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Former Norwich School pupil finishes pioneering paddleboard voyage around Mallorca

The welcoming committee after Cat Friend of Sprowston, with Valerie Bisbal, completed their paddleboard journey. Pic: Soller To Soller.

The welcoming committee after Cat Friend of Sprowston, with Valerie Bisbal, completed their paddleboard journey. Pic: Soller To Soller.

Soller To Soller

A woman from Norwich has become one of the first people to paddleboard the almost 350 mile-long coastline of Mallorca.

Cat Friend of Sprowston, with Valerie Bisbal, on their paddleboard journey. Pic: Soller To Soller.Cat Friend of Sprowston, with Valerie Bisbal, on their paddleboard journey. Pic: Soller To Soller.

Cat Friend, from Sprowston and Valerie Bisbal, from Mallorca, circumnavigated the Spanish island in 24 days, overcoming thunderstorms and headwinds.

On occasions the duo, who met when Miss Friend, 28, was on holiday in Mallorca, questioned whether they would complete the distance, with the pair afflicted by muscle burn, back and thigh strain.

Former Norwich School pupil Miss Friend said: “On the seventh day we were quite downhearted, the weather seemed against us, our bodies were suffering and camping overnight in poor conditions took its toll.”

Having trained and committed themselves, they pulled through and, once the weather improved, they caught up with the demanding schedule.

A jellyfish spotted during the adventure. Pic: Soller To Soller.A jellyfish spotted during the adventure. Pic: Soller To Soller.

En-route Miss Friend and Mrs Bisbal, 41, carried 20kg of kit in dry bags and seven litres of water. Other equipment included safety, camping and food as supply teams could not meet them every day. Their boards were sponsored by Starboard.

Each morning they would clean the beach they slept on; plastic straws, lighters, bottle tops and bags were the most common finds.

And their Soller to Soller challenge was in aid of Asociacion Ondine, a Balearic based marine conservation charity.

Miss Friend, who has been a member of the Norfolk Punt Club at Barton Broad for many years, said: “Sadly, it’s not possible to be active in the sea without acknowledging the ocean plastic crisis.

Cat Friend of Sprowston, with Valerie Bisbal, on their paddleboard journey. Pic: Soller To Soller.Cat Friend of Sprowston, with Valerie Bisbal, on their paddleboard journey. Pic: Soller To Soller.

“Raising money for marine conservation was a natural fit. Finding so much litter on the beaches just spurred us on for the next paddle.

“If we can get people to see what we are doing and ask why, then we’re getting everyone to think about plastic and the health of our oceans.”

Miss Friend, who has a degree in biological sciences from Edinburgh University, took up sailing while at the Norwich School.

In 2011, she represented Great Britain in the ISAF team racing championship and won the Wilson Trophy in 2013, before taking up paddle boarding in 2017.

Cat Friend of Sprowston, with Valerie Bisbal, on their paddleboard journey. Pic: Soller To Soller.Cat Friend of Sprowston, with Valerie Bisbal, on their paddleboard journey. Pic: Soller To Soller.

She gave up her job in London to complete the Soller to Soller expedition.

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