Words: Cal Major Photos: James Appleton
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy watching the series we made about the expedition! Scotland Ocean Nation is available to stream for free on: https://player.stv.tv/summary/reelsoul-scotland-ocean-nation
Almost two years ago, I pushed off from the banks of the River Clyde in the centre of Glasgow to stand-up paddleboard around my favourite country in the world – Scotland. After two solid years of work, the film series we made about the expedition is now available to stream for free on STV Player. Getting here has been quite a journey, and we’re excited to share it!
The film series, Scotland Ocean Nation, is full of adventure, and exploration, both of Scotland’s waters above and below the surface and into how we connect with our ocean.
Over ten weeks, I paddled day and night to cover the 1200km from the centre of Glasgow, up the stunning west coast, around the indomitable roof of Scotland, and back down the beautiful east coast to the last harbour in Scotland. Before starting the journey, I had a reasonably clear picture of how I imagined the expedition to be… the reality was wildly different!
For a start, filming the expedition was way more challenging than we’d anticipated. I love making films and being able to share stories this way. But with the remoteness and logistics of an expedition like this, we needed a very small film crew – namely myself on a SUP and my partner, James, on a kayak. So we had our work cut out! James is extraordinarily multi-talented, acting as the cameraman, underwater photographer, drone pilot, sound technician and director while ensuring his kit was always safe and charged, and everything backed up.
took on my own series of roles. Behind the scenes, there was a lot of organisation – both the logistics of the paddling and arranging interviews and meet-ups. We were each playing the part of multiple people while trying to capture as much as we could on camera and paddling for up to 16 hours a day! It was full-on, but this was reflected in the epic encounters we had the great privilege to experience.
We had hoped to bring some of Scotland’s world-class wildlife to viewers at home, both above and below the surface – to inspire awe at our incredible natural world. I could never have imagined the amount of wildlife we would see. Above the surface, we encountered huge flocks of nesting seabirds, pods of enormous dolphins, sea eagles, otters and orca. Below the waves, we swam through vast seagrass meadows fighting climate change, kelp forests harbouring heaps of life and Scotland’s equivalent of coral reefs. I was absolutely amazed by our dives and snorkels, having not realised that there was such wonder to behold in the British Isles. We also wanted to highlight what’s happening to this incredible wildlife and nature, especially what is often out of sight and out of mind in the ocean’s dark depths.
Damage and horrors
Our eyes were opened by the people we met around the coast and the stories they told us about what they had seen happening, especially the damage that bottom-towed gear can do to fragile habitats like the ones mentioned above. But we also encountered our own horrors: A humpback whale calf entangled in fishing rope, a gannet with barbed hooks stuck in its feet and remote islands piled high with waste from fish farms. It was an illuminating journey, and our duty to communicate what we saw to folks at home felt very real and urgent.
I also hadn’t envisaged being quite so impacted by the people we met. We worked hard to meet up with, and hear from, Scotland’s Ocean People from all walks of life around the coast. This meant deep and meaningful conversations with artists, spending days on fishing boats with fishers, visiting universities to talk to scientists, and spending time with trauma survivors, all of whom have their own connection to the ocean. It was both fascinating, warming and heart-wrenching to hear these wonderful people’s stories, and I am very grateful to them for sharing their powerful insights.
Stokes my fires
I also learnt a lot, spending all that time out at sea. I love adventure, and how it can immerse me into an environment I might otherwise not explore. I find that hours out to sea on my SUP are phenomenally powerful for my well-being and sense of both spaciousness and connection to something bigger than what I find myself engaged in ‘normal’ daily life. It fills me with passion and stokes my fires to protect the incredible places and wildlife I feel so grateful to find myself amongst.
I’m delighted to be able to share our film series in the hope that it helps to inspire others to care too. I hope you enjoy the adventure, are inspired by the beautiful humans we meet and their raw and powerful connections to our magnificent ocean and are wowed by the incredible nature we have right here on our doorstep.
I hope you get the sense that we all have the power to stand up for that nature, too, because it’s not just there for those living by the coast – wherever we live, we’re all intrinsically connected to our beautiful living ocean. Thank you for reading, and I really hope you enjoy the series!