. https://paddlehigh5.wordpress.com/
Chris Brain has worked in the outdoors for over 10 years coaching and guiding and delivering professional development courses. Chris specialises in paddlesport and is able to deliver a range of personal skills, leadership, safety and rescue courses. As a provider of the Rescue and Emergency Care (REC) range of first aid courses, Chris seamlessly integrates his knowledge and experience of the outdoors into these courses, giving his clients fun, engaging and useful training. Chris also has a vast experience in working with young people with challenging behaviour and is highly skilled in the area of youth development. With over 500 days spent away with clients on residential experiences Chris has a huge amount of knowledge and experience in this field. https://www.chrisbraincoaching.com/
Matt Haydock has been lucky enough to not only paddle in some amazing places; but also develop and inspire others through the amazing experiences paddlesports can provide. Having spent the last few years working with schools which share a strong ethos for outdoor learning, he now works as a freelance instructor based in Aviemore, getting out on the water as much as possible, be that with friends or coaching others. https://www.glenmorelodge.org.uk/about-us/instructors/79/matt-haydock/
The team would like to thank the following sponsors:
Red Paddle Co www.redpaddleco.com/uk
VE paddles https://vepaddles.com/
Immersion research https://www.immersionresearch.eu/
Glenmore Lodge www.glenmorelodge.org.uk
Go kayaking North West https://www.go-kayaking.com/