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TV presenter Steve Backshall reflects on paddling world record

Steve Backshall, a BBC presenter, naturalist and British Canoeing member, has been reflecting on his world record for paddling the length of the River Thames in the fastest time.

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Steve Backshall with double kayak partner Tom McGibbon. (c) Steve Backshall

The record, achieved in a double kayak with partner Tom McGibbon, concluded after 20 hours and 29 minutes and involved navigating the river throughout the day and the night.

The previous world record was set in April 2022 by Gordon Bullock and Chris Sze of Bishop’s Stortford Canoe Club, who set a time of 24 hours and 12 minutes.

Backshall and McGibbon’s journey started on the 8th of August at Lechlade Bridge, west of London, and involved a 168 mile journey, finishing in Teddington the next day. 

Both paddlers had trained each section extensively since April 2023, however, this didn't prevent a few mishaps along the way.

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(c) Steve Backshall

To anyone out there looking for a new passion, consider canoeing, it can take you places you'd never imagine possible!

– Steve Backshall

The pair arrived in London after paddling non-stop for just over 24 hours, at 3.30am, followed by their team of professionals, kayakers, expedition leaders and friends who helped keep them going. 

Reflecting on the challenge, Steve said: 

"Canoeing has been a huge part of my life, ever since I learned with the Scouts. 

"For my forty years of paddling to culminate in a world record on the river I call home is pretty sweet! 

"To anyone out there looking for a new passion, consider canoeing, it can take you places you'd never imagine possible!"

Many congratulations to Steve and Tom for setting the new world record for the fastest time to row the length of the Thames by double canoe/kayak with portaging. 

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Steve Backshall and Tom McGibbon with the team. (c) Steve Backshall

Speaking to the Guinness World Records, Steve said: 

‘‘Tom and I trained by paddling each section of the river in turn, getting to grips with the twists and turns of the river, especially the bits we would be doing in the dark.”

Steve captured moments from the eventful journey on his Instagram.

‘’Without two capsizes, a few night time wrong turns, crashing into a tree, getting swamped by speeding boats and nearly paddling over a weir etc we’d have smashed our twenty hour target - despite no flow on the river.’’