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Super mum Yoga teacher plans epic paddle board journey in support of RNLI

For her mammoth Belfast to Dublin trek Jennifer has had to take the journey in phases until hotels reopen to allow her to stay away overnight

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Jennifer Greenlees is planning a solo paddle board from Bangor to Dublin to raise funds for the RNLI

Jennifer Greenlees is planning a solo paddle board from Bangor to Dublin to raise funds for the RNLI

Jennifer Greenlees is planning a solo paddle board from Bangor to Dublin to raise funds for the RNLI

Yoga teacher Jennifer Greenlees is coasting for charity on a one-woman sea mission.

The super-fit mum is planning a solo paddle board from Bangor to Dublin to raise funds for the RNLI.

On previous cancer charity fundraisers she’s paddle boarded from Donegal to Portballintrae and from the north coast village to Bangor, a trip which took four days.

For her latest coastal adventure the 48-year-old has had to break the journey down because Covid restrictions mean she can’t book overnight stays.

But she’s already paddle boarded from Bangor to Strangford, taking on the Lough’s legendary currents, with plans to finish the journey to Dublin as soon as restrictions allow.

And she’s revealed there’s a showbiz start to her years on the sea.

Her first board came from surf legend Darrick Doerner who doubled for Patrick Swayze in movie Point Break’s famous big wave final scene.

Jennifer says getting the surfboard was the start of her love of the sea.

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Jennifer picked up paddle boarding after winning a raffle following a screening of Point Break

Jennifer picked up paddle boarding after winning a raffle following a screening of Point Break

Jennifer picked up paddle boarding after winning a raffle following a screening of Point Break

“I was in living in Montauk in New York in 2007 doing massage and teaching yoga and I’d see these mothers surfing with their kids and it looked like so much fun,” she says.

“There was a screening of Point Break and Darrick Doerner donated a surfboard for a raffle. Everyone had reams of tickets and all the surfers really wanted to win this board from the surfer in Point Break.

“I had one ticket and I knew I really wanted to win it, and I did. That was the start. I thought I have to get this board in the water.”

A pal assured Jennifer that paddle boarding was easier to pick up than surfing and when she came back to Northern Ireland, she started summer lessons alongside her yoga and massage business.

Last year she raised £5,000 for a friend who’s living with cancer, boarding 70 miles from Donegal to Antrim, including a hairy crossing of Lough Foyle with big wave surfer Al Mennie for company for some of the trip.

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“I always make sure I have local knowledge before I start. I’ll talk to fishermen, check the currents and the tides,” says Jennifer.

“I ran the route past Al Mennie last year and asked if it was doable. He told me it’s doable, but it depends on who’s doing it.

“He offered to join me and crossing Lough Foyle was a lot harder than I thought.

“I was wary of coming round Ramore Head and I was just coming up to the point when out of nowhere a pod of dolphins appeared, with about 20 in the pod.

“That was one of the only times I stopped to take some pictures, but the memory is better than any pictures I could take.”

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Jennifer Greenlees

Jennifer Greenlees

Jennifer Greenlees

For her mammoth Belfast to Dublin trek Jennifer has had to take the journey in phases until hotels reopen to allow her to stay away overnight.

The latest leg was across Strangford Lough where she asked for advice from the ferry crew on how to navigate around its strong currents and whirlpools.

“I spoke to the ferry guys and expected them to say I was mad, but they said the time I was going at was fine. I also wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting in their way.

“Then I just went straight across and I beat the boat.”

Jennifer says she always tells the Coastguard of her plans before setting out, sticks close to land and has husband Richard watching her progress if she doesn’t have a support boat.

Even the best laid plans can go astray, and her scariest experience was paddle boarding from down the coast from Larne to Belfast Lough on a previous charity trek.

“I went early because the sea was flat calm, but the support boat had an accident coming out of Larne harbour.

“Coming down from Islandmagee into Belfast Lough was quite treacherous and I kept sailing along thinking, ‘where are they?’

“We’d had everything perfectly planned and the guys on the boat had the tide times and the ferry times and they’d been in touch with the Harbour Master.

“When I got to the Lough it was foggy and I couldn’t see Bangor.

“With the sea it can always get a bit hairy. There is nothing worse than when you’ve been training for something and you get out there and it’s really choppy or windy.”

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Last year she raised £5,000 for a friend who’s living with cancer, boarding 70 miles from Donegal to Antrim

Last year she raised £5,000 for a friend who’s living with cancer, boarding 70 miles from Donegal to Antrim

Last year she raised £5,000 for a friend who’s living with cancer, boarding 70 miles from Donegal to Antrim

Jennifer has decided to take on her biggest challenge yet in aid of the RNLI in recognition of their life-saving work.

“I love the sea and every time I go out, I’m thinking about the safety factor.

“I wanted to feel like I was giving something back to support people at sea.

“They are so brave when they go out and I hope I will never be in a situation where they have to be called out.”

She has also been helping yoga fans through lockdown with kundalini sessions and is inviting people to join a three-day apple juice fast next month.

“I’ve always loved sport and I used to run. The first yoga teacher I met was in her sixties and moved with such grace I looked at her and thought I could still be doing yoga at her age, but I don’t know if I’d still be running.

“I love the whole yogic lifestyle and I think it’s important to do something every day. After I had my son Jack four years ago, I went from 90 minutes a day to five, but I felt so much better after doing even five minutes.

“I’ve done a couple of these cleansing challenges this year and it’s just about getting the timing right and having everything in your fridge, and it’s easier to do with someone else,” says Jennifer.

For more information go to Jennifer Greenlees Holistics on Facebook or follow Stand Up Paddle Bangor to Dublin.

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