The ground-breaking global Paddle For The Planet project will celebrate its fifth anniversary when the world-wide paddling relay in support of ocean and river environmental awareness takes place on 6 June.
From its roots as an annual drive by surfski paddlers to highlight threats to key ocean reserves, the programme has expanded to include a variety of different paddle disciplines and extends to all waterways used by paddlers, from dams, canals, and river to oceans around the world.
The project dovetails with the World Environment Day on Friday 5 June, the day before the global Paddle For The Planet relay.
Now formally back by the International Canoe Federation (ICF), the project aims to expand in 2015 and will hopes to include dragonboat paddlers around the world, through the International Dragonboat Federation, as well as the burgeoning discipline of Stand Up Paddleboarding.
World and European K1 Men 500m Champion Anders Gustafsson, who heads up the ICF Athletes Committee, urged paddlers to unite around the Paddle For The Planet programme.
”When paddling I make a connection with the surrounding water, millions of paddle strokes forms a unique bond,” said Gustaffson.
“Conservations of water and marine life worldwide is as important as it is natural to support. The need of clean water and the health of our oceans and the life within is not a luxury but a necessity and as natural for me to support as my need for clean drinking water,” Gustafsson added.
Since the 2015 awareness programme started, expressions of support have come from the USA, Australia, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
In 2014 32 different nations took part in the programme, which aims to primarily raise awareness of threats to regional waterways, as well as raise funds to assist with combating these threats.
Just as importantly for the participants, the project creates a globally synchronised relay that creates a unique bond between athletes across different disciplines and different time zones around the world.
Strongly driven by the global surfski community, the 2015 Paddle For The Planet global hubs will include, California, Fish Hoek, Durban, Sydney, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Cebu, Manila and Boracay.
Fundraising in South Africa will channel money towards the Dusi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), currently working at rehabilitating rivers and estuaries in KwaZulu-Natal.
Paddlers are invited to organise their own groups to paddle in solidarity with the Paddle For The Planet programme on the day and submit details via the Facebook page.
Each group is invited to post images and comments on their involvement on the Paddle For The Planet Facebook page www.facebook.com/paddlefortheplanet.
“The promotion of conservation of water conditions across the globe is exceptionally important ,” said International Canoe Federation president José Perurena, who is also an IOC Member.
“This project is fantastic way to increase awareness of how paddlers worldwide can help to continue to improve water conditions.”
More information can be found at www.paddlefortheplanet.org