KIEREN DEVISSER 22, is preparing for an immense adventure. His aptly named 'Endurothon Oz' project is a 25,000km run, cycle and kayak around Australia that he hopes to undertake in 2020. Dedicating the journey to cleaning the world and it's oceans of plastic, Kieren has further goal of not just completing his trip, but also raising $1million. Endurothon Oz is an inspiring and unique idea and Kieren seems to be the right person to take on the challenge.
TOM DUNN: Who is Kieren Devisser?
KIEREN DEVISSER: I am just a passionate Australian who's worried about our plastic pollution crisis. I have grown up in the country and I've been surrounded by nature my whole life. Nature is a part of who I am, and I want to help protect it.
TD: Endurothon Oz is an intruiging concept. Where did the idea come from, and why the focus on plastic pollution?
KD: It's definitely different. I have grown up around sports, my father is a sport teacher. All my brother's were heavily into sport's and I followed down the same path. After my bike ride in 2014, I always thought of cycling around Australia, but I never had a cause worth doing it for. There was nothing that really struck me. In 2017, My fiance Teresa and I moved up to Queensland as I had a job opportunity up there. We were hit rough while we were up there, we spent 2 months homeless living off $2 per day. We were living in the back of the car during summer, our car was almost broken into while we slept multiple times, we were malnourished and we were in a difficult place. One of our morning routines was that we would head down to our favourite beach and watch the sunrise, it was a way of keeping our positivity up. One morning, we arrived to the beach and it was covered in plastic that had washed up overnight. Tess and I ended up helping clean the beach with an elderly couple, who educated us on plastic pollution. I began to research into it and my heart broke. Facts such as 3000 marine animals die each day from plastic pollution, 46,000 pieces of plastic float in every square mile in the ocean & that 8-14 million tonnes enter the ocean every year; began to dig into me. I was sucked in and I knew I wanted to help create a change. I thought of cycling around Australia, but the plastic pollution crisis is so big. I felt like I had to do something bigger to help raise awareness and tackle this problem, so I decided to run, cycle and kayak - pushing my body to the absolute limits to get people talking.
TD: You’re featuring as part of an interview series full of Advocates and Adventurers. In which of those two categories would you place the Endurothon challenge?
KD: Great question! On one hand I am traveling some of Australia's toughest terrain, including kayaking Bass Strait through the trip. So it is definitely adventurist. But on the other hand, we are promoting and supporting a very important cause. We will have to settle for both!
TD: Endurothon isn’t your first adventure challenge, having cycled 2,700km from Uluru to Melbourne in 2014. How has that experience shaped your upcoming one?
KD: I was 16 years old when I organised that trip. I was a shy and was very much afraid of the public eye. I was a kid with a dream and I stuck through it and completed it. That trip taught me so much about myself and that anything was possible if I mind to it. I received an unbelievable amount of negative input from my 'friends' for that trip, saying I would never be able to do it. It taught me to filter out the noise and stick to my guns. There were a lot of things that I attempted with that trip that failed, we initially set the target fundraising goal for $50,000 and only came out with $12,000. I created life long contacts through that event too. Because of my Cycle for Cancer, I now know what not to do, how far I can take it and how to prepare properly. I am going all out on this trip, I don't think I would be so confident if i hadn't have done that initial bike ride.
TD: 25,000km is no small feat, and Australia is no small country. What parts of the map will you tick off as you complete the trip?
KD: All of it! The Endurothon is taking - or rather I am taking myself, to every state in the country. I will be seeing some of Australia's most beautiful sights. I can't wait!
TD: Why did you decide to complete Endurothon by yourself and not with a team of athletes?
KD: It takes a large level of commitment to do what I am doing and an extreme level of fitness. I have been organising this event since early 2018 and I have been training like crazy for over a year. The event itself will take 334 days to complete and at current I am working 60+ hours a week to get this ready to go, all voluntary. I am just the right amount of crazy to be able to complete this mammoth task, I honestly would feel bad asking someone to commit to what I am doing. That being said, I have a few incredible people joining the trip for a few days, weeks at a time. I cannot wait!
TD: What preparation/training does it take to be so confident of completing the entire 25,000km?
KD: The training is quite intense, often 6 - 7 days per week. At the moment I run between 30-60 kilometres 4-5 days a week, while cycling 100-150 kilometres 3 times per week. I haven't started with the kayaking yet, I will be starting mid November.
The training is hard, but the work involved in getting it all together is much harder. There is so much work to do and there is often a lot of rejection, especially regarding sponsorship. It sounds awful, but I am absolutely loving every moment. It all just feels so right!
TD: What makes you most nervous as you look forward to the upcoming journey?
KD: There are a lot of things that make me nervous. Doing something as large as what I am doing has so many risks involved, I just choose to not let them eat me up inside. I think the initial sponsorship to get the costs of the trip covered is what I am most nervous about though. I want to achieve so much, and to know that I can only achieve it all if I have that initial sponsor makes me super nervous. I am confident though.
TD: What impact can Endurothon have on plastic pollution?
KD: I believe EO will create a massive change. We are educating over 10,000 students at over 150 schools about plastic pollution on how to reduce their plastic footprint. We are hosting beach cleans across Australia & we are installing technologies that actually stop plastic from entering our ocean. My personal goal is to stop plastic pollution entering our ocean from the Australian mainland by 50%. We will have a massive impact!
TD: Which goal do you think will be easier to achieve; 25,000km or raising $1million?
KD: I think that they will be both as easy and as hard as each other. I am so confident with the plan that we have set out that we will be able to accomplish both.
TD: Where will the money you raise go?
KD: The $1,000,000 will be directed by myself and Surfrider Australia. We are currently working alongside a company called Clean Water Group that have this amazing technology that stops plastic entering our ocean called the 'drain buddy'. We will be installing thousands of those across the country, dramatically decreasing the amount of plastic entering our ocean every year. We are currently working on getting all the plastic caught by these systems to be recycled into items that benefit the public such as car stops, bins, more drain buddy's etc.
We will also continue to deliver educational programs and host beach cleaning events. It is important to me that we get every little bit of every dollar raised, so we can make as much of a difference as possible. Every dollar counts and we want to make a noticeable impact.
TD: There are many out there who are raising awareness for plastic pollution. Why have you chosen to raise awareness through this method?
KD: Plastic pollution is a MASSIVE problem. There are fundraising methods, but most go completely unnoticed.
I have chosen this method because it will make people look and go "Wow, he is doing all this for plastic pollution?" and hopefully that makes them do their own research, and hopefully our content will help them minimise their plastic footprint. I want to make some noise, so we can create that change that is so desperately needed. I feel the need to do something big, to achieve and solve something big.
TD: What can those who follow the Endurothon Oz page expect to see in the coming 12months?
KD: We will be uploading plenty of eco-friendly tips, educational content and more! You will get to see me as I achieve incredible athletic achievements. We will be doing some incredible things along the trip, it our social media will be educational & entertaining. You will also get updated with any beach cleaning events that we are hosting along the way & hopefully we can inspire some amazing people to come join us at their local clean.
TD: What advice would you give someone who had a similar concept to Endurothon but didn’t know where to begin?
KD: Get set on the idea, know exactly what you want to do and what you want to achieve. Get a website, so companies take you seriously and then hit social media. Tell the world what you are going to do and then start approaching sponsors to get it started. I spent so much time just thinking about what I could do, rather then actually doing it. Just get started! and more importantly, when things get tough - which i promise you they will; keep going. If your dream is important enough to you; you can achieve anything. Honestly even just message me, I would love to help you out!
TD: Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
KD: I just want to say a huge thank you to the individuals who have taken the time out of their day to read this. I hope you have found a little inspiration and I hope that you will follow our journey on social media. Plastic pollution is choking our ocean, it is such a big problem and it is causing irreversible damage to our planet. Please, minimise your plastic footprint. Avoid single use plastic, recycle responsibly, clean your local beach and help be the change. Thank you so much and I hope to see you on our social media pages. Feel free to message me too, I would absolutely love to hear from you!
Get in touch with Kieren Devisser:
Instagram - @endurothonozau
Facebook - @endurothonoz
Enjoying the interviews? Want to read more?
Keep the interview series alive by making a small contribution.