On Friday morning I took part in the "Around The World" Charity Paddle, an annual event put on by The Surf House. This year the charity supported the UAE Red Crescent. The challenge begins on Jumeirah Beach where the route heads straight out to the Nakheel World Islands. The course is approximately 28 kilometres and finishes at Sunset Beach near the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel.
The night before I didn't get to bed until around midnight then was up at 04:30 to have some breakfast, grab my gear, and drive the pleasantly vacant streets to the beach. The event was scheduled to start at 06:00 but we had to be patient and wait in the cold darkness for all participants to arrive, then we set out in the water at 06:38. It was around 16°C in the morning and didn't really warm up until about 08:30. I made it to the entrance of the archipelago in 50 minutes. The water was fairly calm, with just a bit of swell to make balance tricky. I kept my jacket on for the crossing but plenty warm by time I made it inside the breakwater. The water inside is a lot calmer so made it easy to stop and pack away my jacket and take a couple of quick photos. My pack is very simple; just a Camelbak with two litres of water plus a half litre bottle of emergency reserve, a couple of energy bars, my jacket, extra sunscreen, and my GoPro camera. I also made sure to have a hat and sunglasses!
Last year I used an 11-foot board but this time opted for a shorter, narrower 10’2” board, trading up stability for agility. It did feel quicker but I certainly noticed the reduction in stability for the crossings. After exiting the breakwater there was a fair bit of ocean swell and boat wakes to deal with. I got knocked off a couple of times about 4 km back from the finish. I didn’t mind though, it felt refreshing!
None of the islands have been developed except for one that is owned by Nakheel and has been used to build model villas. It's complete with plenty of vegetation and a helicopter landing pad. There was a super-yacht parked out front too. The only other island that has been developed is "Lebanon" which as a club on it for private events. From a distance it looks like there's also an island near the centre with a cement plant on it.
I managed to complete the paddle in five hours. The previous year I took nearly six and a half! I guess I'm in a little better shape this time around ;)
This year we had a fantastic turnout of around 90 paddlers. Though most of the participants were using stand-up paddleboards, the event was open to any kind of paddle craft, including kayaks, rowboats, and prone boards. Though it's not a race, it's not a challenge to be underestimated. We had two safety boats with us for the day that make sure everyone stays safe.
Though it's very physically challenging and requires getting up at an ungodly hour, there's the payoff of personal achievement along with supporting a good cause with a positive community of people. Not to mention being able to appreciate a gorgeous sunrise!