When we heard that two good friends were planning to paddle across the English Channel later this summer, we thought we really should find out why they had decided to take on the challenge and how do you go about preparing for a paddleboard adventure like that. Adrian Hougham and Scott Roberts are taking to their SUP’s and heading off from Dungeness to the French port of Boulogne, sometime during the week commencing the 11th of July. We thought it would be a good idea to fire up the barbecue, get the guy’s round and put a few questions to them as we supped on a couple of cold ones. (By cold one’s I mean red wine for me and still water for the two athletes currently in the midst of their training!)
SR – Thanks for the taking the time to speak with us, whose idea was it to paddle the channel and what is the reason for taking on the challenge?
A –It has been something I have thought about for a few years now, the English Channel is right on our doorstep and there have been many cross channel SUP crossings made by the likes of South African Chris Bertish, American Michael O’Shaughessy and the Hawaiian Laird Hamilton, I thought it was about time a local boy gave it a go! After my father in law passed away suddenly in 2014 I thought it was time to step up and make the crossing whilst raising money for the British Heart Foundation at the same time.
S – It is something that I had thought about before, but never seriously, so when Adrian told me his plans and gave me the chance to join him I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. Within the last year one of my best friends Glen was struck down with a very rare blood disorder called Aplastic Anaemia and has had to undergo bi-weekly blood transfusions and a bone marrow transplant, I knew the Channel Paddle would be an opportunity to raise awareness of this debilitating disease and raise money for The Aplastic Anaemia Trust.
SR – Both very noble causes and by raising money for charity it must make you far more determined to make it across, but there are loads of ways to raise money for charity and most aren’t so physically demanding. You didn’t fancy sitting in a bath of cold beans or shaving half your hair off then?
S – Well I don’t really like beans!
A – And I haven’t got enough hair to part with! Ha ha
SR – Well you both certainly look fit and in good physical condition and after joining you both for The Head Of the Dart SUP Challenge earlier this year, I know you are both paddling well, what have you been doing to train for the challenge?
A – I’ve been putting in one long paddle each week, probably around 10 miles and have been hitting the water nearly everyday. I train a couple of times a week with the Broadstairs Surf Life Saving Club and if I am not out on the stand up paddleboard, I am racking up the miles on a prone paddleboard. Interval training has also been a big part of my regime, but you can’t do it all and I’ve found myself neglecting stretching and yoga a little bit.
S – Over the course of a week I train five days with two days rest and have been mixing it up between swimming, running and paddling. I’ve been doing a lot of abdominal exercise to strengthen the core and have been hitting the gym to push some weights. I’m now planking for around 3 minutes and that’s has to have helped with balance and posture. I’ve also been paddling 6 miles to work some mornings, it’s a great start to the day and how many people can say they do that? Ady and myself have also met up and squeezed in some lengthy paddle sessions together.
SR- How far have you managed so far with less than month to go?
S –We’ve cleared 20 miles on the River Stour and have completed a paddle from Margate to Ramsgate and back in quite testing conditions
A – Yes we are regularly clocking up around 15 miles, we are hitting about 75% of the total distance now.
SR – What happens on the day? How do you expect it to pan out, I mean what time do you leave, how long is it likely to take and how far is it from Dungeness to Boulogne?
Actually, why Dungeness?
A – We will be watching the weather very closely in the fortnight building up to it and if the conditions and weather look favourable, then we are expecting a call the night before to say the paddle is on. Then it will be a very early start, a nervous drive to Dungeness and we will just be keen to get the challenge started.
S – During our training sessions we are averaging around 4 miles per hour and if we have perfect conditions it will hopefully take somewhere around 6 hours. To be honest, we haven’t put a time goal on the challenge; it is just about completing the task at hand and raising money for our chosen charities.
A – As for starting from Dungeness and not Dover, we are not allowed to paddle across the French shipping lane so when we reach the outer edge of the shipping lane we have to climb on the support boat and continue the paddle the other side. To make sure we actually paddle the 21 nautical miles, we have to leave from further down the coast to achieve that distance.
SR – Pesky French, if they aren’t blocking the ports or striking they are putting obstacles in the way on cross channel paddles! So It’s 21 nautical miles then in six hours all being well?
A- Well, with tides and other variables we could encounter in the middle of the channel, the total distance could be more like 24-26 nautical miles.
SR – So fingers crossed for perfect conditions and no wind then. What about support out there, surely you don’t just borrow a boat and set off?
S – If only it was that easy! No, we have enlisted a support boat from Full Throttle Charters and are hoping to be joined by a small support crew to shout encouragement and enthuse us to dig deep. The route is down to the boat captain, he will be working off GPS and we will just follow his lead.
SR – And what boards will you be using for the crossing?
A – I’ll be on a Jimmy Lewis Sidewinder, 14’ x 25”, fairly narrow, could struggle in chop but flies in clean conditions.
S – My weapon of choice is a Starboard Elite Tourer, it’s 14’ x 30” it’s nice and stable but when it comes to the final sprint to the beach at Boulogne, Ady could be leaving me behind!
SR – Now the next question comes from the mind of an inquisitive teenager, but is probably a question a lot of people will be wondering! What are you going to do for food, water and most importantly toilet breaks?
S – Ha Ha! Believe it or not, I’ve been asked that a few times now! We will be wearing camel packs carrying water that we can drink whenever we want and will be carrying some food too. I’ll also have some energy gels with me if I start to flag or hit the wall. As for the loo, it will be a matter of sliding off the board and into the sea I’m afraid!
A – I’ve seen a recipe for some coconut macaroons that caught my eye and I’ve decided I will be taking some of those with me, they just looked so nice and sweet and tasty! I’ll be giving the gels a miss though; I don’t relish the thought of upset guts halfway across!
SR – The challenge has been in the pipeline for a while now, how do you stay motivated and focused to put the hours of training in and what is going to make you dig deep as you push on towards France?
A – Well, I’ve never managed anything like this before and I think it will give me such a sense of achievement and pride to have made some sort of a difference and to have raised money for such an important charity.
S – The same for me and I hope that in years to come my son will be proud that his old man stepped up, took on a challenge like this and paddled across the English Channel.
SR – I am sure everyone is very proud of the pair of you, it certainly won’t be a walk in the park and you will both join a fairly elite group of stand up paddleboarders.
Now picture the scene, you are there, you can see the shore, what happens next? A big welcome party, fireworks and a massage or will you be collapsing in the boat and heading back?
A- At the moment we have been lead to believe we are not actually allowed to land the boards on French soil, but that is still to be confirmed. I’ve actually been offered extra sponsorship if I run up the beach with a Union Jack flag! But to answer the question, there will be no big welcoming party waiting and we will turning round and heading back as fast as possible.
S – I’m kissing the beach and looking forward to a cold beer, in fact I’m making sure there is champagne on board the boat and will be looking forward to spraying that around!
SR – That sounds like a plan! Before we sign off do you have any special mentions, thanks or shouts out for anyone?
A – I’d like to say a big thanks to Jimmy Lewis UK www.surfs-sup.co.uk for helping out with my board, Miles & Barr Estate Agents for sponsoring the support boat, Premier Signs for the stickers and of course everyone who has sponsored me and given money to the British Heart Foundation
S – Thanks to Miles & Barr for their extraordinary generosity, Dan at Revolution Skatepark for helping out with a fantastic deal on my board, Cliff at Epic Life Hastings, who has helped improve my paddling technique with video anylsis, and for the advice on training, nutrition and exercise, Premier Signs and everyone who has dug deep and sponsored me.
SR – Ahem Cough!
A & S – Ha ha and of course thanks Surf Report for this interview and promoting the challenge!
All being well we will be joining Adrian and Scott when they take on their Channel Paddle and dependant on phone signals we will be updating you with their progress through our social channels on the day. The boys have been putting in so much hard work towards what will be the hardest paddle of their lives and we are proud of them for their efforts and commitment. Both of them are genuinely humbled by the generosity shown by those who have already sponsored and donated and have a steely determination to honour that faith and commitment. Both of them have created Just Giving pages, where you can find out a little bit more about their background story and can also make your own donations to their cause. To support Adrian follow the link here and for Scott’s page can be found here. Every penny really does help and would be gratefully received
All that is left to do is to wish them both good luck and a safe paddle. See you on the other side guys!