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READY FOR THE NEXT ADVENTURE

SUP AdventureAs I come to a close on the army training project for the summer, my mind drifts to the next adventure.

My body is tired. It has not been a physically stressful 10 weeks, but the work that we have done every day has been very different to what I normally do and that has been a good challenge. Rather than endurance training it has been more strength oriented. I seem to have reached a point where my body hurts less when I exercise than it does when I rest, so there is nothing else to do other than to get up each day and keep going!

I have about 10 days rest back in the Okanagan to spend with my wife and preparing for the Paddleboard around Okanagan Lake. I need to get some time on a paddleboard – every day! My total paddling time amounts to less than the first days leg quite frankly. I know, not unlike this course, I will learn a great deal during the paddling. I am paddling with partner Peter Dodenhoff, a very experienced paddler who will likely be out front wondering where I am, but I will be there, not too far behind and at some point on the paddle, my skills will adapt to the new environment.

Through the planning of the project I have made some new friends. Bob Purdy being one of them. Bob is a really interesting guy and has made a name for himself by paddling close to 1000 days straight. Every single day he gets in the water and paddles, come rain, shine, snow, ice. It is an astounding achievement and when you paddle with Bob, you can tell he has a lot of hours on his board, where as, by contrast, I have a lot of time off my board! He was the first person to paddle the length of Okanagan Lake last year and he did it in less than a day!

Bob is not the kind of fellow I would have spent a lot of time with several years ago! You see, I am a businessman, a developer even at one point and Bob, well, he has a charity focused on environmental issues. It is not that I don’t like environmentalists, but I find many of them to be negative. What draws me to getting to know Bob better, is that he is looking for solutions but more importantly for me personally, his interest is in protecting the planets water resources. His mission and my mission tie in well together. My goal is to take some of the planets water resources and give them to people who are dying of thirst and disease. If advocates like Bob did not exist, I would not be able to fulfill my objective.

So our missions are aligned very well and as we paddle around the lake starting on labour day weekend, we have two messages to deliver, one is how fortunate we are to have such an amazing water resource in the Okanagan. Our watershed provides clean, sparkling, fresh water year after year, yet if we are complacent we can lose it. In contrast, there are countries in the world that are parched and people are dying.

Bob is hoping to join us for a few days paddling and I am really looking forward to the conversations. He is a world changer for sure, someone who cares enough to selflessly give of his time and resources to spread a message of caution that we should not take for granted what we have today. That our responsibility is to protect those resources for future generations.

My hope is that we can raise $30,000. That will be enough to provide two safe water solutions in Northern Kenya and give approximately 3,000 people the chance to live a life they could not have hoped for. It will be a chance for them to send their children to school, be a little less transient with their wildlife and perhaps even start a business. They will have better health and they will be able to live their lives instead of simply surviving every day.

You can support us by clicking this link. The SUP4Life event has been supported by Naish using the Naish One inflatable line of boards.

How much do we take for granted? More than we care to believe…


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JUST GETTING IT DONE

Getting to the endThis morning, I opened up my Facebook profile and was immediately impressed by the feat of British rower, Sarah Outen. She has just finished a mammoth row from Japan to Alaska. A tremendous success, but not without adversity.

Here is a quote from her most recent blog “The final 48 hours to land was huge and exhausting and very challenging. I didn’t sleep for 30 hours but just emptied the tank. Again and again. I didn’t see land until I was less than a mile off – through thick white fog. There was a point at around 6.30 in the morning where I wondered if we could make the final 4 miles in. My muscles had nothing left and the current was taking us away from the original landing waypoint. I sat in my cabin and cried and wondered what to do”

Often times, when we take that first slightly brave step towards achieving a goal, the world seems to transpire to prevent us from getting to our destination. I have often experienced similar emotions whether it is in business or on my adventures and the key thing to always remember is that, like Sarah, there are ways to overcome those feelings.

In a similar vein, I have a couple of friends who are about to accomplish some incredible challenges themselves. I am sure, along the way they have been challenged with moments where they wondered if they were going to make it to their intended destination.

Bob Purdy, Kelowna paddle boarder and conservationist is today paddling for his 1000th continuous day. For the celebratory event he decided to head out to the west coast and paddle in style but make sure you give him a cheer on his facebook page. I don’t think he needs too much encouragement because he has already decided to carry on. I do know personally however, that those private words of encouragement mean a tremendous amount to the individual, just like Sarah who was sitting teary eyed in the capsule of her boat wondering if she could even make the last few “long” miles to shore. Perhaps she received a text or a facebook message just at that time, I know I have on my trips!

I have another good friend in the UK, Steph Jeavons who is about to embark on a life changing adventure. I met Steph in 2008 on a motorbike enduro in South Africa. She was relatively new to motorbike riding at the time and was tested time and again on some pretty harsh South African terrain including multiple river crossings and hill climbs each day, but I saw her time and again dig deep and get the job done. The next time I rode with Steph was in Morocco for some “Dakar training” with British motorbike star Mick Extance. The improvement in Steph’s riding was remarkable and you could tell that she was hooked.

In six months time, Steph departs the UK on a solo round the world motorbike trip. It sounds easy when you say it like that, but I promise you, it will be fraught with challenges, nervous moments, loneliness and sometimes even doubt. But the great thing is, the journey is so rewarding. You can follow Steph’s adventures at www.stephmoto-adventurebikeblog.com.

Although these may be examples of “big goals”, many of us live our lives with goals each day and often we may find ourselves wanting to “hide in a corner” for a few minutes.

I would love to hear from you on how you find ways to move forwards from a sometimes challenging moment. Is there a favourite routine you have, maybe the simple act of going for a jog, or preparing a nice meal can be the distraction that free’s up that part of your brain that can help you to find a solution. Send me an email to mark@markjenningsbates.com with your ideas and perhaps we can publish a few ideas on this column to help others!


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STRESS IS NOTHING NEW

Learn how to handle stressFrom time to time, we can all be accused of having a small (or sometimes slightly larger than small) pity party. The “woe is me” conversations that seem to permeate many dinner table conversations at the moment. The man’s version of the discussion is often a little different to the woman’s version. The man is on an adventure and has taken some risk to fix things and the future looks great. The woman knows that there is not enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month and can’t sleep at night because of the sense of insecurity.

There is a natural conflict, not simply between a man and a woman in terms of how their minds work, but also between personality types. A sense of order that is required by one personality type is seen as a burden by another and the perception is the organisation simply clutters the pathway to progress with additional administration.

Learning how to associate with the different personality types is key to your future success and personal development. As a keynote speaker and presenter, I always strive to present a topic to the four basic personality types.

The Choleric or controlling personality doesn’t want me to tell them what to do, they want to know what the options are so they can choose.
The Phlegmatic or easy going personality wants to know what to do. They will willingly follow advice even if they may not enjoy the activity.  Interestingly, their personality is one that makes them want to “please you” so if it makes you happy, they will do it!
The Melancholy personality wants to know that the plan has been thought through… that the numbers prove the point. They would like to see the spreadsheet and the tacit examples before they commit.
Finally, the Sanguine personality wants to know, whatever they do, it will be fun.

Understanding the interpersonal challenges between these types also helps you understand as a leader or manager, how each character relates to stress.

As we continue to evolve our work habits, budgets, personal and corporate planning to reflect the new realities we find ourselves in, it strikes me that perhaps a few people have been here before. We can all talk about the challenges we face as if we are taking on some unique struggle to grow to our next level of development, however, history would tell us otherwise.

I picked up a book from my bookshelf this morning and sat down to read after my daily exercise routine. The first chapter was about a pair of brothers who became successful in the takeout food industry. The McDonald brothers reinvented the way food was prepared and sold in North America and became the darlings of the food industry for a while. Their concept was so popular that they decided to sell the “concept” to other entrepreneurs who with their guidance would be able to copy their success.

You probably know the rest of the story but just in case…. Their ability to execute their “franchise opportunity” was limited by their leadership skills. After several years of attempting to duplicate their success, only a handful of restaurant owners had benefitted from their plan.

It was at that time the real power behind the McDonald’s empire entered the picture. Ray Kroc was a supplier to the McDonald brothers and after realising they had become his largest account he visited the business and immediately saw the opportunity in duplicating their restaurants. Ray decided to put everything he could into growing the business.

Ray Kroc was a visionary. In my mind one of the key aspects of leadership is vision. Without vision you can only manage. Ray decided at the age of 55 years old to risk almost everything. He cut back on his lifestyle and put energy, finances and resources in to growing the MacDonald’s empire under a newly formed corporation, McDonald Systems Inc. He borrowed money from the bank, pledged his life insurance policy and gave up golf to fulfill his dream. He sacrificed most of his lifetime success at an age where most people are contemplating retirement. In 1961 he purchased the entire business from the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million. After 8 short years, Ray Kroc had opened 500 restaurants, created a foundation for an empire that today exceeds 33,000 restaurants around the globe.

So today as we worry about having to trim our budgets to afford to enjoy a meaningful life, sacrifice is often temporary and life my daily workout, necessary to advance to the next level of success in your personal life. It is in the troughs of life that we learn lessons, allowing us to enjoy the peaks and surf for a little while.


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WHAT TYPE OF LEADER ARE YOU?

Leadership styles Do you use Push or Pull leadership

Studying leadership is fascinating. Whether you read books, attend seminars or learn from real life examples, witnessing different styles and their effectiveness can be very enlightening.

Many larger, bureaucratic institutions have entrenched leadership styles that dictate how people will lead others. Other smaller entrepreneurial endeavours are naturally influenced by the style of the entrepreneur themselves.

There are two main styles of leadership:

Positional Leadership and;

Influential Leadership

There are naturally sub-categories of these two styles, but lets look at the fundamental differences.

Positional Leadership is very common in larger organisations and to some extent, military organisations. It is a style of influence that is guided by a hierarchy, a system of submission. It is dictated by the philosophy that one person has more authority over another, either by position or title. “You will do this task because I am in a position of authority”. It certainly has it’s place in many circumstances and definitely in some critical emergency type of situations there needs to be a person with “positional power” who can lead people to a successful resolution.

Influential leadership however, is very different (sometimes referred to as Person Leadership). It requires somebodies persuasive abilities to convince someone to do something. It is a leadership style that often uses the example of the leader to assist in creating a desire to follow. It is a very powerful style that often suits the personality of a charismatic leader. Once understood, it is the style of leadership that has won wars, and frankly, started them!

Many military commanders will talk about the small number of soldiers that actually “lead” a group in to battle. It tends to be of the order of 5% to 6%. Frankly that number is probably very similar to the number of people who are charismatic/influential leaders in the world.

My first experience of influential leaders was when I was working for a large printing company during my summer holidays as a college student. I was given a task of getting some information from the employees who were working the printing equipment on the “shop floor”. I went through the staff and asked a series of questions but was unable to get the answer I had been looking for.

Dejected, I went back to the Vice President I was working for and explained that I had failed and was unable to get the answer to the question. He told me not to worry and asked me to wait in his office. Lo and behold, a few minutes later he returned with the information we needed.

As I questioned how he managed to get the information, he simply replied “You simply had to re-phrase the question until they wanted to give you the information”. It was a valuable lesson for me, one that involved communicating differently but was also a demonstration of influential leadership. Where I had been “shutdown” in terms of getting the question answered, my colleague had been able to access all the information we needed. He had led people to a pre-determined conclusion that he was interested in!

John Maxwell, is probably one of the most prominent authors on Leadership and I would highly recommend any of his books.


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CAN’T FIND A TREE IN THE FOREST?

How to planThere is the odd occasion for many of us when we are not exactly sure of which road to take. We are not sure how to resolve a particular situation or we may be feeling a little low because our productivity has been poor. Sometimes we are staring so hard at the problem that we are distracted from the solution.

I think it is human nature to react in such a way, but if you want to continue to progress, you need to use the principle of self discipline to ensure that you can process a problem rather than focus on it.

As the heading suggests, sometimes we are so focussed on a problem that “we can’t see the trees for the forest”.  When I used to consult to companies that had problems with lack of sales, it became evident that they were struggling with the same syndrome.

As a consultant you can get a “birds eye” picture of the problem and solutions come in to focus quite clearly. The solutions were always there, but somehow the company or individual is literally blinded by problem.

Personally, I need a distraction from the problem to refocus. It’s a little like looking at the 3D Stereograms where you have to stare at a pattern and change your focus to see a picture within a pattern. Problems are just like that. Within lies a solution but often our focus is wrong. I need to go for a run or bike ride to empty my head a little and return to the situation with renewed clarity.

Remember, next time you are feeling a little overwhelmed, that you have to look at a problem and make sure you are staring past it to find the solution, just like the 3D stereogram.


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THE BEST RESULT FOR ANY MEETING

Many times, people find themselves wondering why they are feeling a little isolated from their friends or why their organisation has lost it’s “morale”. It is very easy in this situation to point the fingers at those around you. You may have heard that when you point a finger at someone, three are pointing back at yourself?

Yesterday, I was listening to the radio. The host was discussing a particular situation where a caucus had decided to attempt to overthrow their political leader at a time when the leader was out of the country. Perhaps an unusual situation but in reality it is not that uncommon although not usually as extreme. Later in the interview the political leader shared their viewpoints on how this situation arose and calmly said that there were often  times when there was acrimonious debates in caucus and it was normal to have these heated debates. That was perhaps the leaders perspective, but was it shared by everyone at the table?
Learning how to leave people good after a meeting or encounter with you is a skill, but it is one that you must learn to adopt! Many years ago I had a business where I was required to counsel people in my organisation to assist them in their progress. Thankfully, my wife would often sit in on these meetings. I remember talking to a lady in my organisation about how she could improve her performance. I listened to her situation and the many excuses that seemed to roll of her tongue and while I did not use the phrase “suck it up Princess” that was how she received my rather clumsy advice. Thankfully, she had a tough constitution and although tears were welling up in her eyes, she resolved to roll up her sleeves, get stuck in and try and overcome her stumbling blocks.

Obviously, you can see that I may have changed a little over the years and the situation was in actual fact out of character for me personally as I am usually considered to be an “uplifter”. My attempt at “tough love” ended up being an exercise in stupidity. My wife however, pulled me aside after the meeting and indicated that my technique, while perfect for the local football team, probably wasn’t going to be so successful with a single female? As she observed the quizzical look on my face, she also had the answer to my obvious concern and shared with me a book. It was a book about relationships and how to improve them.

At the end of the day, the answer was simple. That lesson taught me a great deal about how to leave people feeling better after their meeting with me than before. I was reminded of this yesterday.

I am helping my sons open a new restaurant, a family business in Towne Centre Mall. It is a lot of fun and reminds me of my early days as an entrepreneur. Yesterday afternoon, a couple walked in to the restaurant to say hello. It was a surprise visit and yet in a short exchange we were left feeling better about the rest of the day. It is possible to add value to someone’s life simply with a smile and a kind word. It is also possible to “fire” your best friend from your business and still be friends, but that, perhaps is another article.

As I have learned from my experiences, I thankfully have been able to pass on some of that knowledge to my children. From an early age, I explained to them that whenever they meet a person, they must remember that when the meeting finishes, you either made that person feel better about themselves, or worse. The interesting thing is that you control the outcome. All you have to do is decide wether you would like to add value to someone’s life or detract value.

Ratan Tata, the Indian billionaire has lived his life by ensuring that when his head hits the pillow, he has done his best to make the right decisions and that nobody is upset by their encounter with him that day… if it works for him, perhaps it can work for you too!

To understand how simple it is to control that encounter, I recall one of my adventures where a partner explained to me that at the end of the adventure, we would likely not be friends because that is just normal. Teams on adventures don’t get along he stated. I countered with my opinion that if we want that to happen then likely that would be the case. Sadly, after a successful trip, three of the expedition members are good friends and the fourth is perhaps not as good a friend.

It is a very unfortunate circumstance and of course as you can see it was a self fulfilling prophecy, but the important take away is that the outcome of any meeting is determined by your desire for the result. You choose.


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LOSERS WIN BIG!!

Winning is not overnightThere is a saying that goes something like this – “You can’t stop a quitter from quitting and you can’t stop a winner from winning”

At first glance, like many things which are taken out of context, it seems to contradict the heading of this column a little. The truth however, is that Winners will always find a way to win, even after they have lost.

The sense of persistence that a winner brings to the table is something that really should be studied and appreciated.

Many years ago, as a young entrepreneur I remember reading stories in the newspapers in England of other business people who had become an overnight success. The problem I discovered was many people believed the stories.

As people began to read more stories, they lost faith in themselves. Their dreams shrank, their belief in their future became more foggy and in reality, they started to see themselves as losers. The unfortunate circumstance though was that they didn’t realise how many losers learn to win.

The simple fact is that before people succeed, they fail… a lot! Look at Edison. How many times did he try and invent the light bulb. Not once did he consider himself a loser, more of a winner on a very long journey! So once again, we have a choice. We can choose to believe we are destined to lose, or, like Edison, we can believe we are on a longer journey than we expected to be.

Most of the successful people I know are also some of the largest failures I know. It comes from the fact they have become accustomed to aiming for the stars and reaching the moon. If you know that your personality type can handle the disappointment of only landing on the moon – go for it. You may miss the mark the first few times but at the end of the day you will be further ahead than many other people.


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LEARNING TO COME FIRST BY CONSISTENTLY BEING SECOND!

Winning is a habitI think we are all aware that winning is a habit. Do you remember that person at school – always on the honour roll, a permanent fixture on all the top sports teams and to boot, given a place on the Provincial or National team also. Like you, I always wondered what drove those types of people to an uber-competitive lifestyle.

What I have learned in my own endeavours is that winning has a lot to do with consistency. We can get thrown off course a little by reading the headlines about a person getting an award or winning an event. In reality, you don’t have to win anything to come first.

OK so that sounds a little confusing, but follow my train of thought here.

At the end of the day, we all have an objective to achieve something. Whether it be our personal life, a goal for a relationship or an athletic endeavour. The one take away I want to leave you with from this article is that consistency is the key. Now importantly, with consistency you create a habit, and remember the first paragraph – winning is a habit.

Consistency in the way you train, prepare, the amount of time you dedicate to a project and the amount of research you commit to, all create positive habits.

What consistency leads to, is a culture of improvement. It can be viewed a little like a gym membership. With physical training, the commitment to the routine, the consistency, is more important than the intensity of the occasional work out. Winning is the same. Consistently applying the same principles over and over again can help you win your objective.

My experience in rally driving is what created the  for this article. On two occasions I have won the Western Canada Rally Championship and yet, I have never stood in first place on a podium for a race. Many, many times I have come second. Am I frustrated. Not really because I understand the power of consistency. I know the limitations of my vehicle and my skills and I know I can battle for second. I have to be lucky to get first. The great news is that if I consistently place second I can win a championship… how cool is that. If you are a REALTOR® or a sales person in any industry, do you realise that you can win major national awards without ever being recognised in your office on a monthly basis. That is right, you too, can win big by coming second!


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GETTING OUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT

What is really importantI was looking for inspiration for this weeks column when I met somebody who said to me Vancouver has a band called “Doorknobs”. Interesting I thought and I asked what kind of music do they play, I like the name… “No, Vancouver has banned door knobs!”. Well that was a little different. Something had just come over the newswire apparently and Vancouver is banning door knobs.

Our first thought was, how do you open the door? No door knob, no open. We summised it must be some kind of governmental control measure to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like the common cold. Why else would you ban door knobs?

As it turns out, this was in fact, not the correct assumption. Somebody in some office somewhere in the world has actually studied door knobs quite a lot. So much so that they have recommended they be banned. Vancouver as it happens has the ability to do just that by controlling it’s own building bylaws whereas most municipalities are not in the same position. Vancouver it turns out is the first community to create this rather strange bylaw that will prevent any buildings built in the City from having door knobs. Not just their own buildings either, everybody’s homes. In my mind I was still thinking that the door must swing in both directions and have kick plates at the bottom and I wondered if the savings for not having a door knob were enough to offset the cost of triage for all the broken noses that will be walking into medical clinics.

Silly me. It turns out that levers are in, and knobs are out.

It wouldn’t all be so ridiculous if it wasn’t for the fact that on November 19th, it was World Toilet Day (I had no idea about that either).

I think very few people knew anything about World Toilet Day, me included. The sad thing is that it is incredibly important that we all know about World Toilet Day since 2.5 Billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation. Every 20 seconds a child dies because of water borne diseases. In reality, very little money was probably spent on World Water Day.

By contrast, somebody somewhere has decided that as we age or if we are physically challenged, we cannot get into the loo because we cannot grip the handle, or at least we are not going to be able to. It makes me wonder how my great grandparents ever managed without levers! The money spent on researching, discussing and eventually implementing a bylaw to ban door knobs to your loo seems incredibly out of proportion to the time that should be invested in discussing sanitation solutions for almost 1/3 of the planet!

If you want to find out more about World Toilet Day, take a look here: http://worldtoiletday.org/

If you want to donate to a charity that is working hard to fix the problem, look here: http://www.rally4life.org


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STAND OUT

paddleboard adventureMy stare is fixated on the water in front of me as I wonder if this is what an LSD induced trance feels like. I am mesmerised by the kaleidoscope of patterns appearing on the surface, constantly changing and distracting me from my task. The silence was deafening and I found myself for a brief moment, lost inside my inner cortex, deep within a complex web of electrical pathways and synapses. The patterns were continually morhping into yet another “trip” inducing screen-saver right in front of my very eyes.

All of a sudden, I caught myself and regained my balance just before I fell off my paddleboard to get another soaking!

I am on Okanagan Lake, and this is the penultimate day of my latest adventure, the first one in Canada for a long time. Typically I travel overseas to climb mountains, scare myself racing motorbikes or cars through deserts or generally have a lot of fun doing what some people deem to be slightly crazy.

This time however, I was in my own back yard. I have lived in Peachland with my family for 12 years now. It is a place I love to come back to as I travel the globe in search of more donors for our charity. We have a “lazy” acreage in the hills above the lake, it is a quiet respite for me to be able to recover from the most recent adventure. It never takes very long before I turn the whole house in to mayhem again, planning the next adventure.

I had explored some of the local lakeshore in the past but to my knowledge nobody had paddled around the entire perimeter of the lake before on a paddleboard. It never was my plan either, but now I find myself here, somewhere between Naramata and Peachland heading for the ominously titled Rattle Snake Island. The steep cliffs on the east shore tower above me as I admire the reflection in the mirror calm water today. Even more ominously, Rattle Snake Island is rumoured to host the underground home of the rather shy but reportedly large Ogopogo, our domestic equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster. Thankfully, there has been no sign of the Ogopogo for the past few days on our trip.

This adventure started about a year ago. I met Peter Dodenhoff, a local Paddleboard instructor and enthusiast. I introduced myself and asked if he knew any paddleboarders who would like to accompany me on a swim around the lake (nobody had done that either!). I needed some “outriders” to keep boats away from me as I attempted to be the first person to swim around the lake. I had never tried paddleboarding before and so Peter suggested I come out and give it a try before I commit to swimming.

My first real paddleboard experience was an unexpected downwind run in a Force 6 wind from Peachland to Kelowna. I have no idea how many times I fell in. The freak winds came out of nowhere at the same time as some idiot had dropped a cigarette but in a parking lot 500m from my house and sparking the biggest fire Peachland has seen in many years. As I looked back and saw vast amounts of smoke spewing onto the lake in a fiercely strong Katabatic flow, I could only wonder if my family was OK and hope that when I finally got to Kelowna, I would be able to contact them somehow… for now I had to focus on surviving the next 13 kilometres in what appeared to me to be gigantic waves!

Interestingly after that slightly epic paddle, I was hooked. Out of that experience was borne, the SUP4Life. A charitable paddle adventure around Okanagan Lake together with my new friend, Peter Dodenhoff.

We set off from Kelowna on September 1. Naish had provided their latest Naish 1 inflatable boards which were loaded past the gunnels, but frankly seemed very stable. A couple of friends came to wish us good luck and wave us off, and away we went on a 45km first leg to Vernon. I was at first skeptical about using an inflatable board. The practicalities of being able to pack your board away in a small backpack and go paddleboarding on your motorbike was intriguing nonetheless. In time, I began to understand how well the boards would perform in the variety of conditions we were about to encounter.

It was immediately noticeable that we were in for a gem of an experience. Every corner we rounded gave us unique and expansive vistas of the lake and accompanying scenery that were just not possible to experience from the roads. As we moved further north, the boat traffic kept us on our toes as curious onlookers no doubt wondered why we were going so far in one direction and what all the gear on the front of our boards was for. It didn’t take long for my board to resemble a gypsy caravan as I kept diving into my dry bag to get one more useful item. Pretty soon, as in every expedition we settled into a tidy routine that was to define the rest of the journey.

I had been away with the army all summer long on a training exercise and the one thing I knew is that I had the whitest legs in the Okanagan. I should have thought more about the problems which would result from such exposed skin but it wasn’t until later in the day that I felt the sharp sting of a sunburn on the backs of my legs… I now had a sup tan!

At the end of the day, tired and happy, I set up my Eureka Chrysalis hammock on the side of the lake, ate some salted almonds and made a cup of tea. My son showed up with a friend to take out the boards for a short twilight paddle. It was a unique experience compared to the weeks of loneliness that can be experienced on some expeditions. I appreciated the opportunity to text my wife before I settled into my hammock for an amazing nights sleep on the shore of Okanagan Lake.

The next morning we set off to head into the arm of the lake at Vernon. We were joined for this leg by expert paddleboarder, Bob Purdy. Bob is the founder of Paddle for the Planet and for the past 900+ days has paddled every single day without missing a beat. As a conservationist, Bob spreads a message of encouragement for everyone to do a little every day to make the world a better place. I really enjoy the time I get with Bob. It is a chance for me to hear a refreshing perspective on global conservationism.

Last year, Bob paddled the length of the lake from Vernon to Penticton in less than a day… he is no stranger to endurance adventures.

Before long we exited the arm and said our goodbyes to Bob to head north in to the Armstrong area. To this point we had the most incredible weather and wind. Almost no wind in fact, which made for lazy paddling although we were pushing ourselves hard. The first day had been close to 45km in 8.5 hours.

The shoreline changed radically as the landscape flattened out into pasture rather than the forested hills we had become accustomed to. After an hour of paddling we were greeted by a strong headwind, one of the curses of being in flatter land.

What was going to originally be a simple paddle to the end of the lake turned into a marathon session to reach our objective. We stopped briefly on the shoreline to organise the boards and set about making small gains to our destination. The treat of course would be a downwind run.

We reached our turnaround point, took a short break and jumped on the waves to head back for a fast run south. Like any good plan, the only thing you can guarantee is that it will change, as did the wind after about 15 minutes. The lake went mirror calm and the oppressive heat started to cook my torso that was wrapped by a hot black life jacket.

We were meeting my wife tonight at a campsite somewhere north of Fintry. By 4pm we seemed to be so far from our destination that we were wondering if we would make it by sunset. Then, once again a headwind, this time form the south whipped up from nowhere to further impede our progress. About 5 kilometres ahead was a small peninsula that would offer a brief rest in terms of a shadow from the wind. I saw a beautiful piece of green manicured area that looked temptingly like a well kept camp site. Heads down, bend down to reduce the profile into the wind and dig deep.

This had been the hottest day so far. The largest challenge I was faced with was drinking enough. I had designed the project, like all of my adventures to be charitable in nature. We were raising funds for a water well in northern Kenya and so I had promised the media I would drink from the lake. The juxtaposition with Africa is that they would drink from a pond with scum and monkey faeces in it. Just to be safe, I used a Lifestraw, a simple light weight filter that would ensure that I would stay healthy despite whatever occasional bad water I would come across. The difficulty came in stopping the board frequently enough, getting on to my knees and sucking small volumes of water through the straw that created some back pressure. As a result, I was dehydrated, which a pounding thump in my head kept reminding me of.

After a few hours we were on the shore of what turned out to be a small gated community – no campers allowed! I was hoping to call my wife and tell her we had found a beautiful spot, instead we had to paddle another 3 kilometres in the twilight to a forestry campground. Finally, hungry and tired, we landed just north of the historic community of Fintry. It had been a 10 hour day and another 40+ kilometers in some headwind conditions. I was surprised at how my 50 year old body was handling the repetitive motion of paddling. Peter, who was nine years older than me was in his element and loved the upwind slogs!

The fact that I had been training with the Army all summer long in some grueling conditions had certainly helped. I always love pushing myself physically and this was a totally new sport to me. Day by day, my body would adjust to small refinements in balance and efficiency in my stroke.

The next day we tackled the longest paddle yet. While I was accustomed to the effort, the view of Kelowna somewhere on the distant horizon had me nervous. It was about 50km away and I wasn’t sure we would make it.

Part way through the day we were doused by a very loud and gnarly thunderstorm that briefly dropped a gust front to create yet another headwind for us to paddle in to. We decided to stop for lunch at the beautiful Lake Okanagan Resort. Nobody was around, this really was the end of the tourist season and so we sat on the waterfront and rested before jumping back on the board and paddling the final 15km or so to our destination.

This time we were treated to a downwind run into Kelowna. We passed the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort and Conference Centre who had so kindly supported our efforts by hosting a media presentation and gifting us some rooms to auction off for the charity.

The wind certainly helped and I felt fresher than I had done the night before. Today we were clocking off early which was a good idea. An advancing cold front which was causing the unstable conditions and thunderstorms would drop the temperatures tomorrow so rest would not be a bad idea.

Along the way we had already met so many kind people. People had offered us food, water, even made donations. Others came up to us in their boats to offer support and advise that they had been following our live internet tracking. It felt good to be doing something close to home that could actually have an impact in the lives of people far away in Kenya.

Interestingly, the news had just come through of a radical find in Northern Kenya. Engineers had proven a large underground lake in one of the driest regions of the earth, the Horn of Africa. The underground aquifer was reported to be approximately 300 cubic  kilometres.

The next day’s paddle would have been a straightforward one were it not for the constant thunderstorms that were embedded in the layer of cloud above us. Never too sure whether we were about to be struck by lightning or simply blown off the boards, we just kept putting one paddle in the water after another. It had now become a rhythmical routine that my brain disengaged from. Strangely I found it very relaxing although with every paddle came a small abdominal crunch… I wondered how may I had done so far?

We finished in Peachland which was so close to our homes that we took an opportunity to stay with family for an evening and bring them up to speed on the adventure. My Icebreaker Merino wool clothing had kept me incredibly warm and dry. There remained three more legs to the end. We hadn’t been fast, but we had been consistent, and that counts for a lot in my books. By this point we had raised close to $5,000 which was almost a third of the funds required for a well in Africa that could provide safe water to 1,500 people.

The next day we left Peachland to head to Penticton, approximately 35 kilometres to the south. As soon as we left the shoreline, a hint of an unpredicted headwind hit us straight in the face. The forecast today was for light and variable winds. According to the forecast, they would come out of the south much later in the day and then for only an hour or so. For the next two hours we paddled into white caps crashing over the front of our boards. The depressing sight of trees on the shoreline barely moving behind us was enough to make me want to sit and wait it out on the shoreline. In truth, it was excellent exercise though and the boards were cutting through the chop very well indeed. We made it to Summerland for a late lunch and thankfully the winds dissipated allowing us to paddle in to Penticton at the end of the day.

The Penticton to Peachland leg was uneventful and beautiful. Mirror calm water for almost the whole day just painted pictures of reflections for us all day long. Whether it was each other, the steep cliffs or the countryside around us, you could look at masterpieces all day long as you paddled north, back to familiar waters and the home of Ogopogo, Rattle Snake Island.

The final day was to be a paddle along the shore of Okanagan Mountain Park. A landscape that had been devastated by fire in 2003. In one evening alone, 30,000 people had been evacuated from their homes because of the ferocious devastating force of the wildfire.

Today, we were in for a treat. The wind was at our backs. It picked up nicely as Bob Purdy once again paddled with us too the finish in Kelowna. All three of us felt like children playing on the waves as we surfed our way along the shore. It was great to get the boost on the last day and as we neared Kelowna, the sun shone brightly and the wind dropped as we turned north along the Kelowna shoreline. It was an epic finish to a fantastic adventure that had been logistically simple. We had tremendous support from the good people at Naish which I am truly grateful for, as well as other sponsors that have supported me for a while now.

For now, my respite from the world was over. I was back into a land of telephones, computers and meetings. I knew that I would crave my next paddleboard adventure. I have been talking about heading down to Nicaragua and paddling around Lake Nicaragua. It is the largest lake in Latin America, but is also in a stunning setting of Volcanoes on the Pacific Coast… hmm! I don’t think my house will be quiet for long.

FACT SHEET

Total number of paddle strokes:                        500,000

Amount of water in Lake Okanagan:                 24.6 cubic kms

Average annual rainfall                                     380mm

Average water consumption of local resident:     394 litres per day

Amount of water in Lake Turkana, Kenya (saline) 204 cubic kilometres

Average rainfall                                                 250 mm

Average consumption of Kenyan resident              8.7 litres

# of deaths per year from unsafe water in Okanagan

None – several drownings in the lake

# of deaths per year from unsafe water in Kenya…
15 million people without adequate access to safe water or sanitation. A child under 5 days every 20 seconds. Child mortality is increasing not decreasing. Half of Kenya’s 43 million people are reported to be drinking unsafe or contaminated water!