Cal Major, Ocean Plastics Campaigner, Paddleboarder and Vet

Cal Major

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Stand up paddleboarding 300 miles around the entire Cornish coast last year was my biggest achievement to date. Just over 5 years ago, I had my hip operated on - I went from being a karate black belt, captain of my football team and fit as a fiddle to being told I wouldn't run again. I lost a lot of confidence in my body's physical ability, and talked myself down from doing things, believing I was physically incapable. Discovering I could stand up paddle board was a huge confidence boost, and deciding to take on the challenge around Cornwall was a really big step for me. It ended up being as much of a mental challenge as it was physical; I never doubted I would complete it, but some days am still so amazed I did.

What motivates you to do what you do?

The driving force behind my expeditions is the damage that single use plastic is doing to the oceans. Single use plastic is the stuff that is used for a matter of minutes, often packaging, then thrown away. Relatively little of it is recycled, and that which isn't has the potential to make its way into the oceans, where it pollutes the water, kills wildlife and reduces the ocean's ability to sustain life on Earth. I desperately wanted to find a way to show people the harm it was causing, but more to demonstrate simple things we can all do to limit it, such as choosing a refillable water bottle over single use plastic bottles. I wanted to deliver a positive message, so turned to adventure as my vehicle.

What do you owe your mother?

My mum teaches me compassion and unconditional love. She always has so much love to give and I think this has really affected the way in which I treat other people too. Sometimes, when I find myself in emotional trouble, I think of the love and understanding she would show me, and try and direct some of that compassion inwards. Especially if I'm giving myself a hard time, I try and think of what my mum would say to me in that situation, and how she would see the best in me, not the bad bits that I'm focussing on.

Which women inspire you and why?

There are two types of women that inspire me. The first are those who have a passion, work hard and stand strong for what the are fighting for. Sylvia Earle is a huge inspiration - she has advanced ocean conservancy and inclusion of women in the field of marine research, is intelligent, humble and brilliant.

The second is authentic adventurers and sportswomen. I'm inspired by women who are less interested in how their bodies look, and more interested in how they function. Those who acknowledge their potential, train hard to reach their goals, and are calm and humble along the way. I'm inspired by women who understand that we are all a team, and aren't out to spite anybody else, but to encourage and support their team mates. I love Marie Buchanan who is an amazingly strong and determined UK professional SUP racer, and a really lovely, encouraging and genuine woman! I'm also inspired by Izzi Gomez who is a kick ass pro SUP surfer at the age of 17.

I'm a big fan of Anna McNuff who is a female adventurer who isn't afraid to show us the real bits of taking on big challenges!

What are you reading?

I'm currently reading two books - the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series which are lovely books, easy to read and fun, based around a pretty cool female protagonist, and The Tide Book which was a gift to me and is a beautifully written description of how the tides in the UK work - they are deceptively complicated!

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

I am a veterinary surgeon by day, and this has had some huge gender barriers to overcome, particularly when I was a farm vet when I first graduated. The farmers would take one look at this small, young, female vet and in that moment decide I wasn't capable of doing a good job. From the moment I walked onto a new farm I needed to prove my worth to be treated with any respect. However, as soon as I had performed adequately just the once - a successful caesarean on their prized heifer, a seriously physically challenging twisted uterus correction, or saving their youngstock from a bout of pneumonia, they would welcome me back, send me away with fresh eggs, and bring me warm water to wash up in afterwards (I was told by my male colleagues that the boys only ever got cold water!)

How can the world be made a better place for women?

By women believing in themselves and their abilities. There is so much in society telling women that they have to look or behave a certain way. I wish more women would listen to their intuition and believe in their innate ability in whatever it is that drives them. I have recently been studying mindfulness, which has given me a lot of confidence in listening to my inner teacher and trusting that I know what is best for me. I also think the world would be a much better place for women if we had a bit more love for our fellow females, and less competition that can be so unnecessary and damaging.

Describe your perfect day?

My perfect day would be shared with loved ones for a start - it's great to challenge yourself alone but humans are made for interaction! It would be surfing or stand up paddle boarding in the sunshine, then camping on a remote beach, with a campfire and a bottle of wine!

We've noticed there really aren’t many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

Ooh that's a tricky one! There are so many women in Cornwall at the moment fighting plastic pollution - Heather Koldewey in Marazion, Claire Wallerstein of Rame Peninsula beach care, and Jill Stott of Clean Cornwall. These ladies have all made a huge impact on the health of our oceans, and continue to do so with humility and cool determination.

Give us a tip?

Don't underestimate yourself. You have all the strength and answers you need. They're not always immediately obvious, but if you give yourself space and time, you will figure out what is truly you, and can give up on that which isn't. Go forth and be the most authentic, beautifully vulnerable, unexpectedly strong person you know you are.

Cal Major is a stand up paddle boarder, surfer, ocean lover and vet. Increasingly upset by the amount of plastic waste she was finding in the ocean, she wanted to connect people to the harm that it was causing, but moreover to empower people to make positive changes to help prevent it. So she turned to adventure and last year stand up paddle boarded the entire Cornish coast in a bid to demonstrate the problems surrounding single use plastic water bottles; a 300 mile epic ocean voyage in overhead swell, gale force headwind, fog, rain and treacherous tides. This year she is circumnavigating the Isle of Skye’s 400 miles of wild and unforgiving coastline on stand up paddleboard to show how we can protect our environment from the threat of single use plastic.

www.paddleagainstplastic.com
www.plasticfree.org.uk

 

Rebecca Parry, Head Of Projects At The Wave Project.

Becky Parry Head Of Projects At The Wave Project

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Personally - Surviving a condition in pregnancy called Hyperemesis Gravidium (Severe sickness and vomiting) which left me malnourished, dehydrated and emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted for nine months, then having a long and not the easiest labour and then still having the strength to deliver our baby girl safely and breastfeed her for 18 months, It was a long recovery for me afterwards!  Aside from that, finding a job I truly love, enjoy and feel rewarded in.

What motivates you to do what you do?

Knowing and seeing what we do really makes a difference, the children I've worked with in and out of water keep me inspired! They are amazing individuals and go through so much in their lives and show us all how they overcome their own challenges. It keeps your head and your feet firmly planted on the ground and it humbles me as we have such privileged lives compared to some of the young people we work with.

What do you owe your mother? 

The strength and passion to help people, to leave my problems aside to help others. To be loving, warm and non judgemental. To work, love and play hard and most of all how to be a good mum. Oh and my OCD, cleaning and laundry habit.

Which women inspire you and why?

All women inspire me, each of us have our own stories and challenges so we should celebrate and inspire each other.  Bethany Hamilton is a particularly inspiring woman in surfing, at the age of 13 she was attacked by a shark whilst surfing at her local beach in Hawaii. One month after the attack, Bethany returned to the water and within 2 years had won her first National title. She continues to surf professional and and now has a child, which is pretty inspiring.

What are you reading?

I don't get much time to read at the moment, having a toddler to chase after keeps me pretty busy, but when I can grab five minutes I love to pick up Breathe magazine which has some lovely articles and features and gives me a bit of escapism. When we go away on holiday, I always make sure to pack plenty of books, as this is when I get most of my reading done. I like to read a mix of genres and am always looking for recommendations!

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

The surfing industry has been a predominantly a male dominated one so I have seen lots of gender barriers over the years. Things are changing and there is starting to be a little more equality in the sport, but there is still a little way to go!  It’s great that The Wave Project is a surfing charity that currently employs more women than men!     

How can the world be made a better place for women?

Celebrate each other and try not judge or criticise, there is so much pressure put on us to have the perfect image and lives and I think social media doesn’t always help this.

Describe your perfect day?

We don't get many family days together, just because of the nature of my husbands business, but when we do I like to pack up for a day on the beach or boat, pack a picnic, and head down for a lovely day playing on the beach and in the sea together.  I like to stay as long as possible, enjoying the evening light and sometimes a BBQ if we’ve been organised enough.

We've noticed there really aren’t many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

I would like to see Daphne Du Marier, Rowena Cade or Barbara Hepworth rememberedwith a statue. I don’t feel they are celebrated or remembered fas much as they could be for their contributions to the county.

Give us a tip?

Not many people know how to escape a rip current and I think living in Cornwall surrounded by the sea, its an essential tip to know!

Rip currents can be difficult to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea's surface.

If you do find yourself caught in a rip:

- Don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted.

- If you can stand, wade don’t swim.

- If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore.

Rebecca Parry has lived in Cornwall since the age of 4, and has always been engaged with surfing and the sea in one way or another, in and out of the water.  Her involvement with the Wave Project started during the initial pilot project in 2010, Rebecca was then employed by the organisation in 2013.

Rebecca originally qualified as a primary teacher and improving young people’s emotional and mental health is something she feels vey passionately about. Combining this with her respect and passion for the sea and surfing has allowed Rebecca to pursue a career within a charity which she feels very honoured to be part of.  Seeing first hand how surfing can benefit and improve young people’s emotional and mental health and wellbeing is very rewarding. This passion for the beach and sea and her qualification in teaching lead her to develop The Wave Project’s Beach School intervention which is now being delivered to schools around Cornwall on a regular basis.

Rebecca married her beach lifeguard-training husband Stuart in 2012 and have since had their daughter, Pip, in 2014. Rebecca herself has suffered with postnatal depression and post traumatic stress after suffering with Hyperemesis Gravidarum during her pregnancy. Rebecca has found getting back in the sea & surfing, after pregnancy very beneficial to her overall mental health & wellbeing recovery. Rebecca enjoys days on the beach, swimming with her little girl, surfing, reading and has an interest in holistic/natural health.

 

The Wave Project started in 2010 as a voluntary group funded by the National Health Service in Cornwall. The initial aim was to use volunteers to provide one-to-one surfing lessons for young people with mental health issues as a way of getting them outside, doing physical exercise and feeling more confident about themselves.The first project achieved outstanding results.

The results of the pilot showed that going surfing once a week helped clients feel more confident, improved their outlook and gave them a sense of fun. The participants were young people who other services had been unable to reach.  The evaluation showed that the surfing course had led them to feel more accepted, positive and comfortable with their lives. Encouraged by the results, The Wave Project was established as a not-for-profit company. Further funding was obtained, initially from BBC Children In Need and later from the Big Lottery Fund and other funders, and the project began to grow.  Since then, The Wave Project has developed an award-winning intervention that uses the local surfers to help young people reduce anxiety and improve their emotional health. New projects have been set up all over the UK, including in Wales and Scotland.  All of these projects use the same methods employed on the original pilot scheme in Cornwall – getting local surfers to work with clients and teach them to surf. The sessions are delivered by a mix of paid staff and volunteer surf-mentors who work in partnership with established surf schools. Some of our surf mentors started out as clients themselves.  Most importantly, our sessions are free of any pressure to succeed – clients work at their own pace and achieve their own goals. They can work 1:1 with their mentor, or get more involved with the group. Our ethos is to be totally client-led. The role of the surf mentor is to encourage and enable, not to push clients towards an arbitrary goal. We have found that this approach reduces anxiety and allows clients to feel empowered, enabling them to overcome challenges and develop a sense of pride in their achievements.

We take referrals from professionals working with vulnerable children and young people, and also run private lessons for schools, charities and companies. Regular referrers include the NHS, social services, mental health services, GPs, family support services, counsellors and children’s charities.

https://www.waveproject.co.uk

Liz Fenwick, Writer, Wife, Mother Of Three.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Aside from the family ones…writing books that touch readers hearts.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I have a huge need to tell stories especially about women – past and present. How do women survive when confronted by things they never imagined? I hope that by telling these stories in an entertaining and readable way I can reach out and let people know they are not alone.

What do you owe your mother?

My stubbornness, my belief that if I worked hard enough I could do what I wanted to and most importantly that love isn’t about the words but how you demonstrate it.

Which women inspire you and why?

So many it’s hard to chose. But my current hero is Isobel Abulhoul who founded the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. She saw the need to increase literacy in the Middle East and to build bridges between cultures. She felt books were the best way and I agree.

What are you reading?

Cornwall in the Great Civil War by Mary Coate.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

When I was younger it was being assessed on my appearance and not my brain. In my first job after university a wise woman said to me that my looks would open any door but only my brain would keep it open. I hope that my daughter will not have to use her looks in that way and will be judged on merit alone.

How can the world be made a better place for women?

Respect. I think the world has lost the notion of respect in its rush to achieve many things. Now that some battles have been fought and nearly won can we have a little quiet respect back?

Describe your perfect day?

Coffee in my garden before everyone is awake, a few hours writing then into the boat to enjoy the Helford with a good book while my husband fishes, cooking the catch and enjoying my garden again….

We've noticed there really aren’t many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

That’s a tough question as I think the women of Cornwall have been focused on surviving in a challenging environment rather than changing the rest ofthe world. Cornwall, especially in the past, was a harsh place to live so I would love to see a statue celebrating all Cornish women from the fishwives to the Bal Maidens to those who served in both wars to the current day…

Give us a tip?

As I’m a writer I’ll give you my best writing tip. Listen to your work whether you have a trusted friend read it to you or have the computer do it with text to voice software. It gives you distance from the words and helps you to experience it as a reader and not as someone who knows everything that is and isn’t on the page.

Liz Fenwick

http://lizfenwick.com 

Award winning author of The Returning Tide, The Cornish House, A Cornish Affair, A Cornish Stranger and Under A Cornish Sky. After ten international moves, She's a bit of a global nomad. It’s no wonder her heart remains in Cornwall. Her books are available in Dutch, Germany, Portuguese, French, Estonia, Norwegian Danish, Turkish, Swedish, Latvian, Serbian and Czech.