Words: Jo Hamilton-Vale
Pics: Pete Vale, Helen Dennison
SUPM caught up with JHV after getting some much needed shut eye post 24 hour distance World Record attempt. Here’s what she had to say.
- Tell us about the background of your new World Record – what you made you want to step up and tackle such a mammoth distance?. After competing in the 11 Cities SUP events since 2013 I decided in early 2016 I wanted to make an attempt as soon as possible at the SUP World Record for the greatest distance over 24 hours. Unfortunately I caught a parasite during the 2016 Yukon River Quest which postponed my training so I then made a decision to do it early 2017. In January I read about a young male fitness trainer who was about to make at attempt on the men’s record with a 17’6” board, so I decided to delay my attempt again as I was curious to see what the record could be. I wanted to see if I could possibly beat his record on my standard Naish 14’ Javelin board.
- What’re the officially recorded stats now it’s all done and dusted? After 24 hours of paddling I managed to raise the distance to 179.99km. I would like to point out that this was the lowest reading of my 3 GPS recorders and lower than the surveyed route, so depending which method Guinness World Records accepts it may be slightly more. But whichever is accepted my 179.99km beats both the male and female records.
- Anything particularly gruelling, or was it just all that way? Of the 24 hours of paddling, the first 13 hours were good. I was pacing above what I had planned, everything was on target and then sickness hit me. I believe I suffer from motion sickness on the water after about 12 hours. I thought it was my food making me ill but I have been adjusting this with no luck so I now think it may be motion sickness. The second half of the attempt was a battle with my head to keep myself eating whilst feeling so nauseous – my strength disappearing and pacing slow. Also as the canal has no flow it was full of debris. My Black Project Maliko fin is always great with weed but the canal was so messy I had trouble shaking this from the fin sometimes. I found it soul destroying catching weeds, branches and even a dead rabbit. Now and again I had to paddle backwards to clear my fin. Watching my speed drop to zero really sapped my mental strength.
- Why ultra-distance? What appeals about this kind of paddling? My biggest role model and inspiration in SUP paddling has been Bart de Zwart since the day I met him. I think that he helped lead me down the ultra-endurance path. I have done the short racing thing for three years and raced many times in the UK and internationally with some success. I wasn’t keen on the way I was beginning to feel before an event, wishing failure on my competition, so I had a serious choice to make last year – stop paddling or find a new discipline. The support from other ultra-endurance competitors is awesome. Everybody suffers, everyone is breaking their body down, dealing with serious mental pain and having to fight the desire to stop. There is a respect and pride from all the other paddlers in the race for everyone who puts themselves on the start line. It takes a tough person to know they are going to feel so much pain but they are willing to challenge and endure it, time after time.
- Any plans for further mileage, if so, can you divulge information? For 2017 I am back in the Yukon for a 750km race in June, for fun I will be racing around Jersey with some of my great friends, and I will also do my 5th 11 City Tour and once again non-stop. This 11 City Tour will be pretty special as I am the sighted guide for blind paddler, Dean Dunbar. I believe crossing that finish line will be extremely emotional for both of us. I will finish my year with the Great Glen Paddle, non-stop across Scotland as part of the UK SUP endurance series and then hopefully off to Australia for a 400km race. I was not that happy with my mileage in the World Record attempt and I may give it another go as I now know where I lost distance. I have several other things planned but these are less than 50km events so just a bit of fun.
- Switching tack, how do manage your marathon paddles with UK SUP Club stuff? Ha-ha! With great difficulty. Last year on the eve of a 540km race, which took me 61 hour straight, I had UK SUP event organisers asking me to complete spreadsheets, updates on rules and answer numerous questions when I should have been sleeping and preparing for my race. I have had no break from UK SUP for over three years and have spent at least two days a week working on it voluntary. I feel running UK SUP has hindered my progression as a paddler in numerous ways so this year we have recruited three new volunteers. After the first of the National Series Races in Lake Bala I will be handing the National Series over to them, and I am hoping this will allow me to focus on my own racing and the (new for this year) UK SUP Endurance Series.
- Anything different on the agenda for 2017’s season of UK racing? This year UK SUP is once again running the only SUP National Race Series in the UK which will be the 4th consecutive year of doing this, and UK SUP for 2017 has added three ultra-endurance races, The Thames Ultra (55km), Norfolk Broads Ultra (80km) – which is over two days – and the Great Glen (92km). At UK SUP we felt the people who had been paddling for a while in the series wanted something more.
- And what about entrants? Got any prospective forecasts for attendees? SUP racing, is after all, continuing to grow. The Thames Ultra and the Great Glen sold out within a week and we have 20 places left in Norfolk Broads Ultra. For the less experienced distance paddlers we have offered to run any of the routes in a relay format with the distance each paddler in the team completes to be their own choice. By doing this we feel we are being inclusive to all paddlers and hopefully opening up the challenge of ultra-distance to some people who would otherwise not try such an event. The Norfolk Broads Ultra is the perfect warm-up for the 11 Cities race as we are holding it over 2 days so paddlers will be able to get a taste of what the 11 Cities event is like. For this event you can also do a day only stage so UK SUP are trying hard to include everybody who wants a SUP challenge.
- What are you most looking forward to during the coming months? Travelling for the next few months – Hawaii, California, Missouri and Canada. The role I am most proud of is Global Ambassador for Standup for the Cure. As a breast cancer survivor who has had an exciting and adventurous life after this destructive disease I aim to inspire people to keep fighting through the tough times. We have the SUFTC flagship event in California on 6th May, where the aim is to break the $1 million pound donations mark. It is also an event that has the Worlds Largest number of paddlers on the water at one time – all wearing something pink which is a sight to see!
- Any final shouts and thanks? My support team! They have been in on this for months and were the back bone to the attempt: Pete Vale, Ali Pereira, Mark May, Allistair Swinsco, Alison Rennie, Mark Price, Helen Denninson, Charlotte Barber, Tony Bain and Dave Mistry Pain. These guys made sure everything was filmed, timed, documented, witnessed and Pete managed me for the paddle. They all went with no sleep, virtually no food and kept my spirits high. I owe them a lot and I would do anything for anyone of these guys. I must thank Robby and Michi from Naish International and Alex from Naish UK for getting me a board within a week of asking for it. One of the strict Guinness rulings was I must use a commercial, production SUP board. Most of my boards have been custom shaped for me, despite them being a commercial brand and I was unable to use any of them. Suunto and Velocitek kept me on top of the numbers, Red Bull kept me functioning in the early hours, the crew at Quickblade for helping me so much with my paddles. I paddled the entire 24 hours with my very first Quickblade paddle from three years ago. It will be a tough day if something ever happens to that paddle. Chris from Black Project Fins has supported me from my first year of paddling and my Pro Carbon Maliko fin enabled me to keep straighter with less changes. Dador Dry Water Wear made me the most awesome dry suit which was a huge help as it kept me training through the winter. Some training sessions were so cold my warm-up was a lap of the canal breaking ice to allow me to paddle. The World Record belongs to all of us.
Mark Price runs SALTWALK and the TRENT100. He has a background in Sport Science and Performance Analytics and was part of JHV’s team.
‘To prepare and then execute this kind of endurance challenge takes vision, dedication, courage, a good team and the self-belief that when it gets tough. Believe me it got tough! But Jo wouldn’t quit, would dig deep and push on to achieve her dream. I’ve supported her through success in the toughest race in the world – the MR340 – so I knew she could do it. This was, however, very different to any race which made this in many ways a much harder mental game. Jo pitted herself against two imaginary foes, the female and male record holders and won. This is an awesome achievement. The team Jo pulled together to support her ran, biked, analysed, fuelled, motivated and ultimately shared an incredible 24 hours that will be hard to beat. That is until the next time our phone rings and we see Jo is calling with another crazy idea!’