See.Think.Do with Fiona Quinn
Paddle boarding the length of the UK (with Dolphins) , not trying to be "what you're supposed to be" and dreaming BIG with endurance adventurer, author and entrepreneur Fiona Quinn
Hi Fiona! Whereabouts are you at the moment?
I’m currently sat at my desk in my office in Cumbria, looking out the window over rolling green fields. I feel very lucky to be here as I only moved up in February 2020, so it was incredible timing, given what then ensued.
What (if anything) is getting you excited right now?
I’m excited about the next book that I’m writing. It’s about when I walked from John O’Groats to Lands End back in 2017, which feels like an age ago now. The thing I loved most about that adventure was all the people - I met so many along the way, people even found me from Instagram to bring me cake. The Great British public were incredibly friendly and supportive - I love our country!
You are the first woman to have walked, cycled and paddle boarded from Lands End to John O Groat’s. Where on earth did that idea come from?
I didn’t start out with a grand plan. My first real adventure was a smaller one close to my mum’s house - going source to sea along the River Cam (walking, cycling and SUPing the 70 mile length of the river 3 times). After that I met Sean Conway, who was the first man to do a length of Britain triathlon and he inspired me to go bigger. LEJOG is just such a classic adventure that it felt like a great idea, so I hopped on my bike and set out to see if I could make it up the country. I failed 800 miles in but loved it.
Then I walked 993 miles back in the opposite direction a few months later, and it was only after that that I decided to SUP it too… turning it into a triathlon just seemed like the obvious thing to do.
How did you overcome your fear of the sea?
I don’t think I have! I’m still scared and wouldn’t choose to paddle the sea if there’s an inland option. But I guess having the support boat with me on the adventure, and opting to SUP rather than swim it, made it manageable for me. I think it’s important to take on challenges in a way that works for you - don’t try to fit into what you think you’re “supposed to do”.
What was the highlight of each adventure
Weirdly, getting trench foot. To keep going through that pain, what felt like raw skin grating on sandpaper with each step, and make it to the end, that was incredible. If I could get through that I could get through anything. It really boosted my confidence and it was also when I began to get to know my body and trust my judgement with it.
Going back past the section I failed at the first time when I got caught out by a storm. To succeed where I’d previously failed was a great feeling of accomplishment.
The dolphins! Paddling with them was utterly incredible. I hadn’t expected to see any but we had them 4 or 5 times, and they’re just so inquisitive, friendly and calming. Magical.
What have you learnt in the last 6 months, that you could apply to your next challenge/goal?
I think, like a lot of us, I’ve learnt that I want to be surrounded by people. I’m already putting that into practice as my next adventure requires a big team and I’m loving the people on it so far. It’s wonderful to have so many incredible individuals all working together to make something happen.
What's been inspiring you recently?
I’m currently reading Find a Way by Diana Nyad about her becoming the first person to swim non-stop from Cuba to Florida, in her 60’s. Her strength to keep going, to build a team of incredible people to support her and to overcome all that she has in her life is really inspiring.
How important is looking after your mental health?
It’s very important. I started seeing a therapist in January and it helped massively to process things from earlier in my life, as well as dealing with the here and now and what’s going on with all the uncertainty at the moment. It took me years to build up the confidence to start seeing her and it’s made a huge difference for me personally, I’d really recommend speaking to a therapist. It’s the kind of conversation you just can’t have with anyone else.
What helps you manage it?
Other than talking about things, getting outside regularly is essential. Time on my own in nature is a kind of reset for me and puts me back on an even keel. It’s also where I get loads of inspiration and renewed confidence - I couldn’t do without it!
What’s your advice for taking that first big small step? (if anything)
Ask someone out for a beer - or a zoom beer these days. (And I didn’t just say that because you guys make beer!) Probably the one thing that will move you forwards most, certainly in the early days of an idea, is speaking to people for advice or confidence. They’ll possibly put you in touch with other people and you’ll be well on your way with whatever you need. People are what makes the world go round and they’ll really be what makes your idea come to life.
Any bad habits you’d like to kick?
Ha - cake! I know it’s not the best source of fuel and I’m actually going to start looking at my nutrition for an adventure next year. To give cake it’s dues though, it is a very good moral booster and that’s important on an endurance adventure.
How will you measure “success” in 10 years time?
Oph - I have no idea where I’ll be in 2 years yet alone 10. I think for me it’s all about looking back and being able to say to myself that I gave it my all - to the adventures, to the people in my life and to myself, being kind to myself has been a journey in itself.
What’s the next adventure?
Haha - the big question. Well I do have something up my sleeve, which involves running. I can’t talk about it yet but it’ll be next summer and I can’t wait.
-Top Local Spot…. The langdales in the Lake District. Some lovely views, easy hills and tarns for a quick dip.
Watch out for: Kris Roach - he’s launching a super cool SUP business next year taking people on expeditions.
Best new thing? Vegan custard. I went vegan-ish in January and you wouldn’t know the custard is plant based, its amazing, I can eat a whole bowlful of it.
Smallest change/ biggest impact: Believing that I am enough. When you really believe that, I think it can change your whole life.
Your message in a bottle: Dream big - time is the only one thing you can never make more of, so use it daringly.
What's doing at Days (from Mike & Duncs)
Watching: The Holiday
Learning: Lots of new acronyms