“People’s past mistakes don’t define who they are” – former prisoner sets multiple SUP world records
David currently resides in Bournemouth, Dorset, living a very different life compared to the one before his arrest. Having previously struggled with gambling after his business was unsuccessful, he began to make a series of poor choices. He succumbed to the slippery slope of crime but was quick to realise his mistakes, admitting that he let his hunger for adventure “slip away” during this period. Prison was an opportunity for David to rethink his actions and reinvent himself.
David currently works as a consult for Penal Reform Solutions, having been given a chance to reintegrate into society and is aspiring to be a full-time Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) adventurer. Prior to SUP he was a keen surfer, however he found that the British seaside can’t always offer rideable waves. It was at this point he found the joys of flat waters, enabling an “extra sense of freedom” that surfing could not provide. “I like the escape that it brings, it’s a chance to reconnect with myself and quench my thirst for adventure” David explains. Whilst serving his time in prison, David’s family sent him paddle board magazines to read, and he would stick photos from the articles on his wall and “daydreaming about where [he] could go”. Since his release in 2019, he wants to make sure that he appreciates his life as a free person more.
Powered by this new sense of freedom, David put his motivation to good use and decided to raise money for Alliance of Sport, a charity which aims to reduce violence, crime and reoffending through sports. He set course to break several world records, aiming to break the quickest times for stand-up paddle boarding across the longest lakes in Scotland (Loch Awe), England (Lake Windermere), Northern Ireland (Lough Neagh) and Wales (Llyn Tegid) – a combined total of 100km. The longest lake, Loch Awe, measures at approximately 40km and took David less than 6 hours.
His proudest moment was after he completed Lough Neagh. With time to spare, David sat with a pint of Guinness and suddenly felt overwhelmed with emotion: “I was thinking [that] just over a year ago, I was sitting in a prison cell surrounded by so much failure, so much negativity…and here I am now, a world record holder, doing some good, highlighting the importance of reform and rehabilitation and proving that my past mistakes and other people’s past mistakes don’t define who they are”.
Incarceration, plus the work of Dr Sarah Lewis from the Penal Reform Solutions organisation, is what David accredits to his realisation that “adventure is what makes [him] come alive”. Having recognised that his life before was unsustainable David was able to change his whole outlook, and is ready to give back to those that helped him become who he is today.
David is a large advocate of penal reform, having been given a second chance to flourish and understand what life away from crime could give him. He explained to AMG that his life now is “not about money, it’s not about making impressions and [you should] just be yourself. That’s what I had to be. I didn’t need to impress anybody…I’ve come out now and I just want to enjoy life through adventure, through being outdoors and just living a simple life.”
As well as gaining re employment – a particularly challenging task for those with criminal records – David has been participating in charity work. One of which is a 100km walk along the Jurassic Coast which stretches from Devon to Dorset, all in 24 hours, with the hope of promoting the importance of abolishing modern day slavery. The trek was something that David “really enjoyed”, and is looking forward to doing more of once the pandemic ends.
David does not plan on halting his newfound hunger for exploration, with multiple lakes, rivers and seas on his bucket list. He plans to dedicate his future to raising awareness around reform and rehabilitation, explaining that “We have a broken system and if we really want to make a difference we need to come together as a society [and we] need to do more”. However this is not the only thing David is keen to support. “I also want to champion and promote growth and change within ourselves” he says, “I want to encourage more people to learn about themselves. It doesn’t matter how big or small your adventures are. Tune in with yourself, learn about who you are” and in doing so “you become a better person.”
If a handful of world records was not enough, David has now set his sights on breaking the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to paddle the non-tidal stretch of the river Thames on a paddle board, which totals a staggering 208km. He is hoping to complete the paddle in 36 hours and without sleep. Yet for David, the record is not the focal point. “I’m just learning more about what I can actually achieve in life” he explains “And I can take that mindset and improve my family life, my work life, my own personal life…I actually love it.