Army veteran nears the finish line of epic 910-mile Paddle of Britain challenge

Army veteran Dan Smith, 39, is on the final leg 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 has spent the last 52 days kayaking and trekking solo across the UK to say Thank You to the WW1 generation and to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

With just one day to go until he reaches the finish line, Dan has now covered over 900 miles of this epic journey in an incredible 52 days. 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

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

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

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

By undertaking this gruelling challenge Dan is hoping to raise £25,000 for the Legion and has so far raised just under £10,000.

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

You can also track Dan along the route using a GPS tracker which can be found on here and you can also follow his progress on Facebook where he has been posting regular updates of his journey.