Eleven elite athletes plan to traverse the waters between Vancouver and Victoria on paddle boards this week to draw attention to men’s health.
The Stand Up Paddle for Men’s Health kicks off Thursday morning at 5 a.m. from First Beach, arriving in Victoria on Saturday night.
Leading the group of paddle boarders will be four-time Canadian Olympian Simon Whitfield.
He hopes the trip across the Georgia Strait will make men think about the small changes they can make to live healthier.
“I’ve definitely seen it in my life, when my Dad addressed his health, the happiness followed,” says Whitfield.
The paddle is being organized by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, a national non-profit organization founded by Dr. Larry Goldenberg, targeting men between 30 and 50.
Whitfield says he was surprised to learn there wasn’t already a foundation focusing on the health of Canadian men.
“When you look into the issues, the campaign is very effective.”
The paddle between the Mainland and Vancouver Island is 140 kilometres and will take three days. It takes approximately 600 paddles to travel one kilometre, but Whitfield says it’s not a race.
“We will be going about 8-10 km/h, which is much faster than a traditional paddle board,” says Whitfield.
“It’s not about being the fastest or the first, but it’s about the fraternity of doing things together, and the idea that men’s health is an issue the community should take on together,” says Whitfield.
He says the group is in good company, with Lina Augaitis, a world champion stand-up paddle boarder, along for the trip.
Some of Augaitis’ paddle boarding achievements include paddle boarding around the Hawaiian Islands, and from Whitehorse to Dawson on the Yukon River, a distance of 750 km.
She is one of two women on the trip, something Whitfield says is important.
“Women play an important role in men’s health issues, in terms of support and counsel,” he says.
Whitfield says he’s the least experienced paddle boarder of the group, having only picked up the sport last September. But he says he’s prepared.
“I’ll have my coffee grinder and bodum on the support boat, and lots of sea-salted popcorn to snack on,” says Whitfield.
The group plans to be on the water 12 hours the first day, and eight hours each day on the second and third days, contingent on good weather. They will be camping along the way on the Gulf Islands.
According to the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation men are 79 per cent more likely to die from heart disease, and 57 per cent more likely to die from diabetes than women. In addition, men are 24 per cent less likely than women to have visited a doctor in the past year.
Canadian Men’s Health week runs from June 9 – June 15 (Father’s Day).
WATCH: Keeping men healthy, part one – Elaine Yong reports: