Peter Charlesworth’s World Record: 99 days of unsupported paddling for heart health

“Say yes to more” resonates strongly as it not only applies to those seeking adventure or in pursuit of remarkable feats. It’s a simple yet powerful call to break the state of inertia that many, paradoxically, find themselves in today’s world fuelled by surplus of possibilities, constant connectivity and media overconsumption.

The author behind these words is Peter Charlesworth, Photographer, Writer, Adventurer and now the Guinness World Record Holder for the longest SUP journey in history (99 days and 2677.34km of unsupported paddling), based in Australia.

Peter’s Sup4Health2023 Expedition took him in June 2023 on a larger-than-life journey spanning the length of the Murray River in Australia and saw him circumnavigating the great lakes of Hume, Mulwala, Alexandrina and Albert, while raising awareness for cardiac health and fundraising for The Heart Foundation.

TotalSUP caught up with Peter to talk about ‘the why’ behind his achievement and creating that ripple effect for positive change.

Hi Peter, we’re in absolute awe of your story… 99 days, 2677.34km of unsupported paddling… Could you tell us a bit more about your watersport background and choosing a stand-up paddleboard to embark on this challenge?

Thanks! It feels like it was me in another lifetime, bizarre to look back on it as a part of my own life and experience. I’m just so grateful. I was always in the water as a kid. National level swimmer, then a Surf Life Saver, a Lifeguard and always surfed at every opportunity. I was an A-Grade surfboat rower for around ten years. Once I moved to Albury, New South Wales and was land-locked for a while I switched to windsurfing and then SUP.

The why – With ultra endurance expeditions and extreme SUP formats, we’re always trying to get to the bottom of the why, the drive to choose a tough path. What made you decide on the format and length of your SUP challenge?

The key driver for me was a pretty serious personal health crisis with an unexpected heart condition diagnosed in early 2020 that led to open heart surgery and a pretty serious rehab and recovery. I went through that process and was ‘shocked’ out of what I had been doing, which was the day-to-day ebb-and-flow of a fairly regular life that I had worked my way into.

With open heart surgery, I literally ‘bottomed-out’ physically and mentally. However I found myself actually loving the whole situation. Resigning myself to the surgery, the pain, and the journey back up the mountain. I loved it so much I just kept going on with the rehab process, incrementally moving from mobility and strength building for normal function, through to moderate levels of fitness, then into preparing myself to paddle marathon distances every day.

The process was, piece-by-piece, unlocking the best combination of rest, exercise, stress reduction & nutrition. To include what I could quantify as working, and then having the discipline to remove what wasn’t. My cardiologist says I am his dream patient. The physical training then blended with piecing my plan together for the expedition.

How did you find yourself upon the return? Was it difficult to get back to reality and everyday life?

With an unsupported 99 day expedition is you start out with all this great lightweight kit, new, fun and shiny. Everything works great, it feels like a holiday, and you figure out how to get the best out of everything inside the first say three weeks. I felt my body dial-in, calluses building, range of motion adapting to the workload, and dynamic recovery really kicked in. That is, I could take 5 to 10% effort off the top in say a high wind scenario and open a window to feel lactate reduce and my body respond well.

Flip that script to the last few weeks of the expedition, with the gear wearing out, sleeping bag wet, clothes dirty, sleeping pad deflating five times a night, some gear just failing outright and you genuinely feel grimy, tired and like you are homeless. I mean, you feel grimy right through, like an engine block that has been out in the open for too long.

In fitness terms, it was a linear decline from around day 70. From what felt was the same effort, exertion and exhaustion, but I was only seeing say 70% of the distances I was hitting early in the expedition. There were two days I didn’t use electrolytes in my hydration bladder and it nearly destroyed me, and nutrition was truly foundational to the trip overall – Shout out to Sponsor Radix Nutrition for the quality lightweight calories.

Which part of the journey did you find the most challenging and the most rewarding?

Over such a substantial all-immersive journey there was always going to be a range of challenges. I had 40C temps early in the trip – and had to jump in the water and wet myself down, lay down on my side and nap to reduce my heart rate. When it is that hot out on open water there are few places to hide), I had very swollen painful feet, leg nerve pain, had multiple problems in shallow rapids, I hit rocks, trees and snags leading to being thrown off in some dangerous sections. I even had a few Southern 80 Boats ripping past at 180km/h – it was great fun.

The big lakes at the end were a real eye-opener – massive open bodies of water 40km from bank to bank. I actually made a calculated decision to try and downwind through one of those lakes, to have the wind then unexpectedly kick up to 40 knot gusts after I was already committed. With a 150kg rig (dry-bags, board and me) in waist high white caps and my hip flexors cramping, I found myself 8km offshore with help only accessible via Emergency Position-Indicating Radiobeacon (EPIRB).

The lake I was on is only 4m deep, which translates to high-frequency chop, only 2-3m apart. So when the back of the 14foot board lifted on a run, the nose bogged in and the board yawed from side to side, fast…. Say a 30-40degree variance. I just could not keep it straight, at all. That meant the I had to calm myself and make some decisions to tone the situation down and handle it. I realised what I was capable of in working my way out of that situation.

Aside form those paddling experiences, it really was the people I bumped into along the way that made the trip incredible. Chance meetings on the water with paddlers, families, holiday makers, farm owners and so on. Just salt of the earth, beautiful people.

You wrote, “My hope is that this record, expedition, and message create some ripples”… This truly resonates in today’s world where we’re increasingly becoming numb from tech and media overconsumption. Could you tell us more about the vision behind your challenge?

I just want anyone and everyone to lean into their lives and the things they enjoy and lock in that adventure or challenge they always thought of doing. To say yes to more. When I had my health crisis I was faced with some decisions that have now lead to some pretty vibrant experiences and opportunities that I would have missed out on if I wasn’t forced to adapt. If someone reads this and decides to beat my world record, I would be just so stoked as I know what goes into it and what they will get out of it.

Doing a short weekend expedition or a massive expedition like this will ‘open up your sparkle’. I use that term as it is what my wife said when I sent her some footage along the way, she said “wow you are really sparkling” – and I realised it was actually the process that was showing the real me. The whole deal made me feel alive and and happy, and it was showing. I could see it reflected in the faces of people out in boats fishing saying “wtf are you doing out here you lunatic?”. I really felt connections and love opening up, having others interested in my story, and me in theirs, aside from what most people normally do in day to day life just asking what ‘we do’ for work to measure themselves.

I also want to encourage anyone with a history of heart disease or disorder to get checked comprehensively. Don’t accept any health practitioner dismissing your desire to get checked. Find another Doctor if that’s what it takes.

The board, SUNOVA 14’ Expedition board, for a challenge like yours, you need a bulletproof gear. What has been your experience like with the SUNOVA board?

Really thrilled with the SUNOVA board – It copped an absolute beating and got me there. For me the board was always going to hit the mark. It is pretty much the best balanced offering that met the requirements I needed to satisfy for the world record to be legitimate. It had to be an off-the-shelf unmodified SUP board and SUNOVA ticked the box. I think I really pushed the board to its limits. I also used a large Starboard Carbon Lima which was insanely good.

One other bit of gear that I need to mention that blew me away was the two Yeti Dry Deck Bags with waterproof zippers. Not cheap at all but paid for themselves over and over again. Great gear.
Sunshine Coast Boardsports set up those key bits of gear for me and they have been a joy to deal with before during and after the expedition.

What’s next? Will you be pursuing something as challenging?

I have a plan to break another record in the open water space. Can’t quite let on yet until it is pre-approved by Guinness, and my Mrs 🙂

Thank you for inspiring us to “say yes to more” Peter and wishing you all the success in your next endeavour!

To find out more about Peter, visit his website 

To find out more about SUNOVA, visit

Follow SUNOVA on Instagram and Facebook 

*Images courtesy of Peter Charlesworth

About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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