A former prisoner turned world record holder is preparing to take on one of his biggest challenges yet.
David Haze took up paddleboarding following two stints in prison for handling stolen property and burglary and has gone on to break six world records in the sport.
Now, he is preparing to break a seventh, when he heads to Iceland next month (February) to attempt to cross its longest lake, Lögurinn, in the fastest time.
Lögurinn covers an area of 84sq km (32sq m) and, to break the record, David, 36, from Bournemouth, will need to cross it in less than six hours.
And he hopes his efforts will help raise awareness of two causes close to his heart; water safety and penal reform.
David’s life took a wrong turn when he lost his job as a Foreign Exchange broker in the City of London. “I was ashamed,” he said. “I didn’t tell anyone I’d lost my job and while they thought I was at work I was gambling in bookies and casinos.”
He then started taking drugs, “cocaine mostly,” and began a descent into crime which resulted in his arrest, at the age of 27, for handling stolen property.
While awaiting a court date for sentencing, however, “I went on the run,” he said, “and this was the lowest time of my life. I didn’t know where to go, what to do – I was completely lost in every sense of the word.”
David twice attempted suicide in before his five weeks on the run came to an end – again with an arrest. “I had no money so I turned to burglary,” he said. “And that was it. The police were already looking for me and I got three years.”
On his release David started using drugs again, reverted to burglary again, got caught again and went to prison again – but while at HMP Guys Marsh he enrolled on a prison reform programme, “and that was a turning point for me,” he said.
“For the first time in my life I learned to ask for help and to accept it – I realised my previous lifestyle was unsustainable and my whole outlook changed.”
David took up paddleboarding “for the sense of freedom it gave me” and now divides his time between his sport, working in penal reform, fundraising for charities and mentoring young people.
“It’s not all about pursuing world records,” he said. “I share my story to highlight the importance of reform and rehabilitation and to show others that our pasts and mistakes do not define who we are.”