Army veteran Dan Smith completes epic Paddle of Britain challenge

Army veteran Dan Smith, 39, has crossed the finish line of his epic solo challenge paddling the length of Great Britain to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Dan challenged himself to kayak and trek solo across the UK to say Thank You to the WW1 generation and to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

He crossed the finish line in Littlehampton at 12.30pm on Saturday 20th October after covering almost 1000 miles in an incredible 53 days. 

Dan approaching the finish. Credit: Dan Smith

Speaking to us after returning home Dan said he was happy to be back in the comfort of his own home but said it was still a little strange not being on the move. 

"I feel good, just obviously feel a little bit strange not travelling, not moving, but yea it feels good," he says. "There's nothing quite like your own bed."

Dan explained that the support he has had along the way from friends, family and strangers has been an enormous help.

"I would say thank you, if it wasn’t for those guys supporting us and giving me the encouragement and help it would have been a different challenge all together," he says. 

Dan will continue to fundraising until Armistice Day and is hoping that he will reach his target of £25,000.

"I’m going to keep it going until Armistice Day. We’re going to have an auction... we’re going to auction off quite a lot of the kit and some hoodies and things like that and we’ve got some more money to put in so I reckon we’ll definitely reach that target of £25,000."

Dan on the shore with his family. Credit: Dan Smith

In the final days of his challenge we caught up with him on the banks of the River Wey in Surrey earlier this week to find out more about his challenge.

The former army sergeant set off from Durness in Northern Scotland at 9.30am on Wednesday 29 August with the aim of travelling 910 miles inland through the country to Littlehampton near Brighton in Southern England.

During the challenge Dan set a couple of impressive records, covering 32.2 miles in one day on day 20 and then just three days later covering a whopping 33 miles in one day.

Dan SmithDan kayaking on Loch Lomond, north-west of Glasgow. Credit: Dan Smith

Before he set off on his challenge we spoke to Dan to find out why he was taking on such a long and gruelling challenge.

“I’ve always liked a challenge and have always wanted to do something for charity but I never had the time,” Dan said.

“But with this year marking the landmark 100th anniversary of WW1, and being ex-military myself, I’ve finally found a worthy cause to champion that’s got me laser-focused and super-motivated.”

“With no surviving veterans left from the ‘war to end all wars’, I feel it’s more important than ever to remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom of future generations. My challenge is but a small token of my appreciation for their sacrifice.”

The route Dan will take through the country. Credit: Dan Smith

Dan is hoping to complete the challenge in under 60 days but he said it was hard to say how long it will take.

“I will be paddling for 6 hours a day and hoping to cover 15 to 20 miles per day but it depends on the wind.”

Up to this point Dan has been averaging 18.1 miles a day and has spent a total of 241 hours on the move.

He has been in the water as much as possible, but as there isn’t one continuous stretch of water that links the top of Scotland to the bottom of England he has be walking in between pulling his kayak using a special designed trolley system.

Taking on the challenge alone Dan has been camping and sleeping in the wild and is only stopping every seven days at pre-selected destinations to resupply.

“I will be resupplied every 7 days as I can’t carry too much in my kayak,” he said before the challenge.

Dan needs a lot of specialist equipment with him for his journey including, a tent, solar charges, first aid equipment and repair kits, which he is storing in his Kayak when he’s in the water.

Dan trekking with his kayak. Credit: Dan Smith

A former Sergeant, Dan served in the Army for over a decade in the Royal Artillery as a GMLRS Commander and Physical Training Instructor before leaving in 2013. His time in the Army included tours in Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

Dan was inspired to take up the challenge after meeting a group of people who were undertaking an epic challenge of their own.

“I was in Portugal and there were a group of people attempting to row from Lagos to Rio and I got chatting to them. This spurred me on to do my own challenge and got the ball rolling. I started thinking about what I am good at, and like. I like walking and kayaking so decided to do something around that.”

Dan believes this is the first time someone has attempted to travel the length of the country in this fashion and is really excited at the prospect of being the first person to do so.

Speaking in the days before the challenge Dan said: “To be honest the last few nights have been sleepless and I have felt a bit fevery, but I am feeling good today. I am just doing a Reece of the start now….. and just want to get started and get going.”

Taking in the beautiful scenery in the Lake District. Credit: Dan Smith

By undertaking this grueling challenge Dan is hoping to raise £25,000 for the Legion and has so far raised just over £15,000.

To sponsor Dan visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/paddleofbritain or text POBD79 and the amount you wish to donate to 70070.