Extreme paddle boarder completes gruelling 24hour journey
After enduring over 24 hours standing on a board and paddling through the night across the cold choppy Moray Firth, Charlie Head made it to Wick harbour early yesterday afternoon.
41-year-old charlie has pushed himself to undertake a series of extreme challenges, solo and unsupported, and the latest mission called on all his mental strength and physical attributes to make the 100km journey from Rosehearty to Wick.
Some locals who had followed social media updates on his journey, were dotted along the coastline on the south side of Wick Bay just after 1pm when one man and his stand up paddleboard (Sup) finally came into view.
Opposite the Trinkie, Charlie would disappear momentarily in troughs of the waves before reappearing eventually – a tiny figure within the great expanse of sea surrounding him and looking very vulnerable.
This first of its kind attempt challenged his physical and mental endurance as he had to paddle continuously in open water for 24 hours.
A spokesperson from his team of supporters based on the Isle of Wight said she had lost phone reception with Charlie about 30km offshore when he set off on Saturday afternoon. "All we could do was watch his tracker as he updated his position manually every hour or so," she said.
"We knew Charlie was prepared, well equipped and trusted his judgement implicitly but it doesn’t stop you wondering how many orcas are coming to say hello."
The journey began at the small village of Rosehearty near Fraserburgh 24 hours before when Charlie set off on his Sup with a great turnout of local people applauding and wishing him a bon voyage.
The previous Saturday's seas had been treacherous but the forecast for the weekend was much more clement for him to do the first ever Sup crossing of the Moray Firth.
Charlie is undertaking the trip as a way of tackling his mental health issues, to raise funds for the charity Dare2express and also as a "social experiment" prompting strangers and communities to come together.
He said: "Living and coping with mental illness is emotionally darker and colder than the North Sea could ever be. A 24-hour winter crossing is part of the challenge – it’s me fighting back and a testament to my belief in people and community being worth the physical discomfort.”
The 41-year-old seasoned explorer and endurance athlete is paddling his way round the entire Scottish coast, relying on the kindness of strangers and local communities.
As he finally made his way into the mouth of Wick harbour, a seal was sighted following him in and cheers arose from local people who had assembled on the south pier.
Finally, after almost a full day at sea on a 10-foot board and through pitch black night, Charlie finally got his feet on the boardwalk of the inner harbour's marina. Coastguard man Phil Boardman gave a helping hand as Charlie's legs almost gave way at one point but he soon recovered his balance and made his way to the harbour quayside – Phil and his wife had also invited him to stay with them until he feels fit enough to tackle the next leg to John O'Groats in a few days.
"As soon as I hit the dock my legs were wobbling all over the place," said Charlie. "I've had lots of wonderful support from the communities which is amazing and that makes everything worthwhile."
Charlie said he has done England and Wales on the board already and is journeying around Scotland anticlockwise to finish up at Gretna Green.
Describing his 24-hour endurance at sea, he said: "The main thing was to keep my attention and stay clear of tankers. I heard the odd blowhole sound from a dolphin but nothing much else."
He also went on to talk about the mental health issues he has experienced and how he has tackled them.
"Most of my problems have stemmed from childhood but I've come to terms with a lot of it and am not so bad now.
"There are a lot of people out there who can give you support. It's about community and being among kind hearts who are there for you."
Since September 27, Charlie has paddled from Berwick upon Tweed to Wick and said he has felt an "incredible amount of goodwill" from successive communities along the Scottish coastline who turned up to help, offering hot meals, access to power, repairs and shelter.
To follow live progress of the journey and donate to his chosen mental health charity visit Charlie's website at charlieheadsup.com
His Facebook page can be found at facebook.com/charlieheadSUP
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