x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Paddlers pool their resources to keep Abu Dhabi's waters clean

More than 90 participants in Abu Dhabi supported the initiative Paddle for the Planet

Wayne Young and Mary Vedra from Paddlers for the Planet help to clean up the beach at the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club. Sarah Dea/The National
Wayne Young and Mary Vedra from Paddlers for the Planet help to clean up the beach at the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club. Sarah Dea/The National

ABU DHABI // More than 90 watersports fans made a big splash yesterday as part of a campaign for cleaner seas.

The global Paddle for the Planet drive highlighted the importance of looking after the world's waterways.

Dragon boats, kayaks and paddleboards set out from Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht club in the morning, with participants competing in relay races before helping to clear litter from the beach.

The annual initiative stresses the importance of keeping the world's oceans, rivers and lakes clean and looking after the species that live in them.

Alexandra Harrison, one of the organisers of the Abu Dhabi event, was pleased with the turnout of 96 people, who raised more than Dh3,000 for the cause.

"Not only does it show how much people care but also how much paddling has evolved and developed in Abu Dhabi," she said.

"It's becoming more popular and people are realising it's a fun way to keep fit and meet people and do something in the ocean that's not polluting it with petrol."

Pippa Keene, 52, was among those taking part on a stand-up paddleboard.

"It's a great way for the wider community to learn about the importance of protecting our water and it's also a great way to hook up with my friends," said the British teacher, who lives in Abu Dhabi. "It's fun to come out and be part of the water community."

Tracey Orr, a 30-year-old also from Britain, said she is often in or on the water in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. "I love the water. If I'm not paddling, I'm out wakeboarding or something in the waves," she said.

"I wanted to come today because I knew it was an opportunity for a lot of people who haven't tried these kind of sports to see what they are all about and the importance of keeping the water clean.

"Around Abu Dhabi it's fairly clean, and certainly the area off the Corniche seems to be pretty clean.

"There is rubbish that floats up on some of the beaches but generally I find that this area is grand."

Sandy Morris, 54, a teacher, was on a dragon boat. She has been a member of the Capital Dragons group in Abu Dhabi for more than two years.

"Coming from New Zealand, we are a very green country and I think it's very important that people are not only aware about the planet but also as we get older we should get fitter and fitter," said Ms Morris, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for three years. "There are quite a few of us in our boat who are in their 40s and 50s."

Myrna Diamante, from the Philippines, took her three children to help with the litter clean-up.

"I want the children to experience this," she said. "I want them to learn about the importance of having clean beaches and to see people and experience how to serve the community."

More than 600 people took part in a similar event at Kite Beach in Dubai yesterday.

Paddle for the Planet began in Dubai in 2011. Nick Hando, one of the cofounders, said 39 countries joined in this year.

"It's phenomenal," he said. "The good thing about it is that it's all different paddling crafts from all around the world.

"The International Canoe Federation has endorsed us, so next year it will be much bigger."

About US$22,000 (Dh81,000) was raised worldwide last year and was used to buy a patrol boat for the Raja Ampat marine protected area, a group of islands in Indonesia's West Papua province.

The area will receive more support from this year's event.