Why I’m Kayaking the Thames from Criklade to Richmond

Richmond resident Joel Whittaker tells us why he’s taking to his kayak 40 hours of non-stop paddling in August… 

It should take 40 hours of non-stop paddling to get from Criklade, near the source of the River Thames, to Richmond by kayak. That’s just over 200 kilometers, it will be the longest journey I have ever attempted with my trusty kayak.

So why am I doing it? To raise awareness for a cause that is more urgent today than ever and to raise funds for a charity that does incredible work.

The cause is mental health, which is an issue that I increasingly see affecting us all. As a high-risk manager for a major broadcaster I see the challenges that my colleagues are dealing with.

Joel Whittaker is kayaking the Thames for Bravehound

Ex-Paratrooper Joel Whittaker is kayaking the Thames for Bravehound

As a veteran, I see the deep wounds that war and selfless service leave behind. But I also see others around me struggle with the day-to-day challenges of work, family and relationships.

No matter what our background, mental health will be a factor in all our lives at some point.

I believe there are some key tenants to sound mental health – exercise, routine, and love. Bravehound is a charitable organisation that offers all three by carefully placing dogs with veterans who are suffering with mental health issues.

The responsibility of caring for a dog can help them see past their own struggles, even if they don’t much feel like caring for themselves. It also offers much-needed routine and exercise, because dogs need both as much as we do.

As a former Paratrooper, I’m used to physical trials, but kayaking the length of the River Thames continuously for 40 hours is a challenge I suspect no one has tried before – for a reason.

So, this August, keep your eyes on the river and, if you see me lumbering past, give a wave. Or better yet, follow this link and give what you can to Bravehound.

Joel is hoping to raise £5,000 for Bravehound. To donate, visit Joel’s justgiving.com page. Just £5 could pay for training treats and toys for a puppy, while £10 could pay for a collar, and £15 could pay towards a check up at the vet.