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14. Cal Major – from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a paddleboard

14. Cal Major – from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a paddleboard

If you’ve ever tried stand up paddle boarding, you’ll know it requires co-ordination, patience and a whole lot of ab strength. Now imagine paddling 1000 miles whilst balancing large volumes of plastic waste that you’ve painstakingly collected from the water on your board… 

Enter Cal Major, environmentalist, stand-up paddle boarder, campaigner, adventurer and vet, who did just that a set a new World Record whilst paddling solo from Land’s End to John O’Groats earlier this year – what a journey! In 2016, whilst working as a vet, she was unable to stand the amount of plastic washing up on her favourite surfing beaches any more without doing something about it, so founded Paddle Against Plastic, an organisation that uses epic stand up paddle boarding adventures to capture peoples’ imagination, highlight the issue of plastic pollution so close to home, and to promote positive change by proposing simple solutions.

Cal’s first adventure was around the coastline of Cornwall in 2016, then in 2017 she circumnavigated the Isle of Skye, and the subsequent film of her trip, ‘Skye’s The Limit’ won numerous awards at film festivals around the world and has been screened around the world including in China, Canada and several African countries.

Cal set a new World Record as the first person to travel from Land’s End to John O’Groats by stand up paddle board, a journey of over 1000 miles taken by sea, canal and river, encountering huge swells off the Cornish coast, dangerous tides round Scotland, fog and hypothermia en route. Cal completed this in 59 days, collecting plastic en route and documenting her trip with both film and photographs. Read her blog about the trip here

Cal is a modest, humble, kind person (she dropped into conversation that prior to SUP-ing the length of the British Isles she’d ‘just’ trekked across a desert for 2 weeks…), whose passion for reducing plastic waste is really discernible. We can all help in our own way – have a look at her website for simple, constructive ideas. 

In this episode we discuss:

– Cal’s childhood and her dream of being a vet

– How her path as a vet was shaped by her passion, injury and opportunity

– Starting campaigning with Surfers Against Sewage and her journey out of veterinary and into full-time campaigning

– Learning to campaign, making it personal, putting yourself out there and building a brand

– Her solo expedition around the Isle of Skye on a standup paddle board and the subsequent film produced of her trip, Skye’s The Limit

– Planning for her BIG trip paddleboarding from Land’s End to John O’Groats 

– Plotting a route for the challenge, including travelling the inland waterways of the UK via the canal system and what Cal found there when she paddled away from the coast

– Getting fit to paddle nearly 1000 miles and the challenges Cal faced in her physical prep for the trip

– What’s next for her, both in the aftermath of the LEJOG adventure, and future plans for Paddle Against Plastic 

– Leaving a professional career, the judgement and criticism that can come with that, both personally and from others.

– Following your passions to feel fulfilled in life

– How Cal’s coach, Penny Barker, helped her identify her unlock her own ideas and potential, and how she has built a team around her whilst growing Paddle Against Plastic

– Her work now, including public speaking, corporate events and adventure expos


Paddle Against Plastic – 

Surfers Against Sewage –

Cal is on Twitter @PaddleVsPlastic, Instagram @cal_major and Facebook @Cal Major – Paddle Against Plastic


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