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2017 Find It Film Ltd  | hello@finditfilm.com | United Kingdom

The #FindingEmpowerment project – Lizzie Carr

 

Danielle Sellwood // October 3 2018

 

Through stand up paddle boarding, Lizzie Carr not only found a way to help restore her wellbeing after treatment for cancer, but also found a purpose – environmental activism. Here, Lizzie shares her story for the #FindingEmpowerment project.

Photo credit: Andy Hargraves

Lizzie Carr had gone to the Isles of Scilly to recuperate after treatment for cancer when she spotted someone paddle boarding, immediately curious, she borrowed a board and found that she loved the experience,

 

“I was hooked almost immediately, initially thinking it was a great low-impact way to get stronger; but I found it was also really calming and had meditative qualities to it. I didn’t realise that I needed to address my general wellbeing until I started paddling but then it became the answer to everything.”

 

Back home in London, Lizzie bought her own board to continue her recuperation on the local rivers and canals, however those inner city waterways provided a different experience altogether,

 

“The waterways are really beautiful, but they are also neglected and that’s where my environmental campaigning began. Up until that point, like everyone else I was in a bit of an environmental sleepwalk, not seeing the scale of the problem. But then as soon as I found myself paddling along to make myself better, to restore my own health, I realised just how unhealthy the waters were. That was a real turning point for me.”

Photo credit: Andy Hargraves

“I was using this place to get better and fitter, it was my playground, my happy place. But every time I went out it was marred by the rubbish, so I just thought – I can’t keep doing this and not at the same time do something to raise awareness.”

 

Wanting to create a life that was meaningful and had purpose Lizzie quit her job and whilst paddle boarding was not the main reason, it was a big part of her desire for change,

“I remember thinking that the worst has happened to me, so now something like quitting my job did not feel like such a huge thing anymore, I didn’t feel scared by it really, I knew it would be ok.”

Just 6 months later, she headed off on a personal challenge to paddle the length of England. Having worked with Ordnance Survey to plot her route, she started in Godalming in Surrey and finished near Kendal in the Lake District.

 

“There was a lot of naivety on my part, but in many ways that was good, it was simple and I didn’t over plan it. The hardest point was the portaging with all my kit, I took a tent and a stove and about 30kgs of kit and every time I came to a lock I needed to haul it all off the board, round the lock, to get back on the water on the other side.”

“There were days when I was feeling so strong, everything was going well, I felt good and it was an amazing feeling and then there were days that I just felt exhausted and needing to rest. But there was never a time when I thought I wouldn’t finish it – even if it meant that I had to camp out for a month and build up my strength, I was determined to do it.”

On that journey Lizzie photographed every single piece of plastic she could, she wanted to gather the evidence to show everyone how bad the problem was. Her mission was to bring the problem to the people through her #PlasticPatrol campaign and very quickly the people started to notice and ask to be involved. In response Lizzie borrowed 6 boards, took them around in a van, advertised the opportunity on social media and people turned up to help.

Photo credit: Andy Hargraves

“I’ve got 600 people out paddle boarding. It’s been really amazing – it’s a beautiful community and now people have their own boards and go out and do it for themselves.”

 

Having started by collecting the very obvious, visible rubbish on our waterways, Lizzie now uses her challenges to contribute to citizen science projects; she collects water samples in order to analyse the amount of micro plastic in our waters and most recently added a Smart Fin to her board to measure water temperature as she paddled the Hudson River in New York State. The Hudson River challenge also tested Lizzies paddling skills,

“The Hudson was definitely my most difficult paddle to date, the river spans over three miles at its widest point and has some crazy currents. Being alone out there, especially on days when even boaters wouldn’t go out because the weather was too bad and knowing that you’ve only got yourself to rely on is really empowering. I look back on that and think about what I got through and it is really motivating and gives me confidence.”

Photo credit: AThe Hudson Project Credit - Joel

Three years to the day that she left her job to pursue at alternative life, Lizzie stood on her board underneath the Statue Of Liberty having completed a 170-mile paddle,

 

“I now live a life that is genuinely worthwhile, I put everything into it, not because I have to, but because I want to. It’s not a job to me it’s a life. After having had cancer, I needed something to give me purpose and in a way this mission saved me. I was healing and at the same time I wanted to give something back. I wanted to contribute and make the world a better place.”

Find out more about Lizzie and #PlasticPatrol here:

 

www.lizzieoutside.co.uk

www.plasticpatrol.co.uk

 

Facebook: @LizzieOutside @PlasticPatrolOfficial

Instagram: @lizzie_outside  @Plastic_Patrol

Twitter: @LizzieOutside  @Plastic_Patrol

Photo credit: The Hudson Project - Maximus in nyc