Paddle For Mental Health
NIC LOWE, 22, is a kayaking adventurer with a cause. Having already explored some of Australia's coastline Nic has headed to North America to complete his 'Paddle for Mental Health'. Competing in world class kayak races and taking the time to explore the waters over there, Nic is using the trip to break the stigma associated with mental disease. He himself a survivor of a frightening and life threatening experience with anorexia, Nic is creating discussion through his adventures.
TOM DUNN: In your own words, who is Nic Lowe?
NIC LOWE: I’m am a young, quiet fella bought up along the coast of Victoria. I’m pretty introverted, enjoy the quiet life, and love the outdoors. I’ve suffered an eating disorder, which was a real eye opener, and I now want to help people going through similar mental health issues.
TD: Your current trip 'Paddling for Mental Health' makes you the perfect fit for this Advocate/Adventurer series. Do you see what you're doing right now as more Adventure or Advocacy focused?
NL: I feel like the adventure and advocacy go hand in hand for me. If I didn’t undertake this paddling adventure, I feel I wouldn’t have a platform to truly get people talking about Mental Health.
The paddling creates the exposure I need to discuss mental health with the wider community to help breakdown the stigma.
I would say I am an adventurer and an advocate, and I’m equally passionate about them both.
TD: What's your connection to the mental health component of your trip?
NL: The reason I am paddling for mental health is due to my battles in the past with an eating disorder (anorexia). In 2015 I spent over a month in hospital after dropping from 80kg down to 54kg. At that stage I couldn’t walk, couldn’t shower myself, I had a nasal gastric tube feeding me, a drip in my arm, and my heart rate was getting as low at 28bpm (early stages of heart failure). I was lucky enough to find support and help, and I’ve made a full recovery since then.
My story however is only one example, and it’s something millions of people are going through everyday. It’s something that should be openly discussed, and help should be more readily funded and more accessible.
TD: What made you decide to publicly share your experience over the journey? Why combine the story and the paddle rather than keep them as separate parts of your life?
NL: The paddle really gives my story a platform to be heard. The paddle is the intro I use with the purpose of discussing mental health, a very taboo topic.
TD: Getting into the trip itself, What paddling will we see you complete during the 'Paddle for Mental Health'?
NL: Firstly I have the Molokai world downwind ski titles in Hawaii, this is a 53km race.
From their I have a 300km sea kayak trip up in Alaska, followed by a week trip down in Canada around Vancouver Island.
I am then staying in Canada to compete in the Canadian National downwind surf ski titles.
After that I am heading down to the Hood River in Oregon for a world league downwind surf ski race called the Gorge Race.
After that I will be flying home via LA.
TD: Between those high standard races you'll take the time to explore some pretty spectacular coastlines (Hawaiin, Alaskan, Californian and Canadian) What drew you towards paddling those areas?
NL: North America really provides a full range of paddling conditions. From paddling in the tropics of Hawaii, to the alpine mountains of Alaska. We travel to experience things we don’t generally see at home, and North America has provided this for us.
TD: This isn't your first paddling expedition, previously attempting Bass Straight and paddling along the Western Australian coast. What makes Adventure paddling more appealing to you than, say, hiking or bikepacking?
NL: My background is in paddling, so naturally in my eyes paddling is the most obvious choice of transport when it comes to seeing the world. Whilst paddling you can carry more gear in your kayak, and it gives you the opportunity to see the land from the water, a perspective very few people appreciate.
I also don’t enjoy leg exercise too much, so kayaking is great!
TD: Along with those previous trips, your current one, and the training you do back home (on the Surf Coast in Victoria) you've paddled in some beautiful areas. What's been your favourite patch of water so far?
NL: My favourite area that I have paddled would be Shark Bay, along the coast of WA. This area has the red sands of the desert meeting the glowing ocean. It’s picturesque.
TD: Are you able to describe the feeling you get while you're out paddling?
NL: Paddling clears my mind. It grounds me to the earth. Every worry leaves your mind, and all you can do is respect and appreciate the environment around you. It’s an outlet.
TD: Despite those feelings surely at times paddling out in the ocean could become lonely (just you and the big blue). How do you keep yourself entertained on days when you aren't feeling it?
NL: I think the reason I do paddle is to escape from people, life and society. I thrive off being out there with just me and the big blue.
Some days are harder than others when paddling, but that variation makes it exciting.
TD: What's been your favourite moment on the water?
NL: The most exciting moment is when you finally pack your kayak on the shore line, sit in it, and it hits you that you are about to embark on an adventure! I’ve felt that excitement every trip I’ve been on!
TD: What would be your dream trip to complete?
NL: I’m unsure to be honest! Every coast has something to offer. I hope to use my life to see as much as I can see.
TD: Do you have any other Adventurers or paddlers you follow to use as a source of inspiration?
NL: Locally there are a range of great expedition paddlers such as Chris Porter and John Jacoby who have travelled the world paddling. There's also other legends such as Freya Hoeffmister, who is attempting to paddle around every continent of the world.
They are definitely inspirational, however I have my own path and things I want to achieve.
TD: What suggestions do you have for someone else who might like to combine Adventure and Advocacy in a way that you have?
NL: If you are passionate about making a difference, and you love the outdoors, it’s a perfect combo to make some change. Dream big, if you want to achieve something, work hard until you get there.
TD: Can we expect to see more paddling adventurers from Nic Lowe in the future?
NL: There’s definitely more adventures to be had; when and where I cannot yet say. I’ve got a very good thing going with the girlfriend at the moment, so will put a bit of effort into that and my career once this trip is done.
TD: Any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with?
NL: Change can be hard to make. At times you can feel like you haven’t really changed anything. But then you get the odd message from an individual, and what you are doing has really helped them. It’s those small moments which really matter.
Get in touch with Nic Lowe:
Facebook - @paddleformentalhealth
Instagram - @niclowe_paddleformentalhealth
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