Joe Cartwright’s Paddleboard fundraiser for the OLLIE Foundation

In support of Joe Cartwright’s Paddleboard fundraiser for the OLLIE Foundation, we wanted to take the opportunity to ask him a few questions. From what inspired him to raise money for OLLIE and what the challenge involves.

What/who inspired you to raise money for the OLLIE Foundation?

I have been a frontline Paramedic for over 21 years, most of my career I was based in St Albans. In 2018 I was promoted to an Officer and now work in Luton, Bedfordshire. Throughout my career I have attended many suicides, from the very young to the very old. I have always struggled to understand what could be so bad for someone to choose to end their own life. I have also lost several friends and colleagues to suicide over the past few years and have seen first-hand the catastrophic effect is has to the people left behind, the ripple effect!!

Last year I attended a young suicide, a child that chose to end their life over a relatively small online debt. A debt that could have easily been resolved if only the child reached out. This incident really affected me, probably more so being a father myself. The incident really got me thinking about the lack of awareness there is around suicide, what support is out there for people that feel suicide is the only option, what training is out there for professionals to “spot the signs”, and what support is given to families and friends that are left behind and so on..

I came across the incredible OLLIE Foundation last year browsing the internet, I was keen to get involved but COVID landed on us, and my workload tripled overnight. Ironically during COVID we applied for a new mortgage and was recommended by a friend to contact Phil at iMAB. Not only did Phil arrange our new mortgage, he introduced me to OLLIE as part of his service included a small donation to the charity.

Phil introduced me to Debi and Emily at The OLLIE Foundation and I was invited to join one of their online training sessions, I knew from that day onwards my challenge in crossing the English Channel on a paddleboard was to raise funds to allow them to carry on the work they are doing.

Tell us what the fundraiser involves

I aim to paddleboard on a 14ft inflatable board from Dungeness to Boulogne in September this year. The crossing is between 24-30 nautical miles depending on weather. The English Channel is home to the worlds busiest shipping lanes, ships weighing over 220,000 tonnes travelling a lot quicker than me and leaving miles of waves in their tracks!!

Although I will be on the water alone, I will have a support boat ahead of my guiding me through safely kindly funded by Independent Mortgage Advice Bureau.

How long have you been into paddle boarding?

I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2020 following a traumatic incident at work that led to a death of a colleague. I hit an all time low and really struggled to pick myself up. My family paid for a paddleboarding experience at a local lake in a bid to pick me up and get me out of the house. I finally agreed to do it and went along for the 30 minute trial. I donned the wetsuit and life jacket whilst the parents of the rest of my group prepared their children (not at all awkward) we all sat and listened closely to the instructors words of wisdom before heading out on the water.

As I was pushed into the water lying on this board I instantly started smiling, I felt as young as the rest of group!!! Within minutes I was like bambi on skates, knees banging together and my eyes fixed open, I WAS UPRIGHT. I then fell in, BUT up I went again. The 30 minutes lesson went so quick it was incredible. As I sat there after the session had ended I realised that for the first time in many years I had 30 minutes of thinking about nothing more than staying upright. There was no flashbacks, no work worries, nothing, pure relaxation and I loved it. In fact I loved it so much I wanted more of it.

That night I ordered everything I need to go paddleboarding. I haven’t got off the water since. Every time I’m on the water I feel free.

What type of training are you doing for the fundraiser?

So I need to be honest, I have never paddleboarded on the sea until last week. Last year I did some long still water distances for MIND but nothing at all on the sea. Last weekend I decided to bite the bullet and boarded from Southampton to the Isle of wight and back on one day, ( I did stop in a lovely hotel for a cake and cuppa before the return). It was a reality check I needed, the sea is a beast not to be messed with..
We had a bit of an incident during the crossing that led to the Harbour Master fishing me out, I’ll save the story for another blog.