The Selkie Life chose me - By Sam Blanchard
Posted on Wednesday, February 19 2020 06:11:00 PM in News by Karen Lee
“Be naive enough to start something and stubborn enough to see it through” – a quote by the inspirational Ross Edgely that is quickly defining my charity challenge.
In the summer of 2019, as an Isle of Wight native who had barely swum 20 lengths of a pool in the last 5 years combined, I set myself a challenge to swim around the Isle of Wight, a feat achieved by only 5 people before. As if the 96km swim might not be enough, I’ve also tasked myself to cycle around the coastal route of the Island (96km) and then run across the middle of it (42km), covering the famous “Walk the Wight” route from east to west. A unique challenge that I’ve called the TRIsle of Wight.
My dad is my hero, as a little boy looking up to him competing in cycling events and following dedicated gym programs, he was invincible. He remained invincible until 2015 when he visited me whilst I was working in America… and I didn’t recognise him. On that trip, with no diagnosis, he fell numerous times and displayed personality changes that concerned the whole family. A breakdown? Too much drink? The unthinkable… a brain tumour? 2 years later after a further decline, my dad was finally given a diagnosis. Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, most people haven’t. Even medical professionals.
What can you do when your hero is in free fall and nobody has any answers? Well, I decided to stand up and shout. What would get peoples attention? He was an incredible endurance athlete in his day, we both grew up and love the Isle of Wight… and so the TRIsle of Wight was born.
Have you heard of Selkie?
I had no idea what I was doing. Unlike my dad, I sit in my comfort zone when it comes to exercise. I’m not a swimmer, never had lessons, wouldn’t know where to start with equipment and knowledge of open water swimming. Sometimes, its when you aren’t looking that you find exactly what you need & want… By chance, I was flicking through Pipeline, the magazine for Surfers Against Sewage. And noticed a company that specialised in adventurous open water swims, it shared the same ethos that my challenge is about in regards to being environmentally conscious and ambitious. But I’d never heard of them, how good can they be?
It took one short phone call to find out. And the appreciation has risen exponentially every month since that call. I work in professional sport and deal with nutrition companies, equipment, and supplies, big brand clothing, etc.. Selkie isn’t like anything else I’ve come across. Selkie is a team, it's like a family. I’ve been introduced to a world of open water swimming that I didn’t know existed.
Advice on Facebook groups to join, social media influencers to follow, perhaps the biggest contact so far was an introduction to fellow #TeamSelkie, Stuart Hacker. A successful channel swimmer and owner of the SwimCube in Northampton. Stu has quickly become a mentor as well as coaching my questionable technique. A friendship that wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t thanks to Selkie.
Support with this challenge comes in many forms. Since teaming up with Selkie, I’ve been in regular contact with the incredible Katia Vastiau who runs the social media side of things for Selkie. Katia has helped raise my profile on social media, shared content, offered advice and words of encouragement, pushed me when I needed it and reassured me at times of doubt.
If you are reading this, you have more than likely been on the Selkie website and seen the range of products. But if you’re yet to buy anything, take my word for it as someone who a year ago had not heard of Selkie...the quality is outstanding. My friends and family are slowly working their way through the catalogues and are yet to be disappointed. I come from a very green family, so buying sustainability is an important criteria for shopping in our household. The products are made from recycled ocean waste, come wrapped in paper and cardboard with no plastic in sight and my word… they are comfortable!!
What has Selkie done for you?
When writing this blog, I was asked, “what has Selkie done for you?”
Well, its created friendships, it has provided emotional support, it has generously offered a discount code that contributes to my charity fundraising (TRISAM20 for 20% off)… and it provided me with some pretty cool kit!
Thanks to Selkie, I now have all the gear and much more of an idea.