NEVIS, West Indies – It's a postcard-perfect morning on Oualie Beach and Susan Chaplin is drawing a crowd. She is getting ready to leave on the next leg of her remarkable journey – propelling a surf board-like paddle-board, her goal is to travel to four Caribbean islands. There is no sail, no motor, no oar. The 64-year-old adventuress will travel more than 65 nautical miles under the power of her own arms while lying or kneeling on the 14-foot board. Word has spread across the island and about a dozen locals are watching her prepare. As her son, Eli, gets some advice from a photo-journalist regarding a problem he's having with his camera, she chats with a TV crew from the Nevis station, while packing fruit and water in a small bag for this leg of her island-paddling challenge. She arrived in Nevis after spending 12 hours at sea. She left Little Bay on the island of Montserrat which is 30 miles away. After a few days of rest, her next leg will take her 10 miles to Frigate Bay in St. Kitts. The trip will take Susan two and a half hours. Next it will be a 10- mile run from St. Kitts to Oranje Baai on St. Eustatius, It will take three hours. The final leg is a strenuous 18-mile run from to Fort Bay, Saba:. It will take Chaplin seven and a half hours to complete. Passion in life is essential to Susan Chaplin. “For people to do their best, they must love what they do. Many people think that because they aren’t a recognized celebrity or a sports icon that they shouldn’t bother to do their best. Or they think that they are too old to get up off the couch. They don’t push their limits; they don’t explore their capabilities.” Originally from San Diego, she moved the British Virgin Islands 15 years ago. An all-around athlete, she cycles, surfs and swims. She writes about her adventures for sports publications and while visiting the islands, makes it a point to learn about the people and lecture school children about the thrill and challenge of paddle-boarding. Her record over the past decade is quite impressive: In 1998, she paddled 200 miles through the British Virgin Islands, touching all above water points; 1999, she paddled 100 miles through the Grenadines from St. Vincent to Grenada; In 2000, she paddled 150 miles to connect all major islands in the Turks and Caicos. That same year she paddled 100 miles from Great Exuma to Nassau, in the Bahamas;. In 2001, she toured 93 miles from Ragged Island to Neuvitas Lighthouse in the Jumentos Islands, the Bahamas’ south most island group. In 2002, she traversed the 25-mile channel between Martinique and Dominica and the 26-mile channel between Dominica and Guadeloupe; 2003, she paddled the 22-mile St Lucia channel between St. Lucia and Martinique; 2004, she crossed the 26 open ocean miles between St. Lucia and St. Vincent; 2006, she toured 60 miles from Tortola to Puerto Rico; 2007. she paddled the 30-mile Guadeloupe channel between Guadeloupe and Montserrat. Next year she plan to paddle the San Blas islands off Panama. Chaplin hopes that paddlers will repeat her Caribbean paddling routes. She invites paddlers to plot their own routes and to concoct personal adventures “There’s a lot of new stuff left out there to do on a paddle-board,” she said, “if you just paddle the first strokenshaw."
Written by Mike Renshaw
Susan waves to wellwishers as she leaves Oualie Beach Resort