Do it for the Rhinos!
I always knew I loved animals. I mean as a kid I was obsessed! Animal Planet always took precedent over Nickelodeon. Once I got into high school that obsession slowly turned into an afterthought. The love was still there but my attention was on more important things like boys, parties, and snowboarding—you know, the REAL pressing stuff. I had essentially moved on. Then, I found stand up paddle boarding, it’s become my everything and has opened more doors than I ever thought would open for a college drop-out like myself.
It’s very serendipitous that paddling would be the thing to re-unite my childhood love and curiosity of animals. Just three months ago I was invited to be part of a team to attempt the first SUP descent of the powerful Zambezi River in Zimbabwe. Every year there’s a surge of paddlers claiming one first descent after the other. What’s the importance and why is this trip any different? The Zambezi is one of the most notorious rivers in the whitewater scene, famous for it’s unpredictability and rapids so big they’ll make you s!@t your pants. This trip’s mission is bigger than any rapid and the river is not the central focus.
Rhino population has been rapidly declining due to poaching. The rhino horn is in high demand predominately in Vietnam and China where it is superstitiously believed to cure a wide range of conditions from cancer to hangovers. There are only three Northern White Rhinos left and other sub-species of rhinos have become critically endangered.
I admit, I was ignorant to how bad it really was until I was invited on this trip. After doing some research, I was completely in! That fire that I thought was extinguished all the sudden was bright again and I was fueled by it.
It took us days to adjust to the African sun relentlessly beating down on us as we hiked into the Batoka gorge. We looked like river hobos carrying life jackets and helmets hanging off our paddles like a bindle. Once the river was in site we would sprint to it, dunking our helmets into the lukewarm water and dumping it over our heads. Carrying water in isn’t really possible so we were very lucky to have our Lifestraw water bottles to filter the river water. Heat exhaustion and cramping due to dehydration was something Nadia and I both experienced frequently during our time there.
Once geared up and ready to hit the water, Zimbabwean local Paul Teasedale (founder of RAW Adrenaline), gave us our safety talk but not the kind of talk I’m use to,
“After rapid 19 there’s a big mellow stretch of river, three crocodiles live there. After 22 one big crocodile lives there. So make sure in these stretches you group up and present yourselves as one large entity. Other than that, there’s nothing to worry about.”
A nervous laugh erupted out of me and I immediately began longing for my usual predator free rivers. I kept telling myself “People kayak this all the time…if they’re okay then we’ll be okay. Remember, you’re doing this for the rhinos.”
That became my mantra throughout the trip, “Do it for the rhinos.”
That mantra helped me muster up the courage to paddle some of the biggest whitewater I’ve ever paddled. It was then I really realized I am willing to put myself on the line to help save these animals—and I did. All of us, the entire team, risked their lives for this cause. Egos were put aside on this one. It was beautiful to see these paddlers paddle and swim through rapids that have taken lives of others. The Zambezi is no joke, but we did it, we attempted the first descent of the Zambezi on stand up paddle boards. We did it for the rhinos!
I am so excited that ‘And She’s Dope Too’ is getting involved in this very important cause by producing this shirt with a beautiful rhino painting done by artist Sarah Cray. All profits from this shirt goes to our campaign where our goal is to raise $10,000. One-hundred percent of the funds raised goes to the Care for Wild sanctuary; the largest rhino orphanage in South Africa. Those running this sanctuary have to disclose it’s location in fear of being discovered by poachers where the rhinos and their lives would be jeopardized. They’re risking their lives for this cause…let’s help them!
Help us celebrate and support these incredible creatures!
To learn more about this project visit the Stand Up 4 Rhinos webpage
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