Paddle Against Plastic: 1000-Mile SUP Expedition in UK


Words and Photos by Cal Major

Lands End to John O’Groats is a famous challenge among cyclists, hikers and runners, reaching from the southernmost tip of Cornwall to the northernmost point of mainland Scotland – the entire length of Britain.

It has never been attempted before on a SUP and possibly for good reason. The route will cover over 1000 miles of paddling, coastlines facing every direction, exposed to wind, big oceanic swell and tidal races around innumerable headlands.

Major will be paddling from the southern tip to northern tip of the UK. Photo: James Appleton

For the last few years I have been building up to this challenge; the one always in the back of my mind. It’ll combine four months of challenging paddling, camping on beaches and eating mostly rice.

But why?

To connect people throughout Britain to the issue of plastic pollution. I want to highlight the fact that in the UK, we are never too far from plastic affecting our waterways and coastline. Eight million pieces of plastic enter the ocean everyday. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.

Plastic is taking over our beaches. Photo: Jack Tevenson

Plastic pollution has received a lot of press recently and big steps are being taken to help reduce its impact, but we need to continue this momentum in order to bring long-lasting behavioral and policy change. The majority of plastic pollution is single-use plastic items such as packaging, which is used for a matter of minutes before being discarded. Since 80% of marine litter originates from land-based sources, the more we use on land, the more plastic has the potential to contaminate the ocean.

By incorporating some canal and estuary paddling as well, I hope to strengthen the connection between plastic pollution in land and that in the ocean, documenting its potential to head out to sea via inland waterways.

Despite the severity and ubiquity of plastic pollution, we can all be a big part of the solution.

Major chose a 1000-mile SUP expedition to do her part to raise awareness about plastic pollution. Photo: James Appleton

In the UK, we use 38.5 million plastic bottles every single day. Switching to a refillable water bottle and refusing to buy plastic water bottles will have a huge impact on the amount used on land.

There is a growing movement of individuals, charities, businesses and communities who care deeply enough about this problem to be making changes to the single-use plastic we use on land. Collaboratively, this is making waves and putting pressure on governments and companies to follow suit. I hope to bring some positivity and solutions to the plastic pollution crisis and to grow the number of voices demanding that we stop using so much unnecessary plastic in the first place.

The Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Coastlines campaign is making huge steps in local communities to reduce single-use plastic usage at source, creating pride in being able to come together as communities to protect the environment. I’m looking forward to linking up with these groups across the length of the country. To Join The Resistance against Single Use Plastic, or to get involved in your local Plastic Free Coastlines community, visit

A sample of the UK’s magnificent coastlines. Photo: James Appleton

“People protect what they love” – Jacques Cousteau

We are blessed with some incredible coastline in the UK. A desire to protect our environment comes from a love of that environment and a reconnection to how special it is both to our physical and mental well-being. I hope that by reconnecting people to the beautiful outdoor spaces surrounding our island, we can nurture a desire to protect them.

The oceans sustain our life on Earth with the oxygen they produce and we simply cannot afford to be destroying them at the rate we are. Our lives and choices on Earth are so intrinsically linked to the natural world and I hope to remove the disconnect.

I will have a live tracker so you can follow my progress and I hope to have people join me at beaches along the way for mini beach cleans and to talk about how we can all be part of the solution to the problem. I will also be welcoming any food parcels!

I will aim to use no single use plastic on the expedition. This is going to be a challenge in itself and I’ve been busy making four months of rations.

UK summers are not exactly warm. Photo: Will Copestake

From previous expeditions I know how tough this is going to be both mentally and physically. It’s a blooming long way and a long time to maintain motivation and perseverance. This is especially the case in our famous UK “summer” weather, which can turn ugly at the drop of a hat.

My friends and family have always pulled me through my previous expeditions, when my brain and body power is depleted from constantly battling against wind, currents, swell, cold, rain, fog, and hunger. They’ve always believed in me and offered whatever support they can, physical or emotional.

This expedition is in memory and in honor of my closest friend and biggest fan, who lost her battle with depression at the end of last year. I will be raising funds for Vetlife, a charity very close to her heart, and the Samaritans, both of whom offer invaluable lifelines in times of difficulty.

You can follow the expedition on Facebook: Paddle Against Plastic UK, check out the website, or email at

Thank you for your support!

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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