Fifer to tackle 211km Tay challenge for charity

Steve practicing on his paddleboard.
Steve practicing on his paddleboard.

A brave Fifer is preparing for a four-day, 211km paddling challenge along the River Tay – all for Parkinson’s UK.

Steve Balfour from Kemback Bridge, will enter the water at Killin on May 28, and paddle the 23km to the start of the river at Kenmore. From there, he will negotiate his way along the river and out to open water, finishing four days later.

It is a huge challenge, made all the more impressive by the fact that Steve ruptured his right achilles tendon last year.

With help from the UKSTAR Trial, a non-operative tendon recovery project, and physiotherapy with Fiona Featherstone at St Andrews Community Hospital, Steve is now healed and pushing ahead with his plans for the river challenge.

Steve has been surfing for years, and started doing stand-up paddleboarding around six years ago. However, this will be his first time doing so on a river.

He expects to be paddling around 12-13 hours every day, only coming on land to sleep and to avoid rapids at a couple of points along the Tay.

Steve will have the support of his wife, who will be driving a camper alongside the route.

“The scary bit is at the bottom end,” explained Steve. “It’s tidal from Perth down. It’s pulling you out so we’ve had to do a lot of logistics to get there in time for low tide, using that to pull me to the edge, but not out to sea.

“I’ve been going out paddling as much as I can. I was out for four hours a week last Sunday.

“I’m more concerned about the mindset. I’ve just got to keep going.

“When I hit the rapids, the adrenaline will keep me going. But there will be bits where I’m by myself for hours.

“I’m both excited and nervous. Excited that I’m finally getting to do it, but nervous as well.”

Steve has done a few fundraising events in the past, including an abseil off the Forth Road Bridge. He said he wanted to do a challenge that had not been done.

“There’s no way I’m not doing this – I want to promote the NHS for the work they’ve done to keep me mobile,” he added.

Steve is also raising funds for Parkinson’s UK, the research and support charity which aims to find a cure for the condition and improve the quality of life for those impacted by it.

He chose to support the charity as his grandfather was one of those affected by it.

Steve has already raised around £500, half of his target.

If you would like to donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/taypaddlechallenge.