Wickes Paddle the Thames

Wickes Paddle the Thames

Wickes are taking on the River Thames in a challenge to kayak over 180 miles. The group of employees taking part in the challenge have come from offices and shops all across the UK, and have a mix of paddle experience. From regular kayak club members to complete first timers, this challenge is set to bring them all together with a common goal, to raise money for Young Minds. One of the kayakers who is taking the challenge on, and really learning how to kayak, is Andrew Reeves. We caught up with Andrew to find out why he was keen to get involved in the challenge and how he is preparing for it.

paddle the thames trent training

What was your main motivation for getting involved in the Paddle the Thames challenge?

I really wanted to be involved in helping raise money for Wickes nominated charity. I think Young Minds is a great charity, supporting mental health in young people, ensuring they can get the help they need. However, I was also looking for a big personal challenge and new experiences. I’m not a marathon runner and my snowboarding days are coming to an end so I was looking for something new. I spent a few afternoons paddling on the Derwent in the lake district whilst on holiday last year and really enjoyed it, so when I got the email in October I didn’t think twice. This was it, the big one!

How have you get started getting prepared for the challenge?

We received our kayaks in February and as I looked at it in my garden I thought ‘best get started!’. I reached out to a local canoe club in Hemel Hempstead who have been brilliant (find your local club here). Big thanks to Anna, Chris, Nick and particularly Craig. They are very welcoming, helpful, and if you are looking to try out something like this I would recommend them. Over the next few weeks Craig would go out on the water with me and taught me the basic techniques. Without his help I don’t think I’d be where I am now; even just getting in and out of the boat is not as easy as it looks!. 

paddle on the trent dismount

Once you had the basics down, how did you plan your training?

My first day on the water was eye opening. The pain I felt after 2 hours which shocked me and I began to realise the enormity of what I had taken on! I ached all over, my shoulders, arms, legs and hands. It’s a full body workout and my level of fitness coming out of lockdown was not great. I go out on the water 3 times a week now for a short paddle and then at the weekends a longer one with some of my colleagues. We’ve trained on a few rivers now in Nottingham, Reading and Kent. I’ve spent more time in a kayak than I ever thought I would.

It’s great seeing new places and training days are a great excuse to spend all day doing something like this. I would never be able to do this normally. It is great getting out and paddling with the others, sharing tips and improving our technique. It has literally taken over my life. Thankfully my partner is supportive of the challenge and I have a good network around me.

What does the challenge actually entail?

We are paddling the Thames over 5 days, camping each night. I am not a camper either so this will also be a challenge. We will paddle approximately 30 miles a day (at least 10 hour a day) and on the last day we are covering 38 miles. We will have to set off at 4:30am to make sure we hit the tide in the right direction and will be paddling for at least 12 hours to reach our final destination, the Ahoy Centre, just around the corner from the O2 Arena. This will be the hardest day, not just because it’s the last day and the longest, but it will be the most challenging. So, we will have to keep up the pace or we will be paddling against the tide! 

paddle up the trent

What have you learnt during your training?

Paddling is a full body workout. I’ve lost weight and my post lockdown form is starting to resemble what it was before… not quite there yet. I’ve also learnt the importance of nutrition to keep energy levels high, especially when on the water for long periods. On a long paddle making sure you have the right foods with you is essential or you can burn out. On the challenge The Weeping Chef, from Masterchef 2012, will be keeping us fed from his mobile unit so that will keep us going knowing we have that to look forward to! 

How has the group been working together?

There are 14+ of us doing the challenge from different parts of the business around the UK. When we meet up it’s great to share experiences with like minded people going through the same thing for the same cause. We’re aiming to raise £50,000 between us. 

Training with others is really helpful as you learn from each other, encourage each other and celebrate milestones together. When you’re on the water you can fall in sync with another paddler. And as you chat away you don’t notice any aches and pains. Sometimes you’re on your own and you fall into a meditative state and it’s an incredible feeling. 

paddle the thames crew

What’s the plan when it’s all over? 

I’d like to think I will continue paddling as a hobby as I am loving being out on the water. It’s a great way of getting out and seeing places I would never normally go to. The world looks a bit different from the river. I find it very relaxing and it’s an easy way to keep fit. I’m looking forward to going on some leisurely paddles with a pint and a BBQ at the end… or half way. My partner and I have put lots of things on hold while I’m training, we have a lot penciled in the diary post challenge, so I look forward to catching up and getting back into a more normal way of life.. with a paddle now and then.

The group of kayakers will be setting off on their challenge on the 4th July, posting regular updates on their team JustGiving page. Each participant has their own just giving page to raise money for Young minds, and you can donate to Andrew’s JustGiving page by clicking here.