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Paddling around Iceland – in the first person II

 The Big Issue South Africa 13 June 2019

Modern day explorer Riaan Manser and new expedition partner Dan Skinstad have set out to become the first South Africans to circumnavigate Iceland in a kayak. In this exclusive column, Manser and Skinstad share their individual experiences during their icy epic, dubbed ‘Iceland on inspiration’. (624 Words) - By Riaan Manser and Dan Skinstad


BI SA_Icelandic update_Riaan and Dan

Riaan Manser and Dan Skinstad. Photo: The Big Issue SA / Richard Mills


"The last few weeks have brought me back to the harsh reality of what I have decided to take on here in Iceland. Actually let me correct that: in the last few weeks Dan and I have both sobered up to what we as individuals are trying to accomplish.

Now it's fairly obvious that Dan plans to overcome his physical challenges [he has cerebral palsy] and the mental ones that go with that. For me, it has always been about doing something exceptional with my life. As I always put it, "to have great stories to tell my grandchildren one day". I have not had a sheltered upbringing by any stretch of the imagination, yet I have felt privileged and grateful on many other grounds. The need to push myself to real limits is a way to show gratitude for this relative privilege. Odd isn't it?

There is no doubt I could have just done the gorilla-beating-his-chest routine and come to Iceland to do this journey alone. The bottom line is I know Dan has 10 times more power to inspire people than I do. To inspire people to be grateful. To inspire people to be honest with themselves. And lastly, to inspire people to really have a go at making the most of the good and the bad in their lives. After all, that's exactly what he's doing.

Let's make no bones about it. Dan is no angel on the sea and unfortunately is only beginning to come to grips with the severity of his environment. The physical reality is obvious and it sometimes bothers me to push my partner so hard. But he is here to achieve something - he has to earn it and, ultimately, deserve it. My life is also at risk, and the reality is that I'm going to save his life first before I attempt saving my own.

Which brings me back to my opening point: these past few weeks have woken me up to the "real" reality. But Dan and I have one goal in mind. To inspire. And the reality of that is it doesn't come cheaply."



"My previous column took the form of a holiday diary entry. This is different. The harsh reality has kicked-in that this country and its weather are as unforgiving as they are beautiful.

I am struggling with the most necessary and basic skills in kayaking on the ocean -maintaining my balance and being constantly aware of my surroundings. This means Riaan has to constantly counterbalance the boat while trying to maintain a decent paddle stroke. This puts him under an immense amount of pressure both physically and mentally, so much so that the paddling experience becomes unpleasant.

The conditions have a habit of highlighting my or anyone's inadequacies and it's a tough challenge we face.

We are, however, still a team. We will round this icy island and finish what we started; a journey of self-improvement, teamwork and inspiration.

The problems can and will be fixed, inch by inch, mile by mile. The time for talking of improvement is over - tangible real improvement is the order of the day. Watch our progress. Watch this space."


For more updates on the gruelling Iceland on Inspiration adventure, follow Riaan and Dan on Twitter: @riaanmanser  @danskinstad


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