Update: Kayaking the Length of the UK

Canoeing & Kayaking
Photo: @Kayak4Heroes

In the past month, two separate attempts to kayak the length of the UK have begun. Though hikers, runners, and cyclists regularly tackle the route from Land’s End to John O’Groats, just three kayakers have completed the 1,400km paddle.

Roy Beal – North to South

Roy Beal began his paddle on May 26. He started in John O’Groats, Scotland and aims to become the first person to complete the route from north to south.

Beal’s route so far. Photo: @top.down.kayak.challenge

So far he has consistently hit his target of 30 to 40 kilometres per day. The main challenge when paddling north to south is the strong winds. Beal’s social media updates are littered with references to the wind. Often, he has to make several backup plans for each day, so that he can quickly adapt his route to the conditions.

On day 14, he changed his route and paddled for the Isle of Arran to avoid headwinds that he had been battling for days. Back on land, he “made the safety call to stop until the wind dropped”.

With the white horses of breaking waves as far as the eye could see, he waited for almost two days before heading back onto the water. Even then, he only had a four-hour window of low winds to reach his next checkpoint in Portpatrick.

After four weeks he crossed into England and now, almost five weeks in, he has covered just over 800km. “I’ve lost a lot of time thanks to the wind, but that’s my fault for heading this way,” he said.

Beal’s route. Photo: @top.down.kayak.challenge

The wind has not been the only difficulty. In the first week, he paddled the Caledonian Canal and was not a fan of all the locks. He was joined for this stretch by a friend, who paddleboarded alongside him.

“Lock portages were fun… especially lifting my fully loaded sea kayak and Bee’s paddleboard out the water,” he said. His kayak took a battering during their 21 days on the canal and his C-Tug trolley developed cracks because of portages, sand, and salt. He had to stop and make repairs.

He is also suffering from a sore back but believes that it isn’t too serious: “For the third day in a row, I awoke with a really stiff and sore lower back. It was also the fourth day in a row I’ve pitched on a slight slope. I’m hoping it’s as simple as that.”

Beal and his friend Bee on the Caledonian Canal. Photo: @top.down.kayak.challenge

Kayak4Heroes – South to North

Heading in the opposite direction, the five-man Kayak4Heroes team is 10 days into their paddle. The group of military veterans will kayak from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

Despite choosing the south to north route to utilize the southwesterly winds, they also had to take a day off because of high winds. After paddling an impressive 65km on their first day, they were off the water on day two.

Photo: @Kayak4Heroes

Since then, they have sped along the Cornish coastline and crossed the Bristol Channel. Over the next few days, they paddled 140km up the Bristol Channel and the River Severn. They are already in Liverpool and excited to continue their journey: “We’re a long way from Land’s End now, and that bit closer to John O’ Groats with each day!”

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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