Triple circumnavigation of Phuket proves too much for Aussie

PHUKET: An Australian living and training on Phuket came to a staggering halt at about 6 kilometers from the end of his epic three-day, 430km challenge.

The endurance sport attempt began on January 3 as Damien Rider, 40, set out to circumnavigate Phuket by prone paddleboarding, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and running.

After deciding to combine prone and SUP, Mr Rider was just a couple hours past nightfall on day one of the trip when things got scary and he was forced to shorten the challenge.

“The first day on the paddleboard was my toughest paddle to date. Nothing was going in my favor and I was fighting with the board the whole time with side winds making it nearly impossible to get the board to where I wanted it to go,” Mr Rider told the Phuket Gazette. “I then had to paddle through the night and came across a new set of challenges: dodging boats while crossing bays. After 75km, I came in, slept for six hours and then took on the running lap of Phuket.”

The truncation of the paddle brought Mr Rider’s ambitious challenge down from 430km in three days to 205km in two days. But even that distance pushed the Aussie beyond his physical capabilities, as his body ground to a halt 6km shy of the end of the run.

“[It was] something that I’ve never experienced before… where my legs just stopped moving. I was keeping track of my pace with my Suunto GPS watch and I could see I was slowing down from a walking pace of 9 minutes per kilometer to 12 minutes to 17 minutes then 22 minutes – then I just stopped,” he said with a laugh. “My head was saying walk, my legs just couldn’t move. I was like a tree swaying in the breeze on the sidewalk. I was 6km out from Rawai Pier, my finish line, and 20 hours into my run.”

Despite falling far short of his original challenge, Mr Rider was pleased with the results, returning the next day to ‘painfully shuffle’ the last 6km.

“I’m super happy with my result. I didn’t get the three laps in three days only 1.5, but I knew going into it that there would only be a slim chance of succeeding if I had perfect conditions. I set the test that way, as I never wanted it to be easy… [or if] I could finish it. I know I went as far I could.”

Even though his body shut down on the run, Mr Rider said the paddling was the most challenging aspect of the journey, which is saying something given his history.

Damien’s previous Phuket adventure saw him circumnavigate Phuket on a stand-up paddle board in three days. Video: PGTV

The Aussie made headlines in Phuket last year when he completed a local SUP adventure, circling the island to raise awareness for his self-funded organization: Paddle Against Child Abuse (story here).

Prior to this, he found himself in international headlines as he paddled 800km of shark-infested waters off the east coast of Australia. The epic journey has been captured in the recently released National Geographic documentary Heart of the Sea.

“I’ve gotta do a massive shout out and [send] respect to Christian Griffith from Live For A Living. He took the run challenge on with a weeks notice and flew 24 hours from the States to support me on it. [There was also] Darren Sherbain from Old Dog Coaching and Physiotherapy. Darren has always been my go-to guy here in Phuket for training and event preparation,” Mr Rider said.

“We have all come through, and risen above, tough challenges in life and now we are sharing the tools for others to give them strength and pride in who they are.”

Mr Rider also thanked Phuket local Charlie Arm, who provided support during the run.

“[He] is just one of those rare gems, so selfless with a heart of gold. He was our much-needed support on the run, with ice bags to coconuts to water, food everything. Words can’t describe how important of a role he played, and executed it far beyond any expectations.”

The new-age triathlon challenge is not something that Mr Rider plans to return to now that it’s behind him.

“It’s not that it was too hard; it’s just that there are more challenges in other parts of the world I will start to train for… raising awareness against child abuse and showing how even when the toughest of challenges break you, you can pick yourself up and reach your goal.”

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

Phuket News

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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