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Kayaking duo to reconquer sea in aid of Inspire

In a time when performing sport challenges for charity is on the rise, 62-year old Dorian Vassallo and paddling partner Albert Gambina, 60, will be kayaking from Malta to Sicily, around the neighbouring island, and back to Malta.

The feat, taking place in the coming days, is said to be a month-long trip for the pair and will raise funds for Inspire.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Vassallo said the idea is for them to paddle from Armier to Marina di Ragusa, all the way around the island and back down to Malta.

Asked about a specific date for the start of this challenge, he explained that because the first leg is and open sea session, “we can’t say we’re going on a particular date because of the weather”.

“We need a force two to three to go, so we normally wait for the best opportunity. But we’ll be off on the first available day after July 23,” Vassallo said.

The pair have been partners for a while, after having been a larger group.

“Luck had it that one of my colleagues’ father is Wilfried Sultana, who had organised these sorts of challenges to Pozzallo with windsurfers and I believe even with jetskis,” Vassallo said.

“He had told me that he was interested and offered to help. So, in June or July 2008 we crossed from Marsalforn to Pozzallo for the first time. When we got there, as a joke I had said that we should do Tunisia to Malta next.

“Most said no but Albert (Gambina) said it was doable and we agreed to do it in two years’ time – that’s how the partnership started and from then, we’ve always paddled together.”

Since joining forces, the pair, who refer to themselves as ‘Kayak for Charity’, has paddled to Sicily four times, around Malta 19 times, twice round the Maltese archipelago, once from Tunisia to Malta, twice to Linosa and even from Pozzallo to Rome.

The duo will be paddling for approximately 555 nautical miles. Asked about the difficulties ahead of them, Vassallo admits the hardest part for them will be the opening segment – getting to Sicily.

“It’s a 16 to 17-hour paddle and it all depends on the training that we would have done from here,” Vassallo said.

“Coming back doesn’t worry me because we would have spent a whole month of eight hours of paddling a day, so you would have built up the strength.

“Obviously our age is going to play a part. We have to be realistic, but we’ve done this many a time and we know what we’re in for.”

‘It gives us a boost’

Vassallo’s motivation to start such challenges came about after his wife passed away, but has shifted towards charity which is the duo’s goal nowadays.

“We like adventure, but we also like to help people. We use it as a means to satisfy our adventurous side but at the same time to help out,” Vassallo said.

“I think the first thing we all have to say when we look at what Inspire does and what other NGOs do, is how many people there are who are less fortunate than us.

“When I see that, I say why shouldn’t we try to help while doing something we enjoy doing – it gives us a boost. We’re not young anymore but it still gives us that incentive.

“We’re not after a specific amount of donations – whatever we collect is more than they had yesterday.

“Obviously, we would love to collect a large sum, so every amount helps. I always say this: If all the people who’ve put a like on our Facebook page donate five euros, you can generate a very good sum.”

Donations towards Inspire can be given by visiting: https://inspire.org.mt/ kayakforcharity/

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