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Paddleboard the North: Jo Moseley on Adventuring In Your 50s!

Jo Moseley, our incredible brand ambassador, just completed her Paddleboard The North challenge which saw her paddleboard 162 miles from Liverpool on the English west coast to Goole on the east coast! She used the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and Aire & Calder Navigation and became the first woman to do so. Along the way she litterpicked to highlight the issue of plastic pollution in our waterways, raised money for 2 Minute Beach Clean and The Wave Project, AND showed us that adventure isn’t just for the young.

Jo in her Stroma, keeping her dry

 

Hey Jo! Congratulations on completing your brilliant adventure! Where did the idea of paddle boarding the north come from?

This summer, I wanted an adventure at home in the north, exploring places I didn’t know, that allowed me to fund raise for The Wave Project & 2 Minutebeachclean organisation and included doing a #2minutelitterpick! And of course I wanted it on the water & with my paddleboard.

PaddleboardTheNorth was an idea I had 3 years ago that I had tucked away after a few people I told said it sounded boring, logistically too difficult and questioned if I was up to it. When I decided to look at it again, I was more confident in my ability and my belief that I could share how beautiful the canals are and what we can all do to make a difference to the plastic pollution.

I was also looking for something to mark a very new chapter in my life in my 50s as my youngest son will go to university this autumn and I’ll be an empty nester! So it all came together as an idea again and I decided to go for it whatever anyone said!

 

Love it! They say one of the hardest parts of adventure is getting to the start line, did you find this?

Yes, absolutely! It wasn’t simply the logistics of getting to the start line either. As a Mum, with Johnny doing his A levels, I really wrestled with the idea that maybe I was being selfish juggling work, home, being there for him (and my Dad & eldest son, Henry) and this huge new project. That was possibly the hardest part – it wasn’t a case of could I do it or how would I do it, but should I do it.

 

Jo in her Tiree leggings

With all of that said, how did you feel the night before setting off?

I was at work during the day & then teaching water fitness the night before so I didn’t have much time to get nervous. I just made sure I got a good night’s sleep!

 

What was the most difficult aspect of the journey?

In terms of paddleboarding, there were areas of the canal that had a lot of weed which physically slowed me down. It was like wading through mud! That was often the time it was raining so it was quite hard work!

Emotionally day 4 was tricky as I started to doubt myself – I had got behind with the bad weather & weed and I wondered if I would meet my schedule. There were tears!

Another very difficult aspect was seeing the plastic pollution in some areas and the impact that was having on wildlife, especially birds & their nests. That was heart breaking and the almost constant sight of plastic bottles was grim.

 

What was the most unexpected aspect of the journey?

I was happily surprised by the amount of interest in the adventure: both on my social media, the press, radio & TV and on the towpath. People were very kind and supportive.

The response since has been phenomenal. I have met and surpassed my fundraising targets and a short video BBC Yorkshire made from my own footage has had over 190,000 views on Facebook!

Jo was interviewed on BBC Look North!

 

What was your favourite part?

My favourite part was undoubtedly Day 7 – Friday 2 August. I paddled 25 miles, the weed had almost entirely gone, the sun shone, a friend from the 2 Minutebeachclean community came all the way from Essex to join me as well as other friends and a journalist from the local newspaper too! I went through Foulridge Tunnel – a mile long! I decided I was going to paddleboard home to Skipton that night and nothing was going to stop me! The countryside was beautiful – I was joined by swans, ducks & geese, heard the sheep in the fields & saw oystercatchers above as the sun set. A special, memorable, magical day!

The ending was pretty awesome too with a thunderstorm, lightning & torrential rain followed by a beautiful rainbow!

At the finish!

That sounds positively idyllic! How do you think your age put you at an advantage for the challenge?

I think my age & experience had taught me to take every opportunity to soak up the experience and live in the moment. I felt a huge sense of gratitude that I am 54 and healthy enough to be able to paddle 162 miles. I understood from experience that sometimes I needed to stop earlier than I had hoped so I could eat, rest and sleep rather than slavishly stick to the schedule, especially as I was behind my plan for much of the time.

When I was younger I might have been too worried about the schedule to enjoy the experience or listen to my body’s needs and be kind to myself.

I think it was an advantage too in that it surprised many people on the towpath or in narrow boats that I was going so far & picking up litter too at my age. It made it seem more possible that they might enjoy something like this and so I had lots of lovely conversations with people, especially women, about how they could learn how to SUP too!

 

What would you say to those people who think that adventures are for the young?

I would say that you’re never too old to do something wild like this and it’s never too late to make a difference. If they are unsure about their ability or experience, then start small. A hike, long bike ride or take a SUP lesson. Start before you feel completely ready and keep it simple.

We all have so many responsibilities in our 50s so sometimes it can feel a huge hurdle to set aside the time for ourselves. However, you will find it worthwhile and will feel better for it. Maybe invite others to join you and if you have a purpose, like fundraising or looking after the environment, it can make a big difference to your motivation.

 

It feels like you’ve well and truly got the adventure bug. So, what’s next?

No 1: we – my friend Frit Sarita Tam & I – are making a short film about the adventure, so we are working on that for film festivals and talks.
No 2: I will go back to some of the worst areas for plastic pollution and really make a difference. A few people have offered to join me which is brilliant.
No 3: I’m thinking of training to be a paddleboard instructor alongside my day job so I can share the joy & sense of well-being it brings.
No 4: I have an idea for 2020! It would mean a whole new level of organisation, support and fitness! If I start now, I think I might just make it happen tho.

And of course, I’ll keep on picking up litter and talking about reducing our single use plastic!

 

Thanks so much to Jo for taking the time to chat with us so soon after her adventure. You can find Jo on Twitter and Instagram and the links to her fundraising pages are here.