The rush of the river

My heart was beating and I was dizzy with nerves when pushed into the muddy, green river stream. The beach was small and the tide did not give us much space – so we had to be efficient. Sixty paddlers had to get on the water at the same time from Shadwell Bassin. Freek tried to stay close in the clutter of people.

We paddled underneath one bridge after the other – people above us stopped and waved and cheered. It was noisy and, compared to sandy-shored Denmark, the waves were rapid and quick – one person capsized right away. Needless to say, my anxiety was high and lasted for a while.

Impressive coordination

London Kayakathon takes place once every year and has a unique permission to bring a total of 100 paddlers up and down the river Thames. You paddle with the tide – 22 km one way, taking a break once the tide turns and then paddling the same way back towards the center of London.

Due to the high number of paddlers, the security is strict. To avoid tour boats and ships, everyone must stay close together. Participants wear yellow tops and the helpers blue tops. The blue paddlers circulate the group and makes sure everyone stays together. One guy is in front. He signalizes to the others and shouts: “Arch number three” or “Keep to the right” and the commands are then repeated all the way to the back.

London - seen from the Thames

After lunch at the break halfway I was more relaxed. The waves were much smaller and the current felt more familiar. I started noticing the sights we passed by. London does not get less beautiful when seen from the Thames.

Natalie, one of the helpers, came up to me and asked how I was doing. She had seen how nervous I was in the beginning. It was nice talking to someone now that the water was calm.

The finish line

When seeing Tower Bride again – the official starting point and finish line – I was so happy and got chills. People were clapping us along, cheering and waving at us. It was such a big emotional thing to experience.

Kayak Charity

Before our departure from Denmark, we worked hard to raise money for the Danish Christmas Seal Association (a foundation supporting less fortunate children struggling with obesity, bullying and low self confidence). I designed a poster that we have sent out to all who supported the cause with at least 300 DKK.

Simon Osborn lost his brother Mark to leukaemia when he was young. By kayaking, he has raised money for leukaemia research and has now started the kayakathon to  help others raise money for charity. In our group we collected £1300 and for the entire event £15,000 was raised in total.

It was a big event, on so many levels, and thanks to Simon, we got to see the Thames up close.