(Correne Coetzer) After paddling 1000 miles down the Missouri River with swimmer Dave Cornthwaite from August to October, Vanessa Knight decided to peruse adventure as a full time career.
"As simple as that, I said “Yes” to my dreams of exploring our planet." Already given up her apartment and job, she bought a bicycle and is currently cycling 2000 miles across the USA from St Louis to San Francisco.
Last week ExWeb caught up with Ness on her bicycle. She tells about her Missouri paddle on a Stand Up Paddle board, the four SUP techniques, cooking lunch on a canoe whilst floating, the challenges of the Missouri, putting this 2000-mile cycle together within a few days, and someone who inspires her, Nelson Mandela.
ExplorersWeb: How did it happen that you teamed up with Dave Cornthwaite?
Vanessa: In February this year I met Dave at an event in London called Night of Adventure. He was hosting the event and spoke of his Expedition1000 project and the importance of saying "yes" more. This reminded me of my absolute love of adventure, the wilderness and challenging myself out there.
A few months later he invited me to be a part of his Swim1000 support team to paddle 1000 miles down the Missouri River on a Stand Up Paddleboard. Of course I said yes, and promptly quite my job and gave up my flat in London to come along for the ride. And thus my own career as an adventurer began!
ExplorersWeb: Tell us about SUP please. What equipment is used? What about the technique? Seems you also carried all your gear on your board. How easy is it to stand up paddling compared to sitting? Core stability must surely play a big role.
Vanessa: SUP is a phenomenal sport. I am thoroughly addicted to it now. I loved it so much that I will be heading to Australia in November 2013 to be the first woman to SUP the length of the Murray River from source to sea.
The boards we used on the Swim1000 Missouri River Expedition were River Rovers made by Lakeshore Paddleboard Company. They are the best boards you will find for a touring journey like my 1000-mile paddle. The boards are super stable and got me safely through some seriously rough conditions during windy storms on the Missouri. We also kept all our gear and technology in Aquapac dry bags, strapped down on our boards.
I was no SUP expert. In fact, before we started the expedition I had all of a few hours' experience on one! It was a case of learn as you go. Dave had done a 2404 mile SUP down the Mississippi the previous year so I had plenty of advice on technique from him.
The wonder of a Stand Up Paddleboard on a long journey are that you don't just have one technique at your call. You have four. Standing, kneeling, sitting and, if you are feeling really chilled out, you can lie down and prop your head on a dry bag.
One of our team members, Em, actually fell asleep on a couple of occasions like this! Standing up gives you the most incredible workout. You use almost every muscle in your body which is just one of the reasons I love it. And, boy, can you fly when you give it some welly!
ExplorersWeb: What was most challenging during this paddle?
Vanessa: The first challenge I encountered were the periods when I was struck with food poisoning. The ongoing routine of trying to make the banks of the river, paddling as hard as possible, before my bowels decided to do their thing was a real challenge of concentration and timing.
Perhaps the hardest day I experienced was during the final stretch. Temperatures had plummeted to freezing and the rain lashed down from dawn all day long. By 3pm we were suffering mild hypothermia. My toes had turned a grey/purple color and I had lost most of my ability to grip or stand upright. I knew it must be very cold outside as my fingers burned when I put them in the river. Even now I cannot feel the very tip of my index finger. But coming through this day was epic.
My final challenge was a battle with horse flies. They have a (sadistic) tendency to chase you for miles down the river, biting away happily, causing shrieks to burst out from each of us. Nasty little buggers those.
ExplorersWeb: How many hours per day were you spending on your board?
Vanessa: The first half of the journey we spent all morning and afternoon on the boards, stopping only to cook and eat lunch. Later on in the journey we would spend up to 12 hours without stepping foot on land. Lunch was cooked onboard the canoe whilst floating, and snacks were eaten on the go.
ExplorersWeb: What did you do about sun protection?
Vanessa: This is really important. Especially when you are dealing with temperatures right up to 42°C. And even more so when you are in and out of the water all day to cool down. We used a great water resistant sun cream by beyond coastal. Only SPF 30 and above. If you are sweating a lot from exercise make sure you reapply! It's just not worth risking getting roasted.
ExplorersWeb: Who were the team mates?
Vanessa: Our support team for Dave, who swam the 1001 miles for journey number 7 of his project Expedition1000, consisted of seven members. Each of us on the team had a skill to bring to the table beyond the daily routine and support for Dave as he swam, from blogging to nutrition, training, medical, PR, filming, fundraising, and logistics support. I rounded the crew up leading the social media campaign. You can find out more about the team at www.swim1000.com
ExplorersWeb: You are now embarking on a 2000-mile bike ride from St Louis (state?) to San Francisco, CA. Why this decision? Will you cycle alone? What will you take with you on your bike? How long do you think you will be on the road?
Vanessa: Three weeks ago, on a quiet Monday evening cooking dinner, an idea popped into my head. I’m in the USA, having just paddled 1001 miles down the Missouri river, on the lookout for another adventure and thus it occurred to me “why don’t I just carry on my USA journey?”. Thirty minutes later, after chatting things over with Dave, the idea of a 2000-mile solo cycle from St Louis to San Francisco had formed, and plans were already being drafted and put in place. As simple as that.
The first reactions I received were questions as to how such a thing could possibly be organized so quickly. With the help of Dave mentoring and supporting me I made it happen. If there is one thing that week taught me it is that you don’t have to spend a year meticulously planning out an adventure.
Within a few days Dave and I had pulled together most of what I would need; a Cannondale touring bike, cycling gear, warm winter clothing and camping equipment. My shoes were borrowed from Dave (men’s shoes and two sizes too big), my bike is second-hand, my camping equipment was left over from the Missouri river paddle. If you really want to do a thing, then you will make it happen!
What I love about this second leg of my USA journey is that it gives me a different way to see and experience the USA. The Missouri paddle was on water, with a team, and in the blistering heat of summer. My cycle sees me heading into winter, solo and, of course, on land. Two epic journeys and two very different expeditions. What more could you want?
Place of residence: London, UK.
Hobbies: My adventures are my hobbies. I have made a career out of the things I love to do the most. I would add photography to that list.
Favorite music: I don't have a favorite genre or band, I love too many. Though a bit of Jimmy Hendrix goes down a treat every time!
Favorite Food: Sushi. And fat, rare steaks. And fajitas. And organic chocolate. And… oh, you get the idea!
Latest read book: Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
Best adventure yet: My solo USA cycle
Dream destination: There are too many on our Earth to choose one. But I am partial to the idea of being in a little rowing boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
5 top accomplishments in your life: Raising over £1 million for charities through my fundraising work. Working to help rehabilitate a Puma and Oscelot at Inti Wara Yassi in the heart of the Bolivian jungle. Making the decision to do what makes me happy (adventure) and make a career out of it. Paddling 1001 miles down the Missouri River. Not falling off my bike yet.
1-2 people who inspire you: I was born and raised in South Africa and have been inspired by Nelson Mandela since a child. Sarah Outen, for being brilliantly adventurous and an all round fabulous person - check her out on www.sarahouten.com
Quote that inspires you: "This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. If you don't like something, change it… Life is short. Live your dream and wear your passion" - From the Holstee Manifesto.
This expedition (and other expeditions with RSS feeds) can be followed in the live Dispatch stream at the Pythom App for iPhone and on Android as well as at ExplorersWeb.
ExplorersWeb Expedition List
Related / Previous:
7 Rivers 7 Continents: ExWeb interview with Mark Kalch, completing river no. 2, Missouri-Mississippi
Best of ExplorersWeb 2009 Awards: Sarah Outen, Indian Ocean crossing
ExWeb interview: Cycle to the South Pole, Eric Larsen's dream expedition
#Trek #topstory #interview
Visit our new website