Express & Star

Explorer puts life on the line in record-breaking paddleboard voyage off Malaysian coast

Daniel Wynn became the first person to complete a 110-mile paddleboard journey around a group of Malaysian islands. But it almost cost him his life.

Daniel Wynn was the first person to navigate the island

Winter sun - for most people - means a week at peace on a beach.

But for one amateur explorer from Wolverhampton it meant a record-breaking, 110-mile (177km) paddleboard adventure off the coast of Malaysia.

It was a voyage that featured moments of stunning natural beauty – but one which could have cost him his life.

Daniel Wynn, a former Wolverhampton Grammar School pupil whose family still live in the city, is the first person to circumnavigate the Langkawi island archipelago by human power alone.

The 104 islands are known as the Jewel of Kedah and are situated nearly 18.6 miles (30km) off the coast of northwest Malaysia. They feature beautiful and isolated beaches, as well as a spectacular array of wildlife.

The 27-year-old had set himself the task of paddleboarding around the outer edge of the islands, unaccompanied, and with only the basic supplies he could fit on his second-hand board.

He navigated using elementary maps, gathered and filtered his water from freshwater streams and cooked a combination of instant noodles, tinned curry and seaweed porridge using a portable gas stove.

The adventure would take him ten days - but by the second he was already facing serious difficulties.

"I cut my foot on coral and owing to the repeated saltwater immersion, it would not heal," explained Daniel, whose day job is as a ranger at the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

"I could not dry them at night either due to rains. The result was by day three my left foot was swollen and showing signs of infection. The repeated strain of standing paddling for six or seven hours every day took its toll.

"It soon got infected and I treated as best I could, but it would not heal while I was on the trip."

Unfortunately, his situation was to get much worse with the arrival, from day four, of severe tropical storms with gusts of up to 45mph.

Daniel, said: "I wasn’t prepared for weather of that severity. It tore my tarpaulin in half. It threw my gear across the beach.

"Driving rain soaked my hammock in seconds, broke its supporting straps and soaked me beneath my waterproofs. My hammock was ruined as was my waterproof shelter. The storm raged on for seven hours with lightning and thunder crashing all around me.

"There was really nothing more I could do so I used the spare rope to tie my gear together fastened to a tree. I wrapped myself in the rags of the tarpaulin.

"I then lay on the sand under my paddleboard attempting to sleep. As my waterproof shelter was now destroyed, I spent many nights after that either lying under my paddleboard or huddled in a wet hammock."

With a lack of sleep and a gruelling average of 10.6 miles (17km) paddleboarding each day, exhaustion soon set in.

And it was on the final day that the brutal 34C (93.2F) heat took its toll.

Daniel, added: "Approximately 4.3 miles (7km) offshore and 5 miles (8km) paddling from my destination I collapsed with heat stroke. I felt dizzy and faint. My body was weak and my legs started shaking.

"My skin felt like it was burnt all over, although it wasn't. I wasn’t sweating and I vomited up my lunch. Any further sips of water or food simply made me nauseous again.

"It took two hours of staying still until I was able to move again. Baby sips of water and tiny morsels of food drip-fed energy into my body. I floated in the sea for a further hour to cool my body down.

Daniel on his paddleboard

"I carried on because I had to as my destination was the only viable haul-out spot and there was no one else on the ocean. I finished just over an hour after sunset, landing on the beach in the dark."

Under the circumstances it is not surprising that Daniel's emotions on November 20, the day he completed the adventure, were dominated by relief.

But he has since had chance to reflect on his unique achievement and some of the extraordinary experiences he had along the way.

He said: “Two highlights spring to mind. The first was I’d just finished setting up my hammock, the light was fading and four long, thin shapes were gliding through the water towards me.

"My heat-frazzled brain jumped to the totally illogical conclusion that they were leopards, and I was about to die. They were actually Sea Otters.

"They swam within five metres and just watched me - it was a case of who was watching who. I never seen Sea Otter’s before and to see them so close and totally on my own was magical.

"The second was again, I had just pulled up on another beach to set up camp. As I entered the treeline, I noticed black shapes whizzing past me. They were bats and I must have had a cloud of insects following as they started circling around me in tight circles until I could feel the air from their wings beating on my face.

"You just can’t help but laugh at a time like that. That kind of experience is a totally personal experience. No one else can replicate it.”