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EYEBALL EXCLUSIVE: 37 miles & 8 1/2 hours later.

June 20, 2011

A monster paddle of epic proportions, words from the man himself…

What can I say apart from “that was the hardest paddle of my life”.  After leaving Ilfracombe at 8am with 20 knots wind and 10 – 15ft of swell coming down the Bristol Channel, it was far from a nice start.  After a quick interview with Sky Sports News we made it past Woolacombe.  Then, when our on-board paramedic Keith Gammon was starting to get extremely sea sick, with a few rain storms, I decided to have a lie down in the first class sleeping corters – a 6ft by 1/2 ft high cupboard under the cabin – a little bit claustrophobic to say the least but nice to lie down and have 20 mins shut eye.

We finally made it to our start point just a couple of miles down from Shiploads Bay, with the conditions getting worse it was time to just crack on and start.  Getting the wetsuit on and a quick interview with Chris Harris from North Devon TV, I was in off the side and into the beach/rocks for the start.  My Ipod’s batteries run out of before I even started paddling but we went anyway.  Little did I know this was to be the hardest part of the crossing with side wind, chop and swell for what was suppose to be a 10 mile crossing it turned out to be 16 miles and 4 hours as one can only describe as hell.  We were advised not to go around the island by Ilfracombe Yacht club, as there was 20 – 25ft swell coming in on the west side and the Yacht race were not going around due to a high danger level, so we headed around to the south side.  Lundy never seemed to get closer and my only spirit-lifter was a few dolphins escorting me into Lundy bay – which was amazing as no wind, glassy conditions and onto the beach and back out again to the boat for a refuel and back out to sea we went.

Heading south for 3 miles, which once again was extremely painful after 4 hours of already serious hard slog.  My board was 16 ft but still did not manage to pick up any runs as I was going the wrong way to catch them.  At this point I was starting to sweat a lot and lose fluids as I was in my wetsuit the whole time because of the cold wind, so we upped the water intake, with 20 mins fuel breaks rather than 30mins.  Croyde was finally in sight with 6 miles to go.  I had to dig deep with a lot of emotions coming out as I paddled.  I had to find a place I have never been before as the whole paddle had been an absolute slog and the sea being an unforgiving place had one last roll of the dice – it got worse as we entered the Baggy Race. However, this was made easier with Croyde Surf Club bringing out on their IRB a very talented James Bunny and then my old friend and traveling partner Andrew ‘Milky’ Byatt joined us on his ski.  As we got nearer to the beach, Gary Sinkevicius and Sam Moore were also there on their boards to meet me for that last lift which got me home to the beach.

I’m on the beach and there are people every where.  My hands were swollen and my feet were bleeding from board rubs.   After a couple of interviews with Sky and Spotlight, they took me up to the GoldCoast Oceanfest festival and to my amazement there were hundreds of people seeing me through a guard of honor up onto the stage.  A very emotional interview on the stage with the amazing Shaun & Warren Latham and the Children’s Hospice South West presenting me with a thank you letter and picture from the children at Little Bridge House – it was the thought of these children, their families and friends that gave me the strength to complete this challenge, the Children’s Hospice South West is a truly amazing charity and one I will always work hard to support, take a trip down to visit them one day. It’ll change your life.

To finish off the evening I had a relaxing float tank at the Hands On Clinic in Braunton with thanks to Phil, who also gave me a lift home.  I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all my generous sponsors**, CHSW and the people who have supported me for this challenge – especially my two endlessly hardworking boys Tom & Tozer.  Now after burning more then 6000 calories yesterday (which is what I normally burn off in 2 days) its time to replace them as quickly as possible.

Well that was that and now I need a lie down…

You can still show your support to the CHILDREN’S HOSPICE SOUTH WEST by donating to Nick’s Just Giving Page

A little money really can make a big difference to the wonderful people at the Childrens Hospice South West.

**Special Thank You to all my Sponsors…

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