Endurance Enhanced: Jamie Harman’s Great Glen Aventure with Red Paddle Co

Today, we delve into Jamie Harman‘s remarkable experience of the 2023 Great Glen Challenge, Scotland’s grueling 90K – two-day paddle race across some of the most notorious Scottish Lochs. From his roots in water sports to his role as UK Sales Manager at Red Paddle Co, Jamie’s passion for adventure shines through. Seeking to break free from his comfort zone, he embraced the challenge of racing his first-ever ultra long distance race, finding inspiration in pushing his physical and mental limits. With captivating anecdotes, Jamie embarked on creating a compelling video documentary, recounting the highs and lows of the race, including navigating the iconic Loch Ness, and capturing the essence of his journey and the spirit of adventure. Jamie also sheds light on the Red Paddle Co’s Sport+ range highlighting features like the Rocker Stiffening System (RSS) and MSL 800 dropstitch material which played a pivotal role in his success.

Hello Jamie! Could you start by telling us about your sports background, experience in endurance paddling as well as your role at Red Paddle Co?

Hello Mathieu, of course! From a young age, I have always enjoyed being on the water surfing, windsurfing, and sailing. I joined Red Paddle Co in 2014, before joining Red I worked as a Watersports Instructor. My main role at Red Paddle Co is to head up UK sales. Having joined when it was just a small team, I have really enjoyed being involved in all areas at Red Paddle Co over the years. Over the last ten years, I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the UK race scene and every year, make sure I have some races on the calendar for the season. Having done a fair few races over short distances (10-20KM), I was really interested in taking on a longer distance endurance event. The Great Glen Challenge was my first step into an endurance event.

Why the Great Glen Challenge in particular?

I felt over the last couple of years I had been sitting within a fairly safe comfort zone with my sports… paddling conditions and distances I knew and had done for years. I was looking for a challenge that tested me physically and mentally. I was looking for a challenge that would be special, something I would remember for years to come, and one that would put a spark back in the fire for that sense of adventure. The desire to push myself to the edge of my comfort zone, was the ‘Call’ and for me the Great Glen Challenge delivered perfectly.

Could you share some highlights or memorable moments (good and bad) from your experience during the Great Glen Race?

Being my first endurance event, I learnt so much. I found it hard to find the right balance between racing and competition but not at all costs that I couldn’t complete the challenge, I did have to keep reminding myself completing the challenge was my ultimate goal. There were definitely times especially on day one when I got caught in full race mode and paddled too hard too early on in the challenge. A really hard point for me was actually halfway into day one after I had gone out too fast and was really struggling around the 30KM mark, I remember thinking I’ve got these cameras following me and I have totally blown it. I just zoned in on one paddle stroke at a time and found myself feeling better and building speed again towards the end of day one.

One of my most memorable parts of the challenge was paddling Loch Ness. Standing at the start of Loch Ness you can’t really see past halfway down the Loch and it is only after 3-4 hours of paddling you can start to make out what looks like two cardinal boat marks at the end of Loch Ness. Such a memorable part of the paddle was paddling for what felt like hours and these two cardinal markers not getting any bigger, not getting any clearer. You try to look at something else for a while and when you look back at them, they are still exactly the same size, and you are asking yourself how is this possible. Eventually, you do get closer, and it is such a great feeling getting to the mark you have been so focussed on for hours. The feeling of completing the challenge was really special and for me one of those special feelings you wish you could bottle up and keep.

What motivated you to create a documentary about your journey through the Great Glen Race, and what themes or messages did you aim to convey through it?

When I first thought of taking on the challenge, I never even thought about trying to capture it. When I signed up for the event it was something I thought I would do on my own for me personally. It was only in passing in the kitchen at Red when making a cup of tea I mentioned it to Stu who heads up creative content at Red, I said I had signed up for the Great Glen Challenge and Stu said it would be amazing if we could come get a few photos…. so, I thought yeah sure why not. A few weeks later Stu asked if they could get a short video of the trip… yeah ok, no worries. In all honestly even at this stage I didn’t really have a visual for how it would look. It was only during filming I started to open up a bit more on the main reasons why I signed up for the challenge in the first place and why I wanted to test myself physically and mentally, and the content for the documentary kind of all fell into place. The main part I wanted to get across was that challenge and adventure is unique and special to you. I thought even if my story helped inspire just one person to take on a challenge personal to them, I would be so happy, so stoked.

Watch The Call, A Red Paddle Co Film


How did the Red Paddle Co Sport+ board contribute to your success in the Great Glen Race, and what features of the board stood out to you during the challenge?

I was really pleased with how the board performed, for me at 28” wide this felt just right. On the flat canal sections I felt like I still had good glide and a good speed, then on the windy, more open lochs I felt like I had a nice stability.

At 28″ wide the 14’ Sport+ is wider than your average race board which gave me an amazing amount of confidence when in the middle of some of the lochs. The water is black, and you suddenly feel very small. Knowing I had the speed and stability allowed me to paddle with confidence even when my legs were tired, arms were burning, and back was cramping was a big help. If I had been on a narrower board, I think I would have potentially fallen in a few times using energy and would have really knocked my confidence. Paddling a board with Red’s new MSL 800 dropstitch material felt really nice – weighing in nearly 2KG lighter than our regular construction I was able to maintain faster average speeds for much longer distances compared with training sessions on our other models. Combining MSL 800 material with Red’s patented Rocker Stiffening System (RSS) meant the board felt incredibly rigid throughout.

As part of Red Paddle Co, what was your involvement in the development of the Sport+ range, and what sets these boards apart from others in the market?

At Red Paddle Co we have always had touring boards in the range and a race board, but I felt we were missing a board between our 30” wide Touring Voyager boards and 26” wide Elite race board. I was looking for a fast, long distance touring board, that excels in these longer distance paddle events but is also a board that is a pleasure to own for your day-to-day paddling, whether that be cruising up the river with friends to the local pub or catching some knee high running waves at the beach. For me, the 14’ Sport+ has become my go to board for almost all my paddling these days.

Red Paddle Co’s patented rocker stiffening system (RSS) makes the board feel incredibly rigid. Having a long parallel shape throughout the board and nice wide tail plays an important part for me in how I paddle. The parallel rails and volume in the tail gives me the confidence to constantly keep moving my feet and keep the board trimming well, even after 5 hours of paddling on Loch Ness. At Red Paddle Co we are so passionate about quality and attention detail, and this can be seen on every Red Paddle Co board. We are also constantly taking steps to improve every area of the business from product to packaging, through to people and planet.

Can you provide an overview of the full Sport+ range offered by Red Paddle Co, highlighting the different models and their specific features tailored for endurance paddling and other activities?

We have two boards in the Sport+ range – a 12’6” x 30 x 4.7” and a 14’ x 28” x 6”.

The 12’6 Sport+ board is a capable cruiser and crossover tourer. Performance- driven yet playful and practical. The 12’6 Sport+ is a board that feels really nice to paddle, the 4.7” thickness plays a huge part in this. Being 4.7” (120mm) rather than 6” (150mm) in thickness means you are lower, closer connected to the water, making it feel more stable and more responsive. The board is less affected from windage making it nicer to paddle and easier to manoeuvre. Being 4.7” means getting the board inflated is quicker and easier. Also, because it is made using Red’s MSL 800 material, the board is nice light to carry, weighing just 9.75 KG. Utilising Red Paddle Co’s Rocker Stiffening System (RSS) and MSL 800 Dropstitch material means the board remains incredibly rigid even at 4.7” in thickness on a 12’6” long board.

The new 14’0″ Sport+ inflatable board offers fast, long-distance touring and race-ready performance in a user-friendly shape. Efficiently slicing through the water, the board is a pacey tourer. At 28″ wide, the 14’0″ Sport+ blends impressive speed with easy stability, ideal for comfortably extending your adventures. Being really easy to travel and fly with has made it a lot easier to take part in new challenges and events further from home and it is also really nice knowing I can exit/enter the water at portages without the worry of damaging the board – especially when your arms are jelly.

Find out more about Red Paddle Co’s Sport+ range:
> 12’6″ Sport+ MSL Inflatable Paddle Board
> 14’0″ Sport+ MSL Inflatable Paddle Board

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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