On Monday 8th July, Mike Lacey, Alan Stokes, Sam & Will Boex, Ben Skinner, Lukas Skinner, Emily Currie, Jayce Robinson, Rich Lacey & Kelvin Batt and Dom Moore set off from Porthcurno to paddle 32 miles to The Isles of Scilly in aid of SAS!
We caught up with Alan to find out all about their epic paddle!
“We made it!
After waiting a whole year for ocean conditions to be just right and after 11 hours and 32 miles of gruelling open ocean paddling from Porthcurno to The Isles of Scilly we finally felt the sand beneath our toes again! Dreamed up over a year ago by local Cornish wave photographer Mike Lacey. Mike has brought together some of Britian’s greatest surfers and young shinning talent, who collectively have witnessed the ever increasing threat plastic pollution is having on the oceanic environment they love so much! The #ScillyPaddle team consisted of Mike Lacey, Alan Stokes, Sam & Will Boex, Ben Skinner, Lukas Skinner, Emily Currie, Jayce Robinson, Rich Lacey & Kelvin Batt and Dom Moore
After final route planning and safety checks on Sunday night, we woke early on Monday morning to prep equipment at Porthcurno beach ready to set off and paddle at 6am.
The inshore conditions were perfect, zero wind, fairly warm and sheet glass sea states. With paddles in hand we stood on our sup’s and began our journey towards the horizon, each of us slowly getting used to the new weight and balance our supplies and dry bags had created attached to the front of our boards. At this point The Scilly Islands were completely out of sight and would be for the next six hours of paddling. With only our safety boat for guidance and the odd shipping lane bouy as a marker it really felt like we were just about to undertake somthing the senses couldn’t even comprehend.
As we paddled north towards lands End we all marvelled at the stunning Cornish coast, seeing the bays and cliffs we knew so well from a whole new perspective.
A few hours into our paddle and with the Cornish mainland getting smaller all the time we checked in with our safety boat to check our progress and work out roughly how long it would take us if we kept the pace we had comfortably all slipped into with each paddle stroke.
Three knots per hour was the call over the radio and with some quick calculations we estimated our crossing should take around eight hours but with variable winds, shipping lanes and big tidal currents to navigate those numbers were quickly forgotten with each and everyone of us totally present, minds clear, focused on each paddle stroke.
With each hour the tidal push pulled us further north but at the same time the wind from the north worsened leaving us struggling in the middle of a tug of war of the elements. On paper the weather and swell looked perfect to make the crossing but we were quickly finding out that small pockets of localised wind and currents could pop up at any moment as tide and swell battled each other and land and sea temps changed with the passing of the day.
As we approached each shipping lane we would re group and charge across the 5 or so miles that made up the width of each one, nervously looking out for the almighty vessels that, even sitting on the horizon looked gigantic!
Now seven hours in with bodies starting to cramp with and shake with fatigue, we battled an ever increasing north westerly wind relentlessly pushing us south of the islands with every passing minute. Every forward stroke was now followed with a handful of painful wide leaning correction strokes to hold our course. With dwindling energy for the task at hand and negative mental chatter beginning to surface, knees wobbled with every stabilising recovery, myself and Dom lead the group peering into the distance in hope of land. It was then that it happened at our lowest point so far and what would be the lowest point of the paddle for me, that a pod of about ten dolphins flew in from the north, breaking the white capped surface with lighting ease. Dom spotted them first shouting dolphins dead ahead and with that they turned and flew to around to our sides. Then we looked beneath our boards and one by one each dolphin appeared swimming majestically only feet below us, looking up inquisitively and probably hearing our hoots of excitement.
For about five minutes we surfed the white capping wind swells almost feeling like we were being guided by these playful intelligent oceanic inhabitants, giving us the energy boost we needed carry on. Shortly after the winds eased the tide started to turn and paddling became easier again. Now with the islands just in sight moral was high and our pace quickened again. Young Lukas Skinner who had joined us prone paddling the first 6 miles joined us again clocking up around 11 miles of the 32 mile crossing. No mean feat for anyone, at just 11 years old Lukas is following in his fathers footsteps and showed a maturity and ocean knowledge far beyond his years!
The final few hours were a blissfully calm approach into the islands and just as well with everyone completely exhausted from all the challenges each and everyone faces along the way.
We rounded the coast of St Mary’s taking in the incredibly beautiful scenery that the Scilly Islands are famous for. As we slowly paddled towards shore, excitedly talking about our mishaps along the way, laughing at the very thought of what we had all just accomplished we finally stepped off our boards and felt the sand between our toes again.
For me, just watching our whole group pull together and work as a team to make such an incredible dream and challenge turn into a reality was so inspiring. It just goes to show that collectively we can and will make a difference if we really want to!
Still wobbling with sea legs with grins from ear to ear, we congratulated each other and like true surfers headed towards the nearest beach bar for a well earned beer!
Please donate, lets turn the tide on plastic pollution and find better alternatives that keep our oceans and planet healthy for all to enjoy!”
📷 Ed West
From all of us at SAS – Thank you! And congratulations on your epic paddle!