Crossing Europe on a Plastic Bottle SUP: That’s Their Challenge

Carlos and Carolyn are a Brazilian/British couple who love sports and care deeply about the environment. They are both teachers with a passion for educating others about the problems of plastic pollution and encouraging people to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Thanks to that, they decided to cross Europe on a SUP to raise awareness about plastic pollution.

Carlos and Carolyn SUP

Carlos and Carolyn, can you introduce yourselves?

Carlos De Sousa: I’m Carlos, a qualified physical education teacher specialised in working with children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).  Born and bred in São Paulo, Brazil I have spend the last eleven years working in the UK, a country that I love despite the weather.

It was in London, where I first experienced paddle boarding. I completed my first marathon on the Thames, after only four sessions.  I love building things from recycled materials and after building my first paddle board out of plastic bottles, I came up with the idea to complete a marathon on a plastic bottle board to raise awareness of plastic pollution and to make SUP accessible to all.

Carolyn Newton: I’m Carolyn, a primary school teacher who set up The Whale Company in 2007 after learning that whales and other marine life were dying from plastic pollution in the ocean.  I am British but was born in South Africa and have lived all over the world; my adventurous spirit and passion for the ocean lead me to become a dive master and try many water sports.

Last year I tried paddle boarding for the first time at the ‘Paddle and Pick’ event in London, organised by Watertrek and Active 360.  I fell in love with it and want to encourage everyone to have a go.

Plastic Bottle SUP on the water 8

What is The Whale company?

The Whale Company is making beautiful organic bags & flip flops out of recycled tyres. The company has three objectives: to make sustainable products, to educate the next generation of ocean caretakers and to support marine conservation.

The Whalebags are beautiful organic cotton bags in a range of styles making the perfect alternatives to plastic bags.  Last year, with the support of From The Bow Seat, a US charity running ocean awareness programs and #OneLess, the campaign to make London free of single-use plastic water bottles, Carolyn ran an event aboard the Arts Ark in Tower Bridge to help children create artwork inspired by the problems of plastic pollution in rivers and the ocean.

We are now embarking on a new project; the SUP marathon expedition to teach others how to build plastic bottle boards.

Can you tell us about your project of 12 Marathons across Europe?

Commencing on World Oceans Day, 8 June 2017, we will paddle 12 marathons across Europe on Stand Up Paddle boards made of plastic bottles; and in every location they will teach the local community how to build plastic bottle boards to raise awareness of the problems of plastic pollution in the ocean and to make SUP affordable for all.

Why did you choose to do it on a SUP?

Following the Paddle and Pick event we became volunteers for Watertrek. As teachers and sports lovers, we felt aligned with Watertrek’s values and our desire to inspire children and adults to participate in SUP, a beautiful sport that allows people to experience the joy of walking on water, whilst connecting to nature.

Through SUP, Watertrek aims to bring people together to look after the environment. Sadly, when you paddle, it won’t be too long before you see plastic and other pollution floating in the water.  The impact has a lasting effect and will make you want to do something about it.

Plastic Bottle SUP on the water 13

Inspired by this, we built our first paddle board out of plastic bottles in March in Brazil. We took the board to Prainha Beach, Caraguatatuba, São Paulo for its first trip on the water; even without a fin, the board was stable and incredibly easy to manoeuver.

Local SUP instructors came over to have a go and before long a little crowd had gathered around. Many people were able to experience SUP for the first time. The board also sparked interesting conversations about the issues of plastic pollution; it was a very rewarding experience and the inspiration for the sup marathon expedition.

Plastic Bottle SUP on the water 9

How can people help you to achieve your objective?

We are still finalising our route across Europe. So if you are a SUP club somewhere in Europe, we would like your support and local knowledge to help us to decide the best routes.
We also need financial support to complete this big challenge. This is the first expedition of its kind and provides unique sponsorship opportunities.

You can find more information on the website and help them to reach their goal by making a donation 

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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