Algarve to Noli – 25 hour Odyssey
Portugal lies on the western edge of Europe so the inevitable drive back across Spain, France and up into Italy was now upon us. After a couple of days rest, Carlos and I set out on our ‘Odyssey’ in over 40 degrees heat with the bottle board cooking in the sun, and unbeknown to us, bending in the heat on top of the inadequate roof rack (more about that later). After three days, 25 hours of driving and an overpriced petrol tank leak repair, we arrived in Noli, just in time for the opening ceremony of the Green Surf Festival. We met Franz and Marina, the organisers and the whole crew from Protect Blue, a gathering of Stand Up Paddle industry leaders and sustainability experts.
When industry leaders usually meet for a conference they listen to lectures and participate in events in a room somewhere… not so for Protect Blue. In Noli, their office was the ocean and the main idea was collaboration- people talked whilst hiking up mountains and shared cutting edge sustainability concepts over a beer in the beach bar. A great way to spend a few days but sadly we missed almost all of it – we will be at the next event, no question! Meanwhile, we were on the beach talking to curious people about our board and why we were doing what we were doing and encouraging everyone to have a go, including Svein Rasmussen, the founder of Starboard, who gave us some very handy design tips! We also had a few last minute repairs to make to the board which was bending somewhat due to traveling in the intense sun; where it was bending, water had started to infiltrate the sleeves and we needed to remove it – Carlos was still fixing bits and bobs at midnight the day before the marathon!
Winds of Change
Having paddled the Atlantic, we were mentally prepared for the ocean; however no marathon is the same and the Mediterranean would bring new challenges and teach us new lessons… not just for the duration of the marathon but for life. Noli was all about adaptation. We set out at 6.30 joined by Stefano and Camilla from Green Rope. We headed, as planned (with help from Matteo from Be Water) towards the little island to the north of Noli. As the sun rose, the wind picked up and after about half an hour we realised that we were paddling hard and going nowhere. It was a simple decision… turn around and go with the wind. Stefano and Camilla returned to shore whilst Carlos and I continued past the headland towards the next beach. By the time we had gone few kilometres, the wind changed and we found ourselves being pushed backwards once again. So we turned around and headed back towards Noli. This happened another 3 times and we ended up going backwards and forwards along the same part of the coastline. Whilst not the most interesting, it was none-the-less quite convenient as we were clocking up the distance without getting too far from our starting point! This was not the original plan but we quickly learned that there was no point fighting the wind and to be successful we would have to adapt! After a long stretch with a consistent wind we found ourselves in Finale Ligure where we had to stay for a couple of hours to wait for the wind to change once again. Luckily by now, we had learned how to read the wind charts and fortunately, as if helped by the ‘Gods’, they changed direction to push us all the way home. We were welcomed on the Green Surf Festival stage by Franz who gave us our biggest welcome cheer yet and a couple of great souvenir books of Noli.