Adventure is a way of life, something that we should all embrace, yet so many of us let it slip away into the forgotten abyss and stumble from the day to day. Life is one giant adventure and if we envision it that way, we will enjoy every waking moment and never take the “now” for granted ever again.
My personal motto in life is “Through adventure we live”, but I have not always seen it this way. If you came to me a few years ago I was a completely different person. I was lost, broken, scared and a shell of the man I once was.
It’s sad to say it took me to be sitting in a 6 x 4 prison cell serving a 2 years 8 month prison sentence to come to terms with how strayed I truly had become. My path in life was overgrown, with no destination in sight and nothing to live for.
After taking a hard long look at myself I realised I had to change, no more lost opportunities or broken promises and no more damaged relationships or hurt. An honest life, a life to be proud of and one where I could grow and change in a positive way with every waking breath.
I have taken it upon myself to embark on a ‘journey of self-discovery’, to truly understand who I am, to help me find purpose to live a much more meaningful life. I can proudly say that I have found purpose once again and I have ignited that eternal flame for life deep within to go out and live a much more meaningful life.
When I answer that call to adventure, I love the feeling of excitement that surges through my body as I prepare for the challenge that lies ahead. It gives me a sense of being and drive to keep on going and when I am completely drained both physically and mentally, that is the point when I understand who I truly am and know the full extent of my capabilities. These are the times that I can prove that my past and my mistakes do not define who I am and like so many, we should not be defined by our errors.
With the right commitment and attitude, I know I can go on to achieve anything I desire, which is why I am trying to forge a career as a SUP adventurer attempting world firsts and world records. The peak of the exploration and adventure side of Stand up Paddle Boarding has not yet been summited and I want to be out there, leading from the front, showing what remarkable things can be achieved on SUP.
With this said I launched my ‘Paddling4Change’ campaign, which saw me SUP the 4 longest lakes in the UK, in 4 days and with the hope to set 4 world records for the fastest time paddled across each.
An achievement I am immensely proud of, a true triumph of determination.
At times it is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I was still sitting in a prison cell just over a year ago surrounded by so much failure and negativity.
I have come so far and achieved so much despite the struggles we have all faced globally and this is why I also want to use Paddling4Change as an opportunity to raise both money and awareness for the ‘Alliance of Sport’, who use the power of sport in the criminal justice system to help tackle reform and rehabilitation, something that is particularly important to me.
I want to use my adventures as a platform to highlight the importance of reform and rehabilitation and to hopefully change the perspectives on people like myself so we can create positive safer communities for us all to live in.
I also hope that my journey can encourage others to take that small step into the unknown to undertake their own personal adventures, to get in touch with themselves once again and go on to live much more meaningful lives, lives where possibilities are endless.
So, #4lake4days was created, part of my bigger campaign ‘The Untamed Beasts’…
I have had the privilege to visit Scotland on a few occasions, but never have I been into the Scottish highlands especially to take in the awe-inspiring scenery that surrounds you at every turn. It is no wonder this vast area is teemed with so much folklore and legend and the closer you get to Loch Awe, the more mysterious the land becomes as the mountains rise into the skies and clouds roll down deep into the valleys.
For any adventurer preparation is key and like any, I did my research. Loch Awe is the longest lake in the UK, my first beast to tame and on the map, it looks relatively narrow but nothing prepared me for the moment I first got a glimpse of the loch, not only was my breath taken away by the alluring view that bestowed me but the realisation of the true magnitude of what laid ahead hit me like a rogue wave on a calm ocean! Loch awe was enormous but unknowingly this was not yet to be my biggest surprise of the trip.
After finding a secluded spot to park the camper van and cook a deliciously juicy steak dinner, I bedded down for the night just as the heavens opened up to play a pounding symphony on the roof of the van with the rain from above…you’ve got to love Scotland.
Monday, 14th June and day 1 of my challenge. There was an eerie feel to Loch Awe that morning, despite the winds billowing around me there was an unnerving stillness and apart from a lone fisherman sitting on the shore, there was no one else to be seen. What laid ahead of me was an immense stretch of water, 40km long and at points unreachable from the shoreline if things were to go wrong.
At 8:15 am, I entered the water at Torran Bay Hostel boatyard, put my paddle to the water and headed north to Kilchurn Castle. The isolation on that lake seemed quite euphoric to me, no matter where I looked there were no traces of human life. At that moment in time, all that existed was my board, my surroundings and I. Despite the sheer beauty, there were times I would glance at the shoreline and have flashbacks of the movie ‘The Deliverance’, waiting to hear the sounds of a banjo echo in the valley around me. To find yourself completely alone in the UK can be hard but there I was alone and hungry to achieve recording breaking success!
As the hours went by, the wind started to pick up in my favour but the gusts blowing ever so stronger at 25kph+. Waves were forming around me and the white horses were bucking at the tip of the waves. I dug deep and kept going, after 5 hours of battling to stand upright I could finally see Kilchurn Castle, a very welcomed sight. Stroke after stroke I was getting close, with my muscles screaming at me, my goal was within reach and 5 hours, 27 minutes and 29 seconds I did it! A new world record, I felt like a knight returning from victorious from battle as I sat there by the castle standing over the loch, 1 down and 3 to go.
All I faced now was a 220-mile drive to the Lake Windermere….sounds straight forward right, not when your van goes into “limp mode” 30 miles away from your destination. It was gone past midnight when we finally hobbled to Lake Windermere and very much sleep deprived.
Despite a restless night parked on a slope, the morning view of beast number 2 was absolutely taking, enough so to re-energise the body and fulfil the soul. I Have always adored the lake district and here I was once again, ready to attempt another world record.
However, we still had one challenge to overcome and that was the issue of the van. If the RAC could not resolve this complication, then it was game over. That dream that came alive whilst sitting alone and incarcerated, which gave me hope and saw me through would have just become a dream forgotten like so many.
But this was my time, my time to fix my ways, my time to show that I am so much more than my past and my guardian angel, in the form of Richard from the RAC saved the day and boosted that craving to achieve success tenfold.
At 11:52 I entered Lake Windermere and the conditions were perfect, 18km later and 2 hours, 31 minutes and 50 seconds of paddling I had achieved my second world record. 2 for 2 and 2 to go.
Northern Ireland was my next stop after catching the overnight ferry from Liverpool to Belfast. Lough Neagh was the one I knew that was going to be most gruelling, even more so as “they” refer it to the “Inland Sea”.
I had come to terms with this lake, prepared myself physically and mentally. Nothing was going to stop me, I owned Lough Neagh and world record number 3…until I met a sweet out Irish lady who decided to tell me the tales of the treacherous stories that bestow Lough Neagh. The ever-changing weather system that sits on the Lough, the lost fishermen, the beasts below and the 9-foot waves, but again preparation is key
After being granted a safe passage across the Irish Sea, I sat upon the shoreline of Lough Neagh and I was astounded by the expanse of water that was laid out in front of me, with nothing on the horizon to give me a point of reference I could start to see why some people would believe the world is flat.
At 9:48, I entered the Lough and followed my coordinates on my ‘Ordnance Survey’ app, constantly watching the weather and waving good buy to the land as paddled deeper into the heart of Lough Neagh with nothing around me apart from water as far as the eye could see.
It could have been the lack of sleep but I am sure creatures were coming up from the deep lurking around me with dubious curiosity as I could hear broken water from all angles behind me. The further I got into the lough, the water continuously changed on me, becoming more of a struggle. The skies grew darker, the waves started rolling and the bow of my board starting diving into the water. I now realised why it is referred to as an inland sea and all I could think about were the stories of the “sweet” old lady from the night before.
After fighting a good fight out there alone and unaided I could see my finish line, a destination that seemed to never get closer despite my desperate attempts to paddle faster but after 34km and 5 hours and 11 minutes and 15 seconds of paddling, I had done it. World record number 3, the most SUP world records held by one person and one to go.
As I waited for the boat to take me back to Liverpool, I enjoyed a celebratory Guinness and at that moment I realised what I have achieved thus far, the proudest moment of my life, I could have quit and still be happy but I made a vow. No longer can I be a quitter and no longer can I take the easy way out. Looking for the quick fix, never got me anywhere in life apart from sitting in a prison cell with nothing to show for my life. Hard work and determination is what it is all about now and I was there to prove it to myself.
I remember when I used to sit inside talking amongst the other prison residents and the same old mundane pointless dross would come about and when I used to share my dreams and hopes I would just be laughed at, “once a number, always a number” is what I would be told, but at that moment and the moment that I write this I am no longer that number. I am much more than my mistakes, more than my past, I am a changed man, a man with a fire in his belly and with that fire I got on the ferry and took my aching tired body to my fourth and final lake.
Thursday 17th June, Bala lake. I couldn’t have asked for conditions more perfect, the water literally was as calm as a June’s day with the surrounding mountains reflecting off the surface like a freshly polished mirror.
Nothing was going to stop me, with the fire still roaring in me, I was an indestructible machine and with that, I entered the water at 10:04, head down and in the zone. Stroke after stroke, 6 to my left to 6 right, repeat, I was flying. Due to the length of the lake the challenge was to get to the end and back, I have no idea where the energy came from but nothing was stopping me and with each passing stroke I was getting closer to achieving something I once thought and told would be impossible and after 1 hour, 30 minutes and 18 seconds I had achieved my fourth and final world record. 4 days, 4 lakes, 4 countries and 4 world records!
Dreams can come true and for me, this is the start of something much larger, the start of it all. As in September, I will be paddle boarding the River Thames non-stop, 208km of constant paddling and hopefully 2 more world records but I will also be attempting to try and take this lake campaign and roll out it out onto the longest lake in every European country.
I hope that my challenge can ignite a sense of adventure in someone else but more importantly I hope it inspires others to never let go of their dreams despite what others say. If you have a vision, then commit to it, give it your all and do not let outside factors stop you. The only thing that will hold you back in life is yourself and my whole life I have done just that but no longer. So be kind to yourself, love one another and support those who may be struggling.
If you take one thing away from reading this, let be “through adventure we live”, now go, have an adventure and come alive once again.
David Haze (Nomadic Paddler)