Paddleboard challenge highlights pollution
The annual Devil’s Isle Paddle Board Challenge is coming back to Bermuda with the aim of helping highlight plastic pollution in the ocean.
In a test of endurance, participants will paddleboard 40 miles around the island, launching from Snorkel Park. It is anticipated that the race could take between six and 13 hours.
The event aims to raise funds for the educational component, the SUP’r Kids Paddling Programme, which is also making a return, giving schoolchildren the chance to learn the sport while gaining an understanding of the importance of ocean conservation.
Christian Shaw and Gordon Middleton of Plastic Tides, which organises the event, spoke about the hope of expanding paddleboarding to all public schoolchildren in Bermuda within the next five years.
Dalton E Tucker Primary School was the first school to benefit from the paddleboard scheme, fitting the environmental bill as a member of one of Greenrock’s Eco Schools.
The school’s deputy principal, Shanda Simmons said her students were “ecstatic” to take part in the paddleboard sessions that took place at 9 Beaches and more recently in Hungry Bay.
Mr Middleton told The Royal Gazette: “Getting the children programme up and running was really rewarding and the energy was all going in the right direction. We are planning to run some sessions in advance of the Devil’s Isle’s Challenge and the goal for this year’s fundraising is to hire a full-time programme manager so that we can start to get a much more consistent flow of children to the programme, co-ordinating with the different schools. We will have someone on the island who is 100 per cent dedicated to the children programme.”
Mr Shaw added: “Kids should be excited about this programme because paddleboarding is a really amazing way to engage with the ocean environment and it is very accessible — 20 per cent of the children that we work with cannot swim.
“So they can enjoy more comfortable access and transition into the water. You can stand up on a board, you can see turtles and tons of fish and so it is a really good way to engage in that environment in a fun and safe way.
“Environmental education and stewardship is the underlying theme throughout. We are out there in the mangroves doing trash clean-ups, talking about plastic.
“It is not just to come and paddleboard but it is paddling with a purpose and connecting through water sports and the environmental component.” Ms Simmons said that after introducing students to Plastic Tides and the work that they do, Mr Shaw and Mr Middleton took them on a paddleboarding expedition that taught them about keeping the ocean and water ways clean.
She recalled: “The children loved it, everybody wanted to do paddleboarding. This school year they took them to Hungry Bay into the mangroves and tried to get debris that wasn’t supposed to be in the water. They talked about how the tide washes in the debris and how people throw their rubbish into the sea.
“The children were ecstatic and really took to the paddleboarding. They were intrigued to learn how to balance, how to row properly and it was wonderful exercise — it was an activity that they would not probably under normal circumstances get to do.”
Ms Simmons said they also enjoyed learning about conservation.
“I have two P4 students, Isaiah Williams and Akira Woods. Isaiah really enjoyed learning how to paddleboard and learning that if they want to have fun in the water they need to take care of it. Keeping plastics and other waste out of the water will make it a better place for humans and animal life.
“Akira picked up the paddleboarding almost instantaneously and said it was lots of fun. She said she learnt the importance of keeping chemicals and other poisons and pollutants out of the water.
“It is not just for us to have fun in but very important for the animal life to have a clean place to live.
“They got a greater appreciation of the ocean and we have to be able to sustain that.”
The Devil’s Isle Challenge, taking place from May 4 to 7, will attract local and overseas paddleboarders who can form teams of up to eight to paddle around Bermuda, vying for the top spot. Every paddleboarder is asked to raise a minimum of $500 which will go towards the children’ programme.
• Visit devilsislechallenge.com for all the details
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