x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hundreds in Dubai paddle in campaign for cleaner seas

Paddlers take part in global event for cleaner oceans.

Hundreds of participants take part in the
Hundreds of participants take part in the "Paddle for the Planet " event at the Kite Beach in Umm Suqeim.

DUBAI // Children paddled with their parents, teenagers rowed in kayaks with friends, and teams of men and women sped out to sea in dragon boats as part of a global event for cleaner oceans yesterday.

More than 400 enthusiasts gathered on Kite Beach off Umm Suqeim to support Paddle for the Planet, which aims to raise awareness about protecting the sea.

"Events like this are very important for Dubai because it increases understanding about the ecosystem," said Scott Sanderson, an Irish expatriate who steered a stand-up paddle board with his five-year-old son Corey perched on its nose.

"Paddling attracts people because it's fun, so important information can be disseminated to people. We see beaches and dunes littered with plastic bottles and the more we talk about how this is wrong, the better things will get."

Organisers said participation doubled this year from the inaugural Paddle for the Planet last year.

"There is more awareness and this can grow even further as people realise that we must protect the oceans, the fish or we will have nothing left," said Nick Hando, one of the event's directors.

"We're doing this along with the rest of the world to show that we don't want the ecosystem messed up. It also shows that we as a community of paddlers in the UAE are united and that we care."

Several participants spoke about the healthy lifestyle that paddling sports help to promote, and the bonds they had developed with fellow paddlers.

"It's great to have a chance to give back to the ocean and it's wonderful to see that people care about protecting the water," said Julia Gregory, the Welsh manager of the all-women Dubai Sea Dragons team.

"This is my extended family and we have teammates from all over the world who work together."

Helen Schrader, from Australia, said rowing gave an empowering sense of freedom.

"Out in the water you get a different perspective of Dubai," she said. "We have such a great Gulf to enjoy as long as we also spread the message that we need to be aware of the ocean.

"It helps bring so many different teams together and is a great way to promote fitness and sport."

Relatives and friends gathered on the beach to cheer participants in races organised after the awareness drive.

Competitions were held for children and adults in categories including stand-up paddles, dragon boats and kayaks.

rtalwar@thenational.ae