In Susan Chaplin’s words, “This year I did the St. Vincent Channel, which is the hardest channel I have ever done in my life. I have never encountered conditions that I encountered there. I had a two-knot current against me as well as 15-knot headwinds; I only paddle between two and four knots so the wind and current combined to pull me back. I actually went backwards for an hour and a half.” Finally, the current let up when she was about 7 miles from St. Vincent, but with her moving only about a mile an hour, she still had seven more hours of paddling. Obviously, she was successful. I cannot imagine the strength that this takes, especially for a 59-year-old woman. However, Chaplin says that completing this trip makes her the first person to traverse the Windward Island chains on a paddleboard.
I met international paddleboarder, Susan Chaplin, over five years ago and thought she was an extraordinary woman at the time – through the ensuing years my admiration for her determination and discipline has only increased. Chaplin has resided in the BVI for the last 11 years. Her strength and endurance are beacons for anyone trying to achieve a personal goal in sports. Recently, she accomplished another of her many international achievements – an 18.5-hour paddle across the difficult 26-mile journey from St Lucia to St Vincent.
During the time that I have known Susan, she has constantly amazed me with her new goals, accomplishments and records. She has raced paddleboards in Hawaii and California, and toured other Caribbean island groups including the Turks & Caicos Islands. She has paddled around the BVI, “I touched each island and each small rock. I started on Anegada and went down to Virgin Gorda. I went south and whenever there was even a small rock – like [the one] on the north side of Cooper Island – I would touch it… It took about five days and I covered some 200 miles.”
Next she paddled the 150 miles from St. Vincent to Grenada, stopping for rest on several islands along the Grenadines chain. “I stayed on Bequia; Mustique; Canouan, Myreau, Union; and on Carriacou.” After that, Chaplin set out to complete around one “big” challenge per year, conquering waters all over the Caribbean.
She was a tri-athlete for over 14 years as well as a personal trainer. She competed in the Molokai to Oahu Race in the Hawaiian Islands, (32 miles) and has 14 years of triathlon under her belt. Chaplin toured the Hawaiian Islands and competed in the Ironman; she also took a 2 1/2 year surf trip around the world paddling to 20- countries including Australia and Tonga. Other past professions also include successes in the fields of sports journalist and photography. She quietly is gaining fame as well as shattering world records and conquering personal endurance goals that would cripple men half her age.
As the world record holder for paddle boarding, the stamina that this six-decade-old woman shows would impress anyone in the professional world of athletics. She holds the personal record for endurance (the number of hours spent in the water) as well as the total distance covered on a paddleboard in a single day.
Chaplin’s next goal is to attempt the 60-mile paddle between Tortola and Puerto Rico. With her long line of successful accomplishments we have every reason to believe that she will also accomplish this goal.