SUP Women | Joanna Hamilton-Vale

Jo training in Cardiff, Wales, with Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT). Photo: Mark Lloyd Images
Jo training in Cardiff, Wales, with Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT). Photo: Mark Lloyd Images

SUP Women | Joanna Hamilton-Vale

Standup paddler, distance runner, sailor, rower, wakeboarder, Stand Up for the Cure global ambassador, and two-time breast cancer survivor; the UK's Joanna ('Jo') Hamilton-Vale can answer to any of those titles. The competitor from Southampton is as strong as she is athletically diverse and is motivating females of all ages to get outdoors and have fun staying active. —SC

SUP: After initially entering the racing scene you said you changed your diet. Can you tell us what your diet typically consists of now to keep you race-ready?

JH: When changing my diet, I cut out all bread, pasta, grains, and sugar, resulting in me being able to use fat as my energy source. Unfortunately, sugar is my guilty pleasure so I occasionally succumb and have an extremely naughty day.

Being a paddler of almost 50 years old, I also rely on supplements whilst training and racing. My supplements are mainly magnesium, zinc and omega-3.

 Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Jo feeling at home on her SUP. Photo: Mayola Dijksman

Where do you like to paddle when at home in the Southampton area?

At home I have no one close by to train with, therefore lots of long paddles on my own can become tedious. My favorite paddle is from the mainland to the Isle of Wight. The round-trip distance is only 14km, but it crosses two busy shipping lanes, strong currents, and lots of water traffic. This paddle always keeps me alert.

You've competed in the 125-mile SUP 11-City Tour three times and last year chose to compete in the non-stop division, where you took second place. What was the most grueling part of the 29 hours and 48 minutes it took you to finish the race?

The most grueling part of the non-stop race was when I got lost during the night. Unfortunately, I struggle with differentiating between right and left; so despite telephone calls from my husband directing me, my bad navigation continued for almost five kilometers.

In addition, Mother Nature provided the non-stop paddlers with relentless bad weather and nine hours of constant headwind through the night. This included tropical rain storms and a few lightning storms. At one point, I even had to prone paddle my board to the side of a lake because the lightning was directly overhead.

Physically, the biggest challenge was leg endurance. My upper body survived the race relatively well, however, I was taking painkillers to ease the pain in my legs from around the 16 hour point.

SUP 11-City Tour, competing in the Nonstop Division. Photo: Mayola Dijksman
This past year, Jo competed in the Nonstop Division in the SUP 11-city tour. Photo: Mayola Dijksman

You're preparing for another arduous event, the 444-mile Yukon River Quest, while concurrently fundraising for Standup for the Cure (SUFTC), where you serve as a Global Ambassador. What made you decide to fundraise for SUFTC during the buildup to what you've said will be your 'most difficult challenge' to-date?

SUFTC is a charity very close to my heart because I have survived breast cancer twice. I was extremely lucky to have had adequate health insurance, ensuring I was treated very quickly on both occasions. I find it very upsetting that some people are not receiving immediate treatment due to the lack of private medical coverage. I will do everything I can to raise awareness and money to assist treatment, cure, and prevention measures.

What are you looking forward to most at June's Yukon River Quest?

I have asked anyone who donates to SUFTC to pass me the name of a loved one who is either fighting or did not survive cancer, and I will place every name on my race shirt that I wear for the 444 miles.  I am most looking forward to taking all of those strong people on this magnificent journey with me.

Nash One Racing. Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Naish One racing in the UK National Race Series. Photo courtesy of Mayola Dijksman.

What are you striving to accomplish in SUP?

In the UK, SUP was heading in many directions with no structure or plan. I contacted a few very driven paddlers in the UK and between us, we formed UK SUP. It’s a non-profit organization that manages the UK National Race Series, which is composed of eight to 10 races a year across the UK. Last year, we incorporated Naish One design racing and Junior racing. Our aim is to be inclusive to all paddlers, despite their age and ability. We are now in our third year and last year had over 300 paddlers racing throughout the season.

I believe the future of the sport is in children and that is what we should strive to nurture over the next few years. As for my personal paddling, I want to just have fun.

Next up for Jo: the Yukon River Quest in June. Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Next up for Jo: the Yukon River Quest in June. Photo: Mayola Dijksman

More SUP Women here.