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Damien Rider, founder of PACA (Paddle Against Child Abuse), stands firm by his calling to change lives and let disadvantaged children know that there are good people to help them. Also carrying the title of Men's Health Man for 2015, he furthers his mission by extending his reach and serving as a role model for kids everywhere. Together with his organisation, he envisions to build a beach safe house to start rebuilding the lives of broken souls by way of ocean sports communities, fitness and work ethics. Damien has broken world records paddling non stop from one coast to another, fighting off sharks and battling monster swells to help make his vision come to life.
You bring a lot of inspiration in the world of health and fitness. What steered you into this path? Can you walk us through how it all started?
Fitness has played a key role in my life from a young age. It start off as an escape from home life issues to growing excited about finding out what my body could do and how I could challenge myself. It's always been there for me to turn to and help others see the importance of sports and fitness.
You are the brains behind a very important cause called Paddle Against Child Abuse (PACA). We understand that it’s very close to your heart. Why is this so?
I grew up in an abuse dysfunctional home life as a child and as a result lived most of my life with Post a Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I had finally reached a point where I decided to face it head on and break the cycle and stop searching for my happiness and to truly feel what happy everyday was like. I used the ocean paddle sports and pushing through physical pain to bring out the emotional pain from deep within. Once I had successfully found peace I wanted to share my experience and tools with past and present victims and as a result PACA was born.
PACA aims to build a beach house haven to help abused children by way of ocean paddle sports, fitness and nutrition. We truly believe in this vision. Can you tell us more about it and how it works?
PACA isn't a charity but self funded by me by sacrificing and putting everything I have an am into it without asking for handouts. My aim is to build beach houses globally to has 8-10 kids from the ages of 14-17 when they are on that crossroads of life. I will be at to provide great roles models and support as they make the transition from where they are to accomplishing their dreams. The house will also be a place to mediate with broken families to help them work together and build a trusting bond back together. My aim is to have 8 houses in the next 5 years with the main focus being the ocean, beach, kitchen and gym.
You paddled through 800 km alone and broke 3 world records following this journey. What urged you to do it?
I knew to get the word out about who I am and what my aim is was to do something extreme that no one had done before to show what lengths I'll go to for what I believe in.
PACA founder, Damien Rider in action
How did you prepare for it? What was the training like?
I trained full time for 8 months leading up to it and set myself increasing tests along the way. I did a 3 hour test where I ran up and down a 500 45 degree pitch road. I'd run up, run down, 10 push ups repeat for 3 hours. Next I did an 8 hour tests so I'd do an 11 piece circuit, 2 km run repeat for 8 hours. I covered 52km, 2500 skips, 1000 pull ups etc etc. I then did a 24 hour test non stop paddling on a paddleboard ergo. In between the tests I would work on strengthening my whole body, paddling, running, weighted cardio (Crossfit style)
Tell us about the challenges you faced during this monumental voyage. How did you overcome them?
17 days in the water of between 8 and 13 hours of non stop paddling, solo and unsupported so no one to talk to was a challenge but a great discovery of who I am. I had 10 near death experiences being shark encounters, nearly broke my neck under water by getting wiped out by a massive wave in a storm, rolled across reefs, fatigued and dehydration. Coming through everything and knowing what I overcome has changed my life forever.
You were named this year’s Men’s Health Man. Congratulations! What does this title mean to you?
For me, winning the title personally doesn't mean too much but for what I am doing with PACA, it means a lot. As I mentioned, everything I do gears towards help kids and gaining trust and respect as a man and role model.
Any tips you can give to anyone wanting to reach such feats that you’ve achieved?
Don't listen to the naysayers, believe in yourself and be proud of what you've accomplished so far in your life and Go For It. I'll support you 100% no matter how crazy it might sound.
Damien paddling through big waves
You recently went on a retreat at Phuket Cleanse in Thailand. What were the highlights of your stay?
Phuket Cleanse has been an amazing experience for me and teaching far beyond my expectations. They really cater for everyone's needs on all fitness levels with a very high quality of life long experienced trainers. The atmosphere there is what I love the most, it doesn't take long for even the shy ones to feel comfortable, relaxed and excited about being there. Stanton and Melanie have really nailed it and make it feel like a great family while guests are there getting incredible results.
Should more men give healthy active holidays a try? Why do you think so?
It's definitely the way to go I think after being at one and really it suits men to a tea cause we don't need to think too much, daily options are laid out and you can push yourself or be pushed as hard as you want. I recommend it equally to males and females just wanting a get away and do a bit of training or for people really wanting to make that body and life transformation.
What is your next challenge?
Before I leave Phuket on the 5th Oct I will be solo Stand Up Paddleboarding around the island. It's 150km and should take me 4 days. While I'm here I've been lucky enough to talk with all of the international schools about child abuse, prevention and challenges children may face growing up and tools to rise above.