Cal Major is part adventurer, part environmentalist and has proven that your adventures can be a catalyst for great change. Incredibly passionate about the oceans and ending the damage done by plastic, Cal has gone on some incredible challenges to raise awareness about the problems of plastic pollution.
This work of environmentalism and adventure has come together in Cal’s campaign, Paddle Against Plastic. In this campaign, Cal uses adventures to talk about and create positivity around environmentalism.
Cal joined us on Tough Girl Challenges to share her story and inspired us to think about how we can bring our own values and interests into our expeditions.
Finding a Challenge and a Cause
After having a hip operation, Cal thought she could no longer do the sports she loved and would have to forget all about the high impact activities, like surfing, she spent her time enjoying. Luckily, she found stand-up paddle boarding, which became a sport she could do, helped improve her strength, and got her back in the water.
Spending so much time in the water, Cal saw heaps and heaps of trash piling up on the beach and it broke her heart. She wanted to do something about it and she thought the way to tackle it was to get the trash off the beach so she joined several groups doing just that.
The impact she found to be most effective, however, was talking to people about what they could do to stop the trash from getting to the beach in the first place. One morning she woke up and decided she would paddle board some 300 miles to talk to people about the issue of plastic pollution to raise awareness and spark individual change.
Choosing Your Focus
Cal looked to the paddle boarding community and those beyond it to share her message with. To begin her campaign, she decided to focus on a single-use plastic she’d seen thousands of: plastic water bottles.
The idea of some many water bottles littering the ocean was ridiculous to Cal because of the perfectly safe drinking water we have in the UK. To make a change, Cal shifted attention to the positive things we can do to prevent plastic pollution, rather than the negative issue of cleaning up the problem.
Cal set off on her expedition as an ocean paddle boarding rookie. With little to no expectations, she ran into a number of surprises from big waves to fog and strong winds. At one point, Cal almost smashed into the face of a cliff. This turned into a stark reminder of how strong the ocean is and how weak we are against the forces of nature. She realised our great need to respect that environment.
When you’re on an adventure with a specific cause in mind, you may find yourself getting slapped in the face with important realities of those very same issues. Keep your mind open to the lessons you might learn and you’ll later be able to teach those same lessons.
Going on the Next Adventure
After the expedition, Cal was ready to go again. While the adventure was all about reaching people about plastic, it also introduced Cal to a world of physical and mental challenges that ignited her passion.
Craving an even harder challenge, Cal planned to paddle around the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Her goal was to show that even these remote, wild places were vulnerable to plastic pollution.
During her 12 days of solitude on the Isle of Skye expedition, Cal spent a lot of time thinking about what was most important. She reflected on what it means to be a human and be part of the natural world. She realised that despite what people tell you about your limitations, there is so much strength, resilience, and power inside you.
On the first day paddle boarding around the Isle of Skye, Cal set off in calm conditions. But all of a sudden, the wind changed direction and blew her out to sea. Cal had no control at all and was pushed further and further away from land. Cal thought she was going to have to be rescued on day one.
Finally, she managed to get to a buoy and hold on to it. She turned her board into the wind and paddled close to land. That night, she didn’t have any desire to get back in the water. The next day the water was absolutely calm and Cal knew she had to get back in. That turned out to be one of the best days paddling.
In the end, Cal is grateful for the challenges she faced alone because they taught her that she can do anything she puts her mind to.
Preventing Plastic Pollution
If you’re interested in doing your part to prevent plastic from piling up in our oceans, the first thing Cal recommends is to not feel overwhelmed. It can seem like a huge mission to fight plastic pollution, but you’re not alone. Add your voice to the community of people who care and get curious about what you can do.
Making little changes might not seem like enough, but it’s a start. If everyone made these changes, it would be a massive improvement. The way to tackle plastic pollution is to become aware of it. The more we use on land, the more ends up in the ocean. Start looking at what plastic you’re using in your daily life and see how you can make easy switches and reduce (Cal has 10 easy switches here).
Adventure with a purpose can be a profound experience. Join Cal in her fight against plastic pollution or find a cause that speaks to you and make your next adventure one with an even greater impact.
Learn more about Cal
Twitter - @major_cal
Website & Blog - Paddle Against Plastic
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