On Friday October 12, British expat Julia Cafferkey and her British friend Lady Elizabeth Riesenburg will set off together to kayak 25km around the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina and along the stretch of beach in front of JBR. They’ll start and finish at Riva Beach Club, and the trip will take an estimated six hours.
It’s all in aid of Lara’s Foundation, a charity set up earlier this year in memory of Julia’s best friend, Lara Jones, a dedicated English language teacher who passed away unexpectedly while travelling in South America earlier this year.
‘It had always been Lara’s dream to open a school in South America to teach English, so the foundation was set up to help fulfil that dream and provide education,’ Julia explains.
In mid-July, Julia and Elizabeth began training for their mammoth challenge. They’d initially decided to kayak 18km, until Elizabeth suggested they increase it to 25km. Even though she describes herself as ‘the sporty one’ of the pair, Elizabeth explains that there has been some serious preparation involved to make sure they’re in peak condition. ‘I’ve been training in the gym three times a week, doing two-and-a-half hours each session, working in particular on upper-body strength. We train for about four hours in the kayaks in the sea on Friday mornings, then I do some long-distance training in the sea, swimming about 2km each time, just to get used to the conditions.’
Julia, meanwhile, has been attending bootcamps with Dubai’s Ignite Fitness. ‘I need someone to shout at me to make me train,’ she laughs. But it’s been paying off: the girls are currently kayaking for 15km during training sessions every week, and will push it up to 18km for their final session before the challenge. ‘Julia has been really good out there,’ says Elizabeth. ‘She doesn’t stop – even when she gets tired, she just keeps going. Her motivation is really inspiring.’
Julia explains that in their first training session, both were exhausted after just an hour and a half, but fortunately their improvement has been rapid, and their stamina has built up quickly.
Once on the open water, though, the challenges will go beyond simply paddling. ‘It’s a completely different story when you’re paddling on a beautiful calm day to when it’s a bit choppy, because then it becomes 100 times harder. You find you’re not moving, and you have to put everything into it to move just five metres,’ Julia explains. ‘The area around Atlantis starts to get quite rough, and we’ve been warned about barracudas and sharks.’
Though Julia notes she has done ‘some research’ into shark sightings in the area, the information has been inconsistent, and mainly hearsay, so they are unsure whether they pose any real danger. ‘The Riva manager also warned us that in that specific area there are a huge number of stingrays, jellyfish and barracudas – some around a metre long.’
‘And we have no support boats with us,’ Elizabeth adds. ‘So yes, it is quite scary.’ They’re still on the lookout for more informed advice, however, and are keen to hear from anyone who may know a thing or two about local marine life, and how to stay safe during rougher conditions.
Once they get round into the marina, however, the toughest bit will be over, and the main challenge remaining will be distance. ‘We did a training session in the marina the other week and it was really nice,’ says Elizabeth. ‘The water is very calm, and there are people on boats waving at you.’
‘A family on a yacht beeped their horn, called us over and gave us some cold water, which was great!’ Julia adds.
If you’re not around on a yacht to hand out fresh water, there are still ways you can support them. Head down to the beach to cheer them on, or make a donation through the foundation’s website. As Elizabeth says; ‘At the end of the day, we are trying to raise money for education – and that’s an excellent cause.’
Julia and Elizabeth will begin their kayak at 6am on Friday October 12. To offer advice, drop Julia a line at email@example.com. To make a donation or find out more about the cause, see www.larasfoundation.co.uk.