Kayaking firefighters complete epic challenge

The team reach their final destination at Camber Sands. Picture by Justin Goodchild
The team reach their final destination at Camber Sands. Picture by Justin Goodchild

A group of intrepid firefighters battled strong currents, foggy conditions and low tides to complete a gruelling 20 mile sponsored kayak, raising hundreds of pounds to help teach children how to stay safe at the beach.

Justin Goodchild, from Bohemia Fire Station in Hastings, Marc Wise from Battle, Stuart Holden from The Ridge, and Ashley Mepham from Bohemia, kayaked from Bodiam Castle to Camber Sands last Saturday (April 29) to raise money for a new Rookie Beach School.

A foggy start at Bodiam. Picture by Justin Goodchild

A foggy start at Bodiam. Picture by Justin Goodchild

Watch manager Justin Goodchild led the group on their fundraising mission which, despite Saturday’s glorious sunshine, got off to a rather chilly start.

He told the Observer: “It was very cold in the morning when we started.

“We got on the water at about 5am.

“It was very foggy so we had to use our head torches and stuck together for safety.

A quick pit stop for food after eight miles. Picture by Justin Goodchild.

A quick pit stop for food after eight miles. Picture by Justin Goodchild.

“When the sun came out it warmed us up at bit, which was a blessing.”

Everything was going smoothly until the crew unexpectedly found themselves high and dry in Rye.

Justin said: “The only bit we did not account for is when we got to the Military Lock in Rye.

“When we got to the other side of the lock the tide had gone out, so we had a 20 minute wait.

Waiting for the tide to come in at Rye. Picture by Justin Goodchild.

Waiting for the tide to come in at Rye. Picture by Justin Goodchild.

“When we got back in the water we had to slide down the mud.”

He added: “It was hard going for the last six miles because we were going against the tide.

“It was a real team effort to get everyone to the end at Camber.”

The team had hoped to arrive at Camber Sands at 1pm, but the hitch at the lock and the tides saw them reach their final destination at 3pm.

Stuart Holden from The Ridge Fire Station feels the burn at 15 miles. Picture by Justin Goodchild.

Stuart Holden from The Ridge Fire Station feels the burn at 15 miles. Picture by Justin Goodchild.

They were met at the end by volunteers from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, who had been doing some serious bucket-rattling on their behalf, as well as other ESFRS colleagues who had been busy spreading the water safety message.

Justin said: “It was really well received.

“We had crews from Rye Fire Station doing a demonstration with throw lines and other safety equipment we have on the appliances. And our water safety coordinator was promoting water safety.”

So far the team has raised more than £300 for the Rookie Beach School, not including the amount collected by volunteers at Camber at the end of the kayak.

Hazel Fulker, a former solider from Rye, set up the beach school last summer.

The school is aimed at children and young people aged from eight upwards and Hazel is keen to make the club accessible to everyone, including those living in the inner cities who have limited experience of the sea.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service community volunteers at Camber Sands. Picture by Justin Goodchild.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service community volunteers at Camber Sands. Picture by Justin Goodchild.

Seven people died in two incidents at the popular beach last summer and Hazel hopes that by educating people about the sea, future tragedies can be prevented.

The kayak comes at the conclusion of the CFOA Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week.

Justin said: “We are hoping the Rookie Lifeguard School in Camber goes from strength to strength and they continue to learn about water awareness in that area.”

Seasoned kayakers Justin and Marc are already looking forward to another fundraising challenge next year.

There is still time to sponsor Justin and the team - visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ESFRS

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