A highly qualified Outdoor Hero, and photographer of awe-inspiring outdoor scenes, Bren Whelan has climbed all over the world, but still prefers his Donegal base. A fully qualified ski instructor, dive master and International Mountain Leader, Bren is a true adventurer who helps to inspire anyone who wants to get involved in the outdoors. He also regularly competes in Triathlon and Ironman events.
Read on to find out more.
Plastic pollution is the single biggest environmental catastrophe affecting our planet today. And the worst part, we’re responsible. Plastic is an entirely manmade material so every single piece you see littering the planet is a direct result of our actions. A staggering 80% of marine debris comes from inland sources – including our canals and rivers. Plastic not only impacts the health and wellbeing of wildlife and marine species, but research has also shown that it’s also filtering up to the human food chain. The consequence? There are huge implications on our own health.
That’s why Lizzie started the #PlasticPatrol initiative, with the mission to combat the global plastic crisis by stopping the problem at its source – in our waterways. This nationwide campaign is cleaning up our canals and rivers of plastic pollution, and engaging with people on the issue through adventure and nature, helping to safeguard our seas for the future.
To find out more about the #PlasticPatrol campaign, click here.
The Wild Atlantic Way
“As the paddleboard rides the water and the blue sky meets blue sea, an expanse of nothingness lies ahead. For the first time, suddenly, I realise I can see no land at all. I felt isolated, alone and devoid of direction. It's 10am and I’m five miles off the English coast. But I’ve got 19 miles still to go, so I dip my paddle into the water and push ahead.”
In 2017, Lizzie became the first woman to standup paddleboard, solo, across the English Channel. It is 24 miles of unpredictable open ocean – strong currents, choppy waters, and relentless winds, all while navigating the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Yet, this wasn’t just a world-record breaking adventure, there was something bigger at play. Lizzie spent her journey taking water samples and charting pollution that she saw along the way, showing how big the impact of plastic marine debris is – and just why #PlasticPatrol is important.
Although its been around in some form or other for over 3000 years, standup paddleboarding's modern popularity started when surfers in Hawaii began using paddles to propel themselves. Now it's one of the fastest growing watersports in the UK, with people of all ages and abilities enjoying taking to canals, rivers, lakes and coastal waters to for a relaxing paddle.
Not only is it a great way to get outdoors, and experience nature, but it is also a full body workout. A few hours spent on the water can significantly improve your core strength, cardio fitness and balance, with the benefits increasing the harder you work. For a challenge, try SUP yoga.
Taking inspiration from Lizzie, the Trekmates team gave the sport a go getting out on to Derwentwater up in Keswick, and we found it to be very forgiving for beginners. We also found out that Derwentwater doesn't taste particularly great - but that's a story for another day.
See below for three of our essential paddleboarding accessories, or check out the full range right now by clicking here.
Ideal for drying off and changing under after a long day on (or in) the water, even if it's raining; this super-absorbent hooded poncho towel has a weatherproof outer fabric to keep you dry, and anti-microbial terry towel inner to help you dry off before the journey home.
For shorter adventures, try our lightweight, waterproof day pack with the same robust roll-top closure we use on our dry bags. With loads of room for your gear, and a durable waterproof outer, it's perfect for keeping your stuff dry while you're island hopping.
After her epic paddle across the Channel, and seeing the extent of the problem across the waterways of England, Lizzie decided to take the fight against plastic pollution to our rivers and canals, starting her #PlasticPatrol mission with events all over the country. The Trekmates team joined up with her for an afternnon of canal clean up just outside of Nottingham, to get a taste of the mission - and not a taste of the canal.
We saw just a small amount of this during our afternoon on the canals outside of Nottingham. Cans, bags, wrappers and much larger items have negligently been dumped into the water by people who are there supposedly to enjoy the outdoors. By the end of the afternoon the waters in our stretch were relatively clean of litter, however there is so much more to be done – particularly as it isn’t the countryside waters that are the biggest issue. The closer you get in towards the city centres, the bigger the problem becomes.
The problem is big, which is why these events alone are not enough - that's why Lizzie has launched the free #PlasticPatrol App (available on android and IOS) for people to plot plastic they find to paint a picture of problem areas and where resource is needed for clean ups. And it’s a global app so people can share findings from all over the world. All the results will then be populated on the first and only global interactive mapping system for plastic pollution.
Read more about Plastic Patrol above, and find out how you can get involved.
A healthy world ocean is critical to our survival. Every year, World Oceans Day provides a unique opportunity to honour, help protect and conserve the world’s oceans. Given how important our oceans are, it is amazing to think that more isn’t being done to protect them. As Jacques Cousteau – the pioneering marine conservation – said: “water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans”.
Plastic debris is the number one source of pollution in the world’s oceans. It never completely degrades, and instead breaks down into successively smaller pieces that attract more debris. Seen as food by most marine life, and absorbing toxic chemicals from ocean pollution, it poses a significant health risk to a huge variety of sea creatures and to the whole marine ecosystem.According to the Ocean Project: “Plastic pollution poses a threat to human health, kills and harms marine life, damages and alters habitats, and can have substantial negative impacts on local economies.”
That is why the work of Lizzie Carr, looking to tackle the issue from the root of its problem and then lobby the powers that be - through detailed research and analysis to identify trends, hot spots and pressure points - will allow us to make real and immediate change.
Leave No Trace
In 2016, Lizzie started her Plastic Patrol and SUP adventure with the Super SUP England challenge.
It involved paddle boarding the length of England via its connected waterways, using entirely human powered means - a distance of 650km (400 miles) over 3 weeks. Starting from the most southerly point of the connected network (River Wey) up to the most northerly – (Lancaster Canal), carrying all supplies, including a tent for camping, on the board adding a further 30kg to the load.
During that 22 day challenge she photographed and location-tagged every single piece of plastic sighted along the route, and then uploaded them onto a map to scale the findings and locate the problem areas across our waterways. As you might expect, the more densely populated areas (in and out of major towns and cities) had the most plastic, but there were some areas more severely polluted, and spanned over longer stretches of waterways, than others; the four areas that stood out the most were: Coventry, Tamworth, Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester.
This is where Plastic Patrol was born. They say every journey starts with a single step, so it seems fitting that a journey as monumentally huge as cleaning up our waterways started with a step large enough to bound the country. Since this adventure, Lizzie has gone on to take Plastic Patrol to national attention, and influence people all over the world to do their bit to clean up the plastic around them.
Read more about Lizzie's journey on her awesome blog Lizzie Outside.