The theme for this year's National Go Canoeing Week (27th May - 4th June) is The Big Adventure, so, when we were choosing pictures to go on the poster, we looked for images which summed this up.
Sian Sykes runs her own paddle boarding adventure company in Wales and was the first person to complete our Three Lakes Challenge and Trent Loop Challenge route on a paddle board. An image of Sian, on one of her adventures, doing what she loves, seemed the perfect fit for our poster. Here Sian tells us how she carved her route to an adventurous lifestyle:
I was so exhilarated in that picture. It was taken at Holyhead Harbour on my completion of the first SUP circumnavigation of Anglesey. The journey had taken me five days and took in 120 km of stunning coastline.
Living in Anglesey has given me a great love of the Welsh coast and countryside. That trip gave me the opportunity to raise money for The North Wales Wildlife Trust & Surfers Against Sewage as well as providing me with a good challenge.
I’ve always been passionate about adventures. It all stemmed from my first wild camping trip, at six weeks old, with my mother, to a beautiful spot near Portmeirion. When I was growing up we would go there for family holidays filled with adventure, with wild swimming in the sea, climbing trees, exploring the gwyllt and hiking up mountains. I was such a water baby and drawn to the water.
I never knew when I was growing up you could make a career in the outdoors, so ended up working in London, in creative media. Working long hours, some days 18 hours! I started to miss home and longed to be back by the sea, mountains and nature. That’s when I decided I wanted a better quality of life. I moved back home, retrained and gained my outdoor qualifications, now I run an outdoor business, Psyched Paddleboarding. I guide people paddleboarding to beautiful places, here in the UK and abroad, linking hiking to remote mountain lakes and sea journeys. Basically I love doing what I do now, it’s my real passion. I love inspiring others to get outside.
My first experience of SUP was when some friends invited me to join them to cross England, along the canals, on paddleboards. I joined them from Bristol to Reading and loved every minute of the adventure. I enjoyed the freedom, being close to water and reconnecting with nature. We camped in beautiful woodland forest surrounded by wild garlic, saw kingfishers and deer and the most amazing sunrises and sunsets. When I returned, I jumped on an ASI (Academy of Surfing Instructors) course in Portugal to get my qualifications and I changed my whole outdoor business around it!
Paddleboarding gives me solitude, freedom to take time out from the hectic pace of life and time away from technology. To be able to pause, be present in the moment and experience wonderful things, such as seeing porpoise enjoying the tidal race, hanging out with inquisitive seals, watching fish leap, seeing elegant jellyfish float by and an abundance of bird life. Every time I go for a SUP on the sea, lake, canal or river, I have a totally different experience. I enjoy the wild elements and paddling in all conditions improves my skills and experience. I am really wanting to push myself to see how far I can take SUP.
My passion for educating and inspiring others about environmental issues sees me actively involved with the Wildlife Trust in Wales, and a Regional Rep on Anglesey for Surfers Against Sewage. It’s crucial we protect our beautiful oceans, beaches, birds and wildlife from pollution, in order for others to enjoy them in the future.
National Go Canoeing week is a fantastic opportunity for paddlers old and new to be involved in a national campaign. I would encourage everyone to get out on the water and appreciate the unique view of nature that being in a boat or on a SUP can bring. I will be registering my miles during the week, make sure you do too!