Wales

Epic paddleboard challenge to circumnavigate Wales

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Media captionPaddleboarding "a wonderful way to journey", says Sian Sykes

A woman is setting off on an epic journey to become the first to stand-up paddleboard around Wales.

Sian Sykes, from Anglesey, will use rivers and canals along the Welsh border, before emerging on the Severn Estuary and following the coast home.

She also wants to use the challenge to highlight the impact of pollution on the marine environment.

The journey will take her two months to complete, wild camping on riverbanks and coasts along the way.

"I did a challenge two years ago, where I was the first person to paddleboard around Anglesey, and that's where my idea for this was hatched," she said ahead of the challenge.

"I wanted to do something bigger - to really push myself. I love stand-up paddleboarding - I live and breathe it."

Paddleboarding is one of the fastest growing outdoor watersports in Britain, and the Anglesey paddler has her own business teaching others how to get about on the boards, and offering water safaris around the island.

Image caption Sian Sykes will spend two months on the paddle journey
Image caption On the Menai: Countryfile's Matt Baker is put through his paces

She was recently featured on BBC One's Countryfile, putting presenter Matt Baker through his paces on the Menai Strait.

"You have a bird's-eye view. You see jellyfish float past you, fish leaping out of the water, porpoise darting about, birds flying overhead and inquisitive seals can come up to you," she enthused.

"It's a wonderful way to reconnect with nature, and to go on a journey and explore areas you would never see on foot."

Connecting with nature is one of the main aims of the challenge for Sian and focusing on the damage caused by single-use disposable plastic.

"I see a lot of marine litter washed up on our beaches. It is a massive problem - and we need to make a change," she added.

"I'm going to highlight that on my trip, from showing from inland out to the sea - plastic pollution."

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As a conservationist campaigner she is behind the campaign to make Anglesey free of single-use plastic, which has been backed by the island's county council.

She is also raising funds along the way for the North Wales Wildlife Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, and the RNLI.

Image copyright Getty Images

She is putting her money where her mouth is - and is attempting the paddle using no disposable plastic herself.

"That has been a challenge in itself, trying to get all my food sorted for the trip."

Even more so as she is vegan - and she does not eat wheat either - so it is a menu of quinoa and dehydrated vegetables.

Her day-to-day progress will be monitored by an online tracker, which will pinpoint her position as she makes her way around Wales.

"I've got butterflies in my stomach, because I know of the challenging spots - I'm not going blind - I am prepared," she said.

"There will be times where I'll be, probably, in tears asking myself why did I decide to do this.

"But it's about pushing myself - pushing the comfort barriers."

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