Jun 19, 2018 | BY Chris Couve
In May we wrote about Sian Sykes successfully completing her 1000km solo-unsupported Wales circumnavigation expedition on a Touring SUP, free of any single-use plastic.
We asked Sian what motivated her to complete this arduous journey and how she managed to do so without any of the single-use plastics we’ve come to be so reliant on.
Here’s her story…
Stand up paddleboarding gives me the freedom to adventure, a superb bird’s eye view, the ability to get away from it all, to find inner peace and to reconnect with nature. To have the absolute appreciation of what the great outdoors has to offer and now we have to do our best to protect it from the epidemic we face, single-use plastics.
I have just returned from my Wales SUP expedition which had a deep and more meaningful connection – I had a mission rather than just a personal challenge. I wanted to highlight the massive problem we face with single-use plastics and raise awareness of this issue.
I have always appreciated the stunning environment around me, however over the years, I have seen an increase in single-use plastics washing up on our beaches and discarded. The aim of this trip was to bridge the gap between urban areas and the coastline. What gets dropped on a canal or in a river ends up floating out to sea. Sadly a staggering 8 million pieces of plastic enters our seas every day and 80% of it is from land-based sources.
My goal on this expedition was to help do my bit by raising this awareness with others, to inspire and educate consumers about single-use plastics. That’s where SUP Against SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding Against Single Use Plastics) stemmed from, to circumnavigate Wales, a 1000km journey along the canals, road, rivers and the sea ~ and Wales is a perfect country to highlight the connection between the waterways and roads into the sea.
My mission was to make my expedition single-use plastic free. A tricky task when you add into the mix my dietary requirements too. Luckily with a bit of research, I hunted down alternatives. For evening meals I got in contact with a company called Outdoor Food who specialise in expedition food. I told them my dietary requirements (I’m a vegan and I don’t eat wheat), which they could do. I then told them that it needed to be single-use plastic free as well… Amazingly enough, they were piloting biodegradable packaging which was superb and they have been incredibly supportive of my mission.
For my morning porridge, I got bulk oats from Suma in a big paper bag, which I decanted into expedition portions. I used Nalgene bottles to contain my breakfast and snacks supplies – the bottles are durable and reusable. For snacks, I ate dried fruit and nuts and its packaging was in biodegradable bags. My toiletries were also single-use plastic free ~ I used a toothpaste in glass jars from Georganics, sunscreen in a tin by Shade, shampoo and deodorant in a bar by Lush and toothbrush made from bamboo by Bristle. Toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap and I used a moon cup for sanitary ware.
One of the aims of the trip was to inspire people and educate others. I asked everyone who I met along the way to make a pledge, to reduce at least one single-use item which they use daily, such as shower gel, toothpaste, toothbrush, disposable coffee cups, single-use plastic bottles. They all wanted to help with making their own personal pledge which was fantastic! A small change like that can make a big difference. As paddlers, we love our waterways and coastline, and we often see the plastic waste first hand. I met a great canoe club on the Montgomery canal – they’ve adopted a section of the canal and their paddlers do a regular litter pick. If more clubs, groups, individuals and organisations do this it will have a really positive impact on our rivers and sea.
It’s all about people power – we can make a difference! So please make a pledge.”
– Sian Sykes
About Sian Sykes
Sian used to work in London in the fast-paced advertising industry, working up to 18-hour days. She decided to make a career change to have a better work-life balance and now runs a paddleboarding business in Wales. Sian is a regional rep for Surfers Against Sewage (an environmental charity) and she is passionate about raising awareness, educating and inspiring others to reduce their daily consumption of single-use plastics. Her trip around Wales was single-use plastic free, she collected plastic pollution along the way and inspired others to make a pledge against plastic.
Sian is an ambassador for Starboard UK, Peak UK, Water Skills Academy and Aquapac.
During the journey, Sian raised close to £2000 for Surfers Against Sewage, North Wales Wildlife Trust and RNLI. A film of the journey is due to be released later this year.
For more information on this expedition please contact Sian: sian[at]pyschedpaddleboarding[dot]com or visit her website: www.psychedpaddleboarding.com