River to the Sea

Having completed one marathon on a river (with significant current helping us) and another on a reservoir (with winds severely hindering us) we thought it was time to try out the sea!  However, with the pains of Madrid still fresh in our minds, we decided to try to ease our journey by starting 15km up the Arade River in Silves.  The Arade is a tidal river so this marathon would bring new challenges and teach us new skills… how to understand the tides and the wind?  Thankfully we had the help of Bruno from Blue Xperiences to teach us the basics and give us his words of wisdom.  The tides were not exactly ideal but they could have been worse – we would have the tide with us until 8.41am, at which point it would stay still for approximately half an hour before turning against us!  Estimating that we could paddle 5km an hour downriver we would need to leave at around 6am to give ourselves enough time!  We put the theory into practice and we made it… just!  We set off just after 6am with the full moon disappearing, as the sun rose behind us, warming us with its gentle glow as we paddled peacefully (yet briskly) towards the sea.  Three hours later, just as the current was changing and the wind started to pick up and blow across us, we made it to the lighthouses that marked the entry point to the sea.  We greeted the Atlantic with naive optimism as we turned East with the wind on our backs.

 
Battling the boats of Benagil

If you have ever been to the Algarve you will remember the stunning cliffs and the numerous caves… you may well have been on a boat ride to the beautiful Benagil caves (there are no shortages of boat trips!)  This is definitely a trip I would highly recommend – however if you happen to pass a paddle boarder, bare in mind that the wake of the boat will turn, an otherwise stable ride, into a wild surfing experience!  This happened regularly and as you can imagine, we were forced to spend quite a bit of time on our knees!  We continued steadily along the coastline, occasionally sailing the board along in the wind, but mostly paddling hard on our knees!

 

Respect and bravery

After 8 hours paddling, Carlos and I set out on what we thought was a final 1 hour push… we were wrong!  After another hour of paddling we realised we were in a mighty battle with the waves and the wind.  First Carlos flipped in the rolling whitewater wash, then I did.  With weak arms and fighting relentless waves, we both struggled to turn our boards back over.  We washed up onto the shore, slightly panicked and with a new respect for the power of the water.  We only had a few kilometres to go, but it was a difficult decision whether or not to continue… Unwilling to admit defeat, we summoned the strength and set out once more to our final destination- São Rafael.  Finally, as it was nearing 8pm, 14 hours after we had set off with the sun rise, we landed on shore, elated and exhausted.

Thank you

A huge thanks to Nick Robinson from Algarve SUP for helping us with the initial planning and talking to the media.  We were delighted to make the front page of the Portugal News with the full story on page 10.  Follow the link here.

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