‘Like surfing in a sewer’: British windsurfer moves to Tenerife to escape polluted seawater

Hayling Island in Hampshire is a watersports hotspot  (Getty Images)
Hayling Island in Hampshire is a watersports hotspot (Getty Images)

One of the world’s leading windsurfers has described her training as like “surfing in a sewer” after being forced to relocate from the English south coast to Spain due to water pollution.

Sarah Jackson, twice a world championship silver medallist, had been based at Hayling Island, near Portsmouth in Hampshire, but will now train on the island of Tenerife.

Southern Water data shows that untreated sewage was released into Chichester and Langbourne harbours for the equivalent of 102 days in 2021, with water companies now permitted to release sewage into waterways to prevent flooding of homes.

“This being Britain, where rainfall is very high and because I have to train in all weathers, there were some days when I was basically surfing in a sewer,” Jackson, who was born in Cheshire, said.

“That’s not just unpleasant it’s actually health threatening, but it’s opened my eyes to the problem of pollution in our waterways, not just from sewage but from chemicals and plastics, too.

“Because I spend so much time on the water – not just in the UK but around the world – I see at very close quarters the damage the human race is inflicting on the marine environment.”

The 24-year-old has become an ambassador for the Marine Conservation Society. The charity aim to reduce ocean pollution by 2030 alongside wider work protecting waters from overfishing.

“Untreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year, putting people, planet and wildlife at risk,” Nicola Greaves, head of marketing at the Marine Conservation Society, said.

“Sarah sees first-hand the problems that our seas face, and we’re grateful for her raising her awareness of our mission for cleaner, better-protected, healthier seas for everyone to enjoy.”

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