Kayak enthusiast becomes first Brit to paddleboard around Menorca

WE TALK to founder of Coastal Spirit, Roger Chandler, about his and partner Sonja's recent paddleboard around the island of Menorca.


Roger Chandler and partner Sonja Ezergailis recently completed a kayak challenge around the island of Menorca.

ROGER CHANDLER, founder of kayaking specialists Coastal Spirit, has featured often on Limitless Pursuits due to his thirst for adventure and breaking records out on the water.


His latest challenge saw him and partner Sonja Sonja Exergailis complete a paddleboard adventure which saw him become the first Brit to circumnavigate the island of Menorca on a paddleboard. Sonja was his trusted support and used her sea kayak to travel around the island.


Here Roger talks us through the adventure and gives us an update on his tenth year running Coastal Spirit. To find out more about the kayaking company and to follow Roger’s blog visit www.coastalspirit.com.


How has everything been going at Coastal Spirit and what have you been up to since we last spoke?  


It’s been an exciting year, as it’s my tenth year running Coastal Spirit. The Roof of Britain was a commercial success with the ‘salty version’ and I spent four weeks personally sea kayaking and rock climbing in NW Greenland. Using the sea kayaks in a low impact approach to access remote areas to discover new rock routes.  Three multi pitch and three single pitch – 16 pitches in total and up to E2.  Two new peaks and one with a roped assent and the other with glacial travel.  Then Menorca, with my partner Sonja.


What inspired you to come up with the idea to set yourself the challenge to become the first person to paddleboarded around Menorca?  


When I paddled around with Barry a year or so back in sea kayaks, I was captivated by the beauty and feel of Menorca.  I wanted to do it slower and soak up more of the island and its culture. It’s an accessible island from the sea, with bays and coves almost every 6km. There is only one longer and more committing section, the NW corner, which is around 15km.


Sonja, my partner, is also good sea kayaker, she hadn’t paddle there before, so she could be my support and we could also have a holiday. There is also a super sea kayaking company that we hired a sea kayak from, who dropped us off, collected us and we texted in each evening our location. This took a lot of pressure off because we weren’t alone, someone new where we were. Plus, they also provided a map of the island with ok to stunning places to bivi, cafes and extraction points. This again reduced the concern of running out of light trying to find a suitable spot.  All in all, it seemed like a wind/win!


Roger waiting at the pick up point at the end of the challenge.

How much preparation was involved in the adventure?


Technically I was in a far better place than when I did the 3 Lakes challenge, which you also covered.  But then I had also done eight days cycling over on the West coast of Ireland beforehand, which on reflection really helped. This time I had done far more sea kayaking and had only grabbed three or four hours to get out my board, here and there. It was also my first self-contained SUP journey (with pretty much everything on my board – Sonja had the tent, but otherwise I had food, all personal kit, sleeping bag and mat and 22 litters of water). I was confident I could put in 10 hour days, providing the swell height and the winds were gentle or on my back!


Otherwise It was allowing ten days for the trip so we could sit out any bad weather, if needed.  In the end it was 6 days and I feel we could.


How did the paddle go and what was it like taking on the challenge with your partner?


Overall good and I was really chuffed in what we achieved. The first day we got to collect our sea kayak from Es Grau and it was F4/5 NE and 1mt swell. Not a great start. After talking with the super helpful Miriam, she arranged for us a drop off on the SE corner to then start and travel clockwise, which meant we would have an off shore wind but protection from the swell.  


The first day was short due to failing light but we had started and were on the water, which at the start of the day was questionable!  


On the fifth day after lunch I felt on fire, I could smell then end and around the entrance to Mahon, swell and boat traffic was quite exciting but I felt in a good place.  When we reached Cala Alcalfar we had 6km to finish and one-hour on day light.  It felt good to say ‘let’s find a camp here, tomorrow is another day’.  Rather than push on, we enjoyed a gin and tonic in the local hotel! 


Sonja was ace and really patient as I was much slower than her. This allowed her time to explore the many caves on the South East side of the island and she was a great pace setter.  Sonja was navigating so I could focus on my stroke and what I needed. 


I used a medium sized blade made by VE paddle for the first three days to build up my strength and then went to a larger blade made by McConks carbon paddle for the last three days.


I was aware of the Tramuntana winds which blow from the North and can bring big seas so I was keen to hit the North coast running and put down long days with early starts.  This we did.


The mileage worked out like this:: Biniacolla to Cala Coves, 16km; Cala Coves to Cala en Turqueta, 28km; Cala en Turqueta to Sa Falconera and then back to Cala en Blanes, 36km; Cala en Blanes to Macar Gran, 46km; Macar Gran to Cala Alcalfar, 49km; Cala Alcalfar to Biniacolla, 6km.


Roger pictured on his SUP board during the challenge.

What were the toughest parts of the adventure?  


My ankles swelled up. Thankfully taking to Tony Bain a few months before he mentions using compression tights. I bought 3/4 ones, full length ones and long compression socks too and the last 3 days all were worn.  Yeah, I looked great! I took breaks on the hour which often meant laying down with my right leg in particular in the air, popping anti-inflammatory pills and sleeping with my legs raised.  On the fourth day many a break involved taking a dip in the warm sea, to cool off each hour.  


Day three on the West coast and seeing Punta Nati and a strong head wind blowing off the headland, but in beautiful sunshine and blue skies.  Frustrating, but it made so much sense to turn around and back track to find a suitable camp.


End of day four and dealing with the last 4km of a reflective sea as we rounded the most Northerly point of Cavalleria, with a North west light wind. Tired after over 40 km paddling and now the most technical sea conditions of the day. 


How did you feel when you completed it and what do you have lined up in terms of similar adventures in the months ahead?


I was really pleased for us both.  I felt stronger and more confident, with a better understanding of my potential.  I’m keen to see if there’s anything I can do to ensure my legs don’t swell up again in the future, otherwise this may limit me.


I was really chuffed with my personal best mileage of 49km and that was against a gentle head wind, so I’m sure with tide and wind with me, I could easily extend this.


I’m keen to get a surfing SUP head on so that I can manage potential surf landings and also downwinding (paddling with the wind at your back and usually along the coastline with a different pick up point.)


Scotland has my interest with its many islands. I’m up to Shetland and Orkney next Summer 2018, running sea kayaking courses, although I will have my touring McConks 12.8 with me, for one month, so watch this space!


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