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How Bob Marley helped me paddleboard from Land’s End to John o’Groats

Day one of lockdown 2, and I’m listening to a playlist called Sunny Days. Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds comes on and suddenly I’m no longer in my cramped bedroom cum office cum yoga studio cum gym, but back on a beach in the Philippines, where I lived above a reggae bar after graduating. In the month it took me to complete my Divemaster qualification there, my love for the ocean and its creatures deepened so much that I would dedicate my life to protecting them. I can see the tiny green islands dotted along the horizon in front of me, and the scuba-diving heaven below them; I imagine the manta rays, sharks and multi-coloured tropical fish that we spent every day with, and replay the conversations I had with my good friend there about how we would look after these phenomenal creatures.

Six years later and I was on my paddleboard, propelling myself through Scottish waters. I’d been paddling almost every day for nearly two months on my journey from Land’s End to John O’groats. It was 11am, and I’d been on the water since 4am. The fog was so thick I couldn’t navigate by sight. I couldn’t see any land, and was relying on my GPS unit to direct me to shore. Instead of the crystal-clear, glassy flat waters of the Philippines I was cutting through choppy, grey waves, the occasional gull my only company. I was exhausted, fed up and a little bit scared. But I’d got my headphones on, pressed play on my motivational playlist and Bob Marley appeared, telling me that Every Little Thing is Gonna Be Alright.

Bob Marley on stage. Photograph: Getty Images

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