I was heralded “Britain’s latest sporting heroine” (The Times) when the media worldwide went crazy for the story of the 5'4 petite novice rower (me!) who rowed solo across the Atlantic after my then husband, a 6'5 top-level club oarsman, was rescued from our boat after developing an uncontrollable fear of the ocean. With no safety boat, the risks were enormous but I focused on the words ‘Choose Your Attitude’ to keep me going. Learn more...
For four years I had dreamt of putting together an all-female team to complete a ski expedition in the Arctic. I partnered with automotive company LeasePlan and nearly 1/3rd of their female employees applied for a place on the team. After a selection weekend on Dartmoor and 6 months of training, 13 women from LeasePlan completed a traverse of Baffin Island – they were transformed from desk-bound office workers to polar explorers!
A blast through France from the Atlantic Ocean (my old friend!) to the Mediterranean Sea, by bike. I loved the idea of starting with my back wheel in one ocean and finishing with my front wheel in another. The downside was the Pyrenees Mountains lay in between! Any adventure that somehow incorporates the Atlantic Ocean is good in my books. A brilliant 5 days with great friends, blue skies, good coffee stops and a very sore bum!
THE.BEST.FUN.EVER is competing in the Dragon World Championships - crazy 4 person Stand Up Paddleboard races using the awesome Red Paddle Co’s 22' boards. In 2019, Team English Roses competed on Lake Annecy in France: we were definitely not the fastest, but we made up for it by bringing the fun and enthusiasm. We even won ‘The Spirit of the Dragon’ Award (see the end of the video!) Huge thanks to the team at Red and to my awesome teammates Amanda, Catherine and Rosie.
The producer of the award winning BBC series ‘Extreme Lives’ contacted me after my Atlantic row to find out if they could film my next expedition. So I joined forces with old friend Bruce Parry (of BBC ‘Tribe’ fame) to take part in the world’s longest canoe race – The Yukon River Quest – just south of the Arctic Circle in Canada. We were the first ever British team to enter.
After 10 months of training at 6.30am on the River Thames and weekends at the coast, the day finally arrived. On Saturday 25th August 2007 18 paddlers and one helm set an unofficial world record as the fastest and first ever all-female crew to Dragon Boat across the English Channel. The Sisterhood completed the crossing in just 3 hours 42 minutes, only 12 minutes behind The Brotherhood – the team we had a healthy rivalry with!
The Monte Carlo Rally Historique is legendary and eccentric! The 1969 Peter Cook and Dudley Moore comedy ‘Monte Carlo or Bust’ perfectly captured this – lying, cheating and bumbling their way across Europe. It’s not about gadgets or v8 engines. It’s about historic cars with no heating, icy mountain roads, hitting snow banks, flying around hairpin descents to avoid time penalties, navigating with paper maps and not falling asleep at the wheel despite being awake for days.
L’Étape followed the exact route of Stage 15 of the 2007 Tour de France in the Pyrenees Mountains. The stage was a classic Pyrenean mountain stage with 5 mountain cols. But this was not ridden over a series of days. The whole lot had to be ridden in less than 12 hours. I completed it in 11hrs 39mins. Over 7,000 cyclists started but almost half did not finish it. Less than 100 starters were women!
I joined Team Pindar for the Southern Ocean leg of the Global Challenge Round The World Yacht Race, sailing against the prevailing winds and tides. It gave me my first rounding of the infamous Cape Horn and my second Christmas at sea. Completing headsail changes while constantly being washed down the deck by freezing cold walls of water was AWESOME. The Southern Ocean made the Atlantic seem like a millpond though!
All those years canoeing and kayaking made the transition to Dragon Boats quite easy and I was very quickly selected for the Great Britain Team. It was a dream come true as I had always wanted to represent my country in a sport. The European Championships in Rome were first, followed by the World Championships in Nottingham 2 years later. I’m so enormously proud of my medals – 1 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze.
The Vogalonga is a giant annual May Bank Holiday spectacle, a colourful pageant in which thousands of vessels of every kind race 32 km around Venice’s lagoons and canals. With tiny kayaks jostling for space with gondolas, dragon boats, outriggers, fours, eights, sculls, skiffs and traditional Venetian rowing boats, and with the ornate bridges and balconies teaming with spectators, it is the Italian equivalent to Spain’s Running With The Bulls.
Debra Searle MVO, MBE shot to fame after rowing the Atlantic solo.
As a sought after motivational speaker and author, she has spoken at 1,000 events in 40+ countries.
She has founded five companies and presented over 40 programmes for the BBC.