Maria and meI’m an optimistic little mite, so full of hope there’s almost no room left for cake. Wait, I said almost; I’m sure I can squeeze in another doughnut.

But even this cheerful fool couldn’t bring herself to expect a positive response, when she put out a call for a brave kayaker to leave behind their life for 6 months and follow her around the coast of Britain next year. Seriously, half a year in the wilds of the sea with only a scared swimmer and your own mortality for company isn’t exactly the dream. Unless you have night terrors.

My whelm was genuinely over with the amount of incredible souls who have reached out to offer their support and, for a while, it seemed like the most sensible option to put together a kayaking relay team to cover the challenge.

And then… Maria!


As gung as this ho, but with some genuine sea-going skills to boast, Maria is joining the Big, Mad Swim Around Britain as kayaker and safety crew for the entire journey, and in doing so will be attempting to become the first woman to kayak around the mainland’s coast. To say that I’m pleased to have Maria, quite literally, on board, would be understating my joy a thousand-fold. And now, having made the 9-hour round trip to meet her and reassure her that, while the challenge is crazy, I am not, it’s truly wonderful to officially welcome Maria to the Big, Mad Swim team.

Maria says:

I will be joining the inspirational Paula McGuire on her Big, Mad Swim Around Britain. I will be providing kayak support and crewing all the way along, and hoping in the process to set my own record of being the first woman to kayak around mainland Britain.

I will be doing this first and foremost because I believe in Paula and the message she is trying to spread.

Secondly, because I want to raise awareness of my own cause, CatZero. CatZero is a personal development charity that helps people improve their lives by challenging them to try new things, by supporting them to deal with issues in their lives that are holding them back from getting where they want to be, and by treating everyone with respect and celebrating their uniqueness.

Lastly, to prove to myself that I am more able than I let myself believe! I am not an expert kayaker, I am not fit enough, and I need to lose a few pounds, but I am capable of learning and I am going to train hard and practise the skills I need to keep Paula and myself safe. I am just an ordinary person but I am going to set my fears aside to be part of this extraordinary challenge.

To say this is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done would be an understatement but, through all the tough moments and dark days, I hope to smile, to laugh and to learn more about myself and my place in this life!


Please offer Maria the same kindness and support you have always given me, as we start our training together towards next year’s terrifying world-firsts challenge. You can follow Maria on Twitter, or read more about the wonderful organisation for which she works, CatZero.

Most of all, just send happy thoughts!