On May 18th, Lizzie Carr became the first woman to cross the English Channel on a Stand-Up Paddle board. The Briton paddled for over 7 hours before reaching Boulogne (France). Deeply involved in environmental work, Lizzie made use of the journey to identify the largest pieces of plastic she encountered along the way. Lizzie has big plans to help improve ocean cleanliness via stand-up paddle.
Hello Lizzie, what is your SUP background?
I first started paddle boarding about three years ago, shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer, as a low impact way or restoring my strength and fitness. It’s great exercise but I also found it to be very meditate and relaxing and was hooked immediately.
Last year I took on my first endurance challenge – I paddle boarded 400 miles (657km) – the length of England’s waterways from south to north- to raise awareness of inland plastic pollution.
That marked the launch of #PlasticPatrol, my nationwide campaign to rid our waterways of plastic, which has since evolved and is what led me to take on my most recent challenge, the Channel crossing.
Why did you take on this challenge?
It was a natural next step both in terms of the physical challenge but also for my environmental campaigning. During the 400-mile expedition I photographed and geo-tagged every piece of plastic I encountered and plotted it on an interactive map.
The visual overview helped me to identify hotspots around the country which I later revisited and cleaned up. I retrieved more than 1000 plastic bottles from our canals in just seven hours! It’s a small dent in a huge problem, but every piece of plastic we remove from our waterways is a victory.
For the Channel crossing I continued with the #PlasticPatrol efforts by plotting the bigger pieces of plastic I saw (and unfortunately there was a fair bit) but I also used the journey to collect water samples for micro plastic and micro bead analysis.
This element helped forge the connection between the larger pieces of single use plastic we consume and discard of (often ended up in the waterways) and what these eventually erode into, and where they go.
It’s the micro plastics that are particularly harmful to our marine species and, ultimately, human health so it’s important to continue highlighting people on this issue and offering tangible solutions they can easily integrate into their lives to help combat it.
What were the conditions like?
It was a real mixed bag full of both rain and sun, placid waters and choppy seas as well as gusty crosswinds and gentle tail winds. The very nature of the open water is that it’s unpredictable and changeable, and I certainly experienced that.
You are actively involved in ocean cleaning. Can you describe your actions concerning plastic pollution?
I am hugely passionate about campaigning to protect our waterways and oceans. Not only are they our playgrounds but the impact plastic is having on marine species is just devastating, so it’s also about protecting the wildlife that can’t protect themselves.
What is your next challenge?
This summer I’m staging a series of #plasticpatrol clean ups in 14 locations across the UK. People can register on www.plasticpatrol.co.uk and either join me on their own boards or come and borrow one of the boards I’ll be bringing with me. I’ll be supplying litter picks so the idea is a day of paddling and picking up plastics, getting active with a cause.
I’ve also just launched the Plastic Patrol app (available for IoS in the app store now) so anyone unable to attend the clean-ups can still contribute.
It’s designed to be used anywhere in the world and the idea is that people photograph the plastic they find/collect in our waterways/beaches or even mountains so we can start to build what is essentially a heat map of the issue, and anyone that posts their finds on social media using the hashtag will find it pulls into the global map too.
Crowdsourcing this data globally is a united and powerful way to campaign and lobby for change. We live in an age where people can rally together for a common cause through technology and really instigate change, so by harnessing this and channeling it into a single campaign we have a strong voice to drive action!
Find out more on her blog