From the moment I’d completed my record-breaking Channel crossing, and was immediately asked by a TV news crew “What’s the next challenge?” before I’d even got my harness off on the beach, the Cold Water Project has been at the top of my to do list.
I’ve been kitesurfing for 12 years now and all I want to do is expose this amazing sport to as wide an audience as possible. If that means doing even more crazy stuff to raise awareness of, and educate people on, what an incredible and safe sport kitesurfing is today then I can’t do enough. That is what I’m all about.
Extreme sports have always been my thing and before kitesurfing I flew powerkites as a kid, and did loads of land boarding, which is basically skateboarding on pneumatic wheels. But from the first time I saw someone doing kitesurfing at Brighton I knew it was my sport. I booked some lessons, bought a kiteboard and headed off travelling round Europe for four months with my girlfriend, kitesurfing at some incredible places and improving all the time.
I’ve never been about the tricks, freestyle riding or competition, but if it’s blowing 35-40 knots, there are huge waves and big jumps that’s where you will find me. This is how the idea of the Cold Water Project came about.
The object of the film project is to showcase the beauty and power of the British Isles through kitesurfing, and the winter is absolutely the best time to do this. There are amazing light levels, big seas and spectacular conditions, all of which show off the British coastline at its dramatic, stunning best. You just have to forget how cold it is!
I’m not the most well traveled guy on the planet, but I’ve been to a few places, and it never ceases to amaze me how many times you speak to people in this country who have traveled overseas but never been to incredible, beautiful places 100 miles from where they live. Exposing what is on our doorsteps is one of my biggest motivations for the Project.
Between now and the end of April the plan is to kitesurf and film at multiple locations; Cornwall, Wales, the Hebrides and Loch Ness, where I’ll be attempting to break the world record for kitesurfing across the world famous loch.
The project is completely weather dependent; we want to film in the best, most dramatic conditions possible so it’s almost impossible to pre-determine filming dates and precise locations. I have a definite wish-list of places I’d like to get some filming done but I’ll also be seeking out some lesser known spots, with great point breaks, as I travel around.
Fortunately for my ‘day job’ I run two of my own marketing companies, and have a very supportive, enthusiastic family, so I have the flexibility in my schedule to do what’s required to get the best footage possible for the film.
I envisage the film having a bit of a road trip documentary feel, where we strike a balance between trying to understand the vibe and geography of the different locations and showing each one off its in own unique way through the kitesurfing.
I’m lucky we’ve got three platforms straight away to get the film out there through Volvo Cars UK, my kite sponsors CrazyFly and GPS watch supplier Suunto, who can hit a pretty big audience through social media alone. There is already interest in the film from online TV channels and possible plans for a premiere in the pipeline for late summer/early autumn. The dream would be to see someone like the Discovery Channel or Channel 4 pick it up and show it.
There is still a misunderstanding of kitesurfing being a dangerous sport. One of the biggest reactions I get when speaking to people is they think it looks spectacular and great fun but they would be apprehensive to try it or wouldn’t be strong enough. That may have been the case when I started but all the kit and instruction has come so far since then it’s a very safe sport now as long as the kit is in the right hands and the conditions are respected.
The English Channel crossing gave me a new, elevated platform for educating people about kitesurfing. The concept of the Cold Water Project has been knocking around for three or four years but now there is a heightened interest in the sport and the extreme challenges, and I have the right sponsorship backing and raised profile to do the Project justice.
I’ve got two young daughters, Freya, who’s seven and four-year-old Lois, and after I broke the Channel record I went into their school with my kit. The younger ones just wanted to touch the board and look at the kite, which was really cool, and the older ones wanted to know a bit more about the challenge itself. My girls understand what I’m up to and were fascinated by the Channel thing although I think they’re getting a bit blasé to it all now!
To prepare for the start of the Project I spent last weekend in Cornwall doing an Ocean Confidence course with Dom Moore, who’s a really well respected UK waterman.
The course looked at things like wave patterns, breathing techniques underwater, how to use rips and understanding how, when you arrive on a beach, you can read the conditions and access and exit the water safely. Even over two days I came to appreciate more just how changeable localised conditions can be in different locations.
It also blew my mind that just four hours down the road from my home in West Sussex there were these incredible dramatic locations where the water was gin clear, and it just reiterated to me why I’m so passionate about doing the Cold Water Project.
I can’t wait to get started now and am really looking forward to sharing the stories from the filming over the next few months.