A first among paddleboarders

21st September 2007 at 01:00

WHEN GLENN eldridge is being sensible, he's doing his job as a sports science lecturer at the Camborne campus of Cornwall College. But not last Wednesday. Lying on his stomach, lashed by waves, his tiny board carrying him as

fast as his arms could paddle, he pressed on. With Cornwall vanishing over the horizon behind, he headed west towards a place in the record books.

His mission was to document the first recorded time from Cornwall to the Scilly Isles by paddleboard. Alongside was a yacht, skippered by Nick Brown and his wife Jenny. Throughout the trip, the Browns looked out for other shipping and for Mr Eldridge one of several staff at the college who surf in their spare time. His oldest surfing colleague is Stuart Mathieson, 56, a curriculum area manager and lecturer.

Mr Eldridge's convoluted sequence of headings, designed to overcome the adverse currents that would otherwise have driven him off course, meant he had to paddle 32 nautical miles, despite the two land masses being 29 nautical miles apart as the crow flies.

On the way, he drank water containing a carbohydrate supplement that had to be taken in very specific amounts as if proving that, true to his job title, sport really is a science.

The sea was rougher than he had anticipated, and just when things looked as if they could not get harder, news came that a tanker was due to cross his path, forcing him to wait for its vast bulk to pass before he could continue.

After a radio call from the escort yacht, the tanker's skipper agreed to divert, saving Mr Eldridge from a potential 45-minute hold-up that would have meant bobbing up and down on his sat-nav-equipped paddleboard, watching the time slip away.

But the toughness of the environment was the real challenge. "I started to get really worried when I saw a buoy being dragged under by the current," he said. "The sea was getting really rough and I couldn't see land. Then, after about three and a half hours, I finally caught a glimpse of a lighthouse. It's a really busy shipping lane a bit like trying to cross a motorway in slow motion."

Despite the tanker skipper's kindness, Mr Eldridge lost 30 minutes after running into an adverse current, but he still managed to arrived at his destination in a respectable five hours 26 minutes.

He used a rare design of paddleboard, imported from Australia, and was sponsored by the Surfing Life shop in Plymouth and Skinner's Brewery.

He has laid down the gauntlet to surfers by achieving a world record and over the next year plans to convene some of the sport's finest for a charity paddling race from Cornwall to Scilly, giving others the chance to beat his record.

As he recovered at home the following day, he admitted he was pretty sure his record would be beaten if they come. But, he said: "I reckon I've put down a pretty good marker."

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