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The Go Ape Banana Relay: The Kayak Challenge

Jo O'Boyle FCIM

Head of Marketing

Go Ape team before the banana relay kayak race


How did I get roped into a Kayak marathon is a question I asked myself many time during said adventure!

Well it’s a story I recall with ease. Our MD, Nick was thrown down the gauntlet by one of our site managers to challenge himself to launch our Banana Relay; a 30,000 mile virtual relay to each of the 7 continents highest peaks, to raise money for The Princes Trust, starting at our very first Go Ape site Thetford. Nick stepped up and started planning a Kayak challenge, which when he first started talking to me about it I thought he meant was just for him. ‘Excellent’, ‘sounds great’, words of encouragement I thought he needed to hear in support of his adventures but in hindsight actually meant I’d just signed myself up to the gruelling marathon.

Fast forward to 7am on a sunny Thursday and I am meeting 13 other colleagues, including the founders of Go Ape; Tris and Becs (expert Kayakers I’ve now come to understand although I should’ve worked this out when they arrived with their own kayak on the roof of the car). It’s the first time we’ve met up since the pandemic, the sun is shining, there’s lots of banter and a day ahead of catching up, pretty awesome all round.

So one thing I learnt within the first 5 minutes, we Go Aper’s are all pretty competitive. That’s also an understatement! There was tactical partner picking, boat positioning, racing lines, motivational chat and a bit of argy bargy into the reeds, but when all was said and done there was always someone to help me drag the kayak out of the river to portage round the 100th weir we had to navigate, offer round snacks, sun cream, water pretty much anything there was.

Go Ape monkey attached to kayak

The true Go Ape spirit came in when we navigated the weirs that despite having a few warning signs and portage points available looked like they could take a kayak.

There’s nothing that screams live life adventurously more than dangling half a kayak of a ledge, bum shuffling it forwards until the point of no return when you feel like you’ve reach the top of the log flume before whooshing down into the river. This misadventure meant that more often than not the front of the Kayak went straight down into the river, soaking any bags you had strapped in (the more informed of the team used dry bags FYI…note to self for my Christmas list!).

So now not only did I have a wet bum and feet but my sandwiches were, well rather soggy. A small price to pay though I thought for the sheer fun of sliding down and trying to stay in your kayak with the odds stacked against you. Some of the team were not so fortunate and Alfie, who had recently joined us in the Finance Team somehow launched solo down the first weir of the day and after a few wobbles capsized into the River Stour. At least now he has received the full induction to the business and understands at face value the core value of ‘no risk, no reward’.

Go Ape group kayaking on the river

The highlights of the day for me stand out quite clearly; singing Bohemium Rhapsody at the top of my voice with my Kayak buddy Andy from Finance, watching and taking part in the weir shenanegans, navigating across many fallen branches and trees.

The clear winner though was spending time with my adventurous colleagues doing something that challenged us all. There’s no denying it was tough, 26 miles of paddling was something that was hard to prepare for but everyone was up for it and no one wanted to give up at any point because we were doing it to raise money for a very worthwhile cause that is close to our hearts; The Princes Trust.

I also learnt some valuable life lessons that will stick with me; a dry bag is a good investment, steering is not only difficult but key when paddling, you can do anything when you put your mind (and a fair amount of sugar) to it, but most of all, next time your MD starts talking about ‘his’ next adventure simply smile, nod and say ‘good luck, I will sponsor you’. Who am I kidding I’d be the first to sign up.

Go Ape team in kayaks in the trees
Go ape team celebrating at the end of the banana relay

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