With no previous paddleboarding experience, Tom and his son William, from Camberley in Surrey alongside friends Rob Handley and Roger Bandtock, began training last March on the south coast, rivers, and as far as Coniston Water in the Lake District.
Dubbing themselves ‘Team Safari Njema’ (meaning ‘travel well’ in Swahili – a tribute to Ted’s many years working across Africa before his retirement), they booked a support boat from Full Throttle Boat Charters and hoped to set off from the official Dungeness starting point around 22 July.
Tom says: “The weather, wind and tides have to be just right, so waiting was the hardest part. By October we were still on standby, and watching the weather get worse every day.”
They finally got a call from Will and clearance on 22 October and set off, hoping to reach Boulogne in 8-10 hours.
Miraculously, after months of poor weather, the conditions were beyond perfect and team Safari Njema reached the harbour wall at Boulogne in just 6 hrs 30 minutes.
Says Tom: “The sea was flat for the whole journey and as flat as a mirror in parts, it was unbelievably calm – the only day in October like that! We saw the odd tanker and container ship – which were huge from our perspective – but even the traffic in the Channel wasn’t as busy as it could have been. We felt like a tiny dot on the landscape. We saw one jellyfish the size of me float past, but that was it.”
And in a completely unexpected bonus the team were joined by a pod of dolphins!
“It was magical! They played around us for 15 minutes or so – I had never even contemplated anything like that happening,” says Tom. “Will, who captained our support boat, said he’d never seen a pod of dolphins in the 12 years he’d chartered his rig in the Channel! I think Dad must have organised that for us!”
Tom and William have completed several 24-hour endurance challenges for PCRF since Ted died, including the national 3 peaks, a coast to coast mountain bike ride, and a road bike ride from London to Paris with Tom’s brother Edward and friend Rob. The paddleboard adventure added a further £4,000 to team Safari Njema’s fundraising for PCRF, bringing it to over £17,000 so far.
Tom said: “My dad led a hugely adventurous and well-travelled life and he passed on his sense of adventure to me. When I was a child in Kenya, we’d jump in the car and drive for hours and hours, just to see what was there. Dad would be so proud to see what we’ve achieved in tribute to him, and that his spirit of adventure is now shared by his grandson too.”