The Adventure Isn't Over
Having spent 10 years in the military during which he lost both his legs above the knee when he stepped on an IED in 2012, Cayle Royce MBE has proved that with a desire to explore and endless determination anything is possible. He now holds the title as the first double amputee to row an ocean more than once, alongside being the first and fastest amputee to fly a paramotor from John o’Groats to Lands End. He has accumulated 95 days at sea in a rowing boat and now prepares to kayak 3,800km down The Amazon River.
Cayle wears the Dundas Cobalt
Dundas London: Hi Cayle, thank you for taking the time to chat to us. What has 2020 looked like for you so far?
Cayle Royce: Thank you for having me. This year began with a pretty hectic schedule of training, fundraising, equipment trials and purchasing of all of the masses of gear required for an expedition out to South America. Our plan was to kayak down the Amazon River in August this year. However, as with everybody else’s plans for 2020, it came to a grinding halt. So instead I have been forced into doing all of those little jobs around the house that have been lingering for some time.
DL: Can you tell more about the Amazonian Kayak and what it will entail?
CR: Our plan is to head to Nauta on the Amazon River with a team of 12 members including 8 wounded, injured or sick veterans and sea kayak 4000km’s down to the mouth of the river. We estimate that it should take us approximately 60 days of paddling 10 hours a day to achieve our goal. We will be fully self sufficient and carry everything necessary to camp out and survive for the duration of the trip. Although 60 days is what we would like to complete the trip in, there will be a number of challenges along the way that may cause delays, pirates, drug cartels and wildlife are but a few.
DL: Sounds amazing! As you mentioned, the team is made up of eight wounded British service personnel, that must require some adjustments to equipment and training?
CR: It most certainly does. It is further complicated by the variety of injuries that we have on the expedition which means that each individuals boat needs to be adapted specifically for them. Personally, I quite enjoy adapting equipment in order to participate in these events. It keeps the brain active and allows me to participate in all manner of expeditions that would otherwise be seemingly impossible. You’d be surprised at what you can achieve with the liberal application of velcro and duct tape. As far as the training itself goes, we have all been through a string of kayaking qualifications and have accumulated a huge amount of hours and miles on the water to prepare our bodies for the trip as well as to familiarise ourselves with the boats.
Cayle wears the Dundas Cobalt
DL: You served in the military for 10 years. What was the biggest lesson you learnt from your time in service and how does that affect your day to day life now?
CR: I think that understanding how to function as a team when working with individuals from all walks of life and with hugely varied skill sets is probably the biggest take away from my time in the military and will be the most applicable on this expedition. Understanding strengths and weaknesses and being patient with people makes an enormous difference with how you interact with others and the outcomes you can accomplish together. Just because somebody in your troop wasn’t the fastest runner didn’t mean that he wasn’t the best shot. And believe me, when everything is going sideways you want the best shot close by.
DL: From rowing across the Atlantic Ocean twice and your various other trips, it seems that you’ve made quite sure your amputations haven’t limited your sense of adventure. What advice would you give to a young explorer and those who love to discover?
CR: My lowest point after waking up in hospital wasn’t because of the fact that my legs had fallen off, although having them back would be a bonus. It was this terrible feeling that the adventure was over. My desire to explore had not diminished in any way, but I thought that I would be seen as too much of a liability to have on an expedition. Fortunately I could not have been more wrong. I am in the wonderful position of being surrounded by great people who are always looking for the next adventure. So my advice would be exactly that, find the people that challenge and support you to push yourself. Have wild ideas, take those ideas and formulate a solid plan, then take that plan and run with it.
If you are looking to do larger expeditions and don’t have an enormous wallet you will need financial support. This is easily the most challenging part of any expedition or adventure. You will be turned down more times than you will be given the nod and this is a painful test to endure. But as soon as you finally get the funding and support you are looking for and all systems are go and it dawns on you that this is really happening. You can get out there and chase those horizons.
DL: And finally, what has been your hairiest moment while out at sea during your expeditions?
CR: I would have to say that the hairiest moment I had at sea was on my first row. Sitting in a 29ft long by 6ft wide rowing boat with less than a foot of freeboard between you and the water already fills you with an overwhelming sense of vulnerability. We were a couple of weeks into the crossing and the weather had been deteriorating throughout. The conditions had been building particularly badly for a few days and I have never seen the sea in such a state. 40ft mountains of water were rolling towards us, the gusts of wind made it difficult to hold onto the oars and we were being violently thrown around with waves breaking over us constantly as we braced ourselves just before impact.
I remember the sense of dread as we watched the sunset and the world around us go dark. The clouds above us felt heavy and the rain poured as we bounced, pitched and rolled. It was a few minutes past midnight when an enormous wave lifted our stern high into the air as a second swell hit us from the side, jacking the wave up to what must have been 50ft plus before breaking on us, I remember seeing my rowing partner James high above me get launched over my head and out of the boat. In that moment I remembered an old poster I had in my bedroom as a child of a surfer falling from a huge wave at Mavericks, with the caption underneath it saying “Don’t scream, you’ll need the air”. I inhaled deeply as we were violently rolled down the face of the wave, the boat going through a full capsize and I was ripped from the vessel into the pitch black washing machine. I have never experienced anything so powerful.
After what felt like quite some time, I surfaced and immediately started scanning for James. I could not see the boat but soon James’ head popped out of the water and I was relieved to know that at least I wasn’t going to die alone! We were tethered to the boat which at this stage had righted itself as they are designed to do and managed to untangle ourselves and swim our way back to it. We climbed on hastily and immediately set about reorienting it back on course. Once the boat was heading in the right direction again we both just burst into laughter, I suppose there really wasn’t much else we could have done.
DL: That is quite the story! Thanks for sharing with us Cayle, we’re looking forward to hearing more from you and the Amazonian Kayak team as and when the exhibition is able to go ahead.
Dundas London are proud to be supporting Amazonian Kayak 2021.
To keep up to date with the Amazonian Kayak journey or donate to their Just Giving page, click here