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Paddleboarder attempts 'treacherous' 100km Moray Firth crossing to Wick

By David G Scott

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After last Saturday's treacherous weather conditions around the Caithness coast a stand up paddleboarder (Sup) will be trying to complete the first ever Sup crossing of the Moray Firth this weekend.

Charlie Head has pushed himself to undertake a series of extreme challenges, solo and unsupported, and the latest mission will call on all his mental strength and physical attributes to make the journey from 100km Fraserburgh to Wick on Saturday.

Charlie is dwarfed by the open sea as he prepares for one of his most arduous challenges this weekend.
Charlie is dwarfed by the open sea as he prepares for one of his most arduous challenges this weekend.

Asked why he has this crossing in his sight, Charlie channels mountaineer George Mallory who famously replied to the question "Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?" with the retort "Because it's there".

He added: “Because it hasn’t been done, I’m driven to find my limits, and it’s meditative for me. You feel more alive out on the water – it’s about surviving, pushing yourself and seeing what you can achieve”

Charlie is also undertaking the trip to raise funds for mental health charity Dare2express and as a "social experiment" prompting strangers and communities coming together.

Charlie Head is raising money for a mental health charity.
Charlie Head is raising money for a mental health charity.

"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.

Last weekend's stormy weather has not perturbed Charlie who is in the process of contacting the coastguard and offshore wind farms located in the Moray Firth to inform them of his 100km journey to Wick on Saturday.

For safety reasons, he is seeking a pledge from a crew and escort vessel with AIS (Automatic Information System) for up to 24 hours. He recognises the safety benefits of securing an escort vessel for this marathon crossing to keep his position visible to tankers and other shipping traffic.

Charlie's stand up paddleboard and camping equipment.
Charlie's stand up paddleboard and camping equipment.

The Moray Firth crossing will be attempted in one go and Charlie hopes to arrive in Wick on Saturday evening, weather permitting.

This first of its kind attempt will challenge his physical and mental endurance, paddling continuously in open water for up to 24 hours.

“The physical challenge comes down to maths," he said. "It’s about keeping paddling, eating and resting in the right ratios and the ability to recognise any change in conditions or circumstances that jeopardise those ratios. Previous endurance challenges give me the experience to maintain a balance between fatigue, temperature and staying alert."

Since September 27, Charlie has paddled from Berwick upon Tweed to Fraserburgh and 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.

Despite his extensive experience and preparation, Charlie's challenges are rarely straightforward – he is hostage to the elements, equipment failure and the kindness of strangers.

He said: “I thrive in adversity more than I do in calmer waters. I'm not a masochist but I do enjoy exercising my ability to cope and solve problems so motivation isn't a big issue for me.”

To follow live progress of the journey and donate to his chosen mental health charity visit Charlie's website at www.charlieheadsup.com/

His Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/charlieheadSUP/

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