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The crazy things we do to raise money for Shelter

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When we first started talking about forming a partnership with Shelter our staff got very excited, coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas to raise money for the housing and homeless charity. Keen to show a personal commitment, alongside the donations the company will be making to match the generosity of our customers, everyone at SpareRoom is planning their own personal way of adding to the fundraising effort. We’ll be filling you in on the ups and downs of our efforts along the way. Here’s the first of the stories.

Our Head of Marketing, Sam Cowen, led the way by signing up for a challenge that would strike uncontrollable fear in the minds of lesser mortals. A keen snowboarder and wakeboarder, Sam’s been learning to kitesurf for the last few summers and is now finally at the stage where’s she’s “no longer a total liability”, in her own words. Along came a challenge she couldn’t refuse – she’d heard that a bunch of kitesurfers were planning to beat a world record, kitesurfing along the South Coast of England, and raising money for charity at the same time. The Big Charity Downwinder was being organised by pro Kitesurfer Lewis Crathern (he of the insane Worthing Pier and Brighton Pier jumps – Sam was entrusting her life to this madman?!?) and by youth charity Snowcamp, and also planned to raise money for the RNLI, but Sam also wanted to raise money for Shelter at the same time, so her fundraising would be split three ways.

Called a “downwinder” the event was unusual, as most beginner kitesurfers spend all their time trying their best to kitesurf upwind, and now suddenly they were being required to do the opposite. The total course length was an exhausting 46 miles, split up into 3 legs. Sam was planning to ride from Hayling Island, the start point, to Pagham, the first third of the journey. Having never kited beyond her home beach and off down the coast before, Sam figured that would be a sizeable challenge, and she’d leave the full 46 mile downwinder to the experts.

Prior to the day of the challenge, excitement was building, amid news that Sir Richard Branson would be joining the intrepid kitesurfers in their record breaking attempt. Virgin were now sponsoring the challenge, paying for all the safety boats and GPS equipment necessary, which meant all of the money raised would now go straight to charity. The event had in fact been renamed the Virgin Kitesurf Armada, and the date of the challenge was set for Sunday 15th September. And then a major storm was forecast. You guessed it – Sam and her fellow kitesurfers would be battling these galeforce winds in the name of charity fundraising.

Here’s Sam’s report of what happened on the day of the challenge:

“We set off to the South Coast in glorious sunshine then waited for the wind to pick up. Branson went out first on a 16m kite but by the time I launched nearly 2 hours later, it was gusting over 40knots and I launched my 9m kite with trepidation. The first mile was fine and then the water got choppier and choppier, a sea of moguls moving in front of me, snatching my board off my feet 8 times. I made it as far as East Wittering before I had to call it a day. But we’d broken the world record – with 318 kiters consecutively kiting in the mile at Hayling Island, and I’m enormously proud to have been part of that. Amazingly some of my friends made it to Pagham, and an elite few as far as Lancing – the whole 46 miles (they did set off when conditions were less challenging but it was still nasty conditions when they got there!).”

Well done Sam, for battling wind and waves, and making it safely back to shore! Her name has joined the others in the Guiness Book of Records, for the largest parade of kitesurfers, and she raised over £1000 for charity.

![Sam - at Hayling Island before the challenge]( "shelter_kite_smaller")Sam - showing her support for Shelter - at Hayling Island before the challenge
![Sam with some kitesurf friends, and a certain Mr. Branson.]( "bransons_kitegirls")Sam with some kitesurf friends, and a certain Mr. Branson.