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Friend, fishermen come to the rescue of 67-year-old Charlottetown woman on paddle board

Sonia Jackson, 67, of Charlottetown likes to seek out adventure. However, a paddle boarding excursion earlier this month proved to be much more than she had bargained for.
Sonia Jackson, 67, of Charlottetown likes to seek out adventure. However, a paddle boarding excursion earlier this month proved to be much more than she had bargained for.

Sonia Jackson of Charlottetown did not think for a moment she might be putting herself in harm’s way when she launched out on a paddle board on Sept. 8.

Conditions were calm when she set out on the North Shore at the end of Pickering Road in Seaview.

She did not put a life jacket on over her wetsuit, thinking the precaution unnecessary since she did not plan to paddle any great distance from shore.

After all, notes the former lifeguard, she remains “a fairly strong swimmer". And she had her friend, 29-year-old Emiley Newbury, paddling alongside.

Not long into the outing, however, the 67-year-old Jackson was in trouble. A strong current, possibly a riptide, had carried her and Newbury almost a kilometre from shore. Her efforts to paddle back to shore proved futile.

"I forgot that I wasn't 30 anymore and in spite of furious paddling was going backwards or at best staying still,'' she says

Newbury dug down deep to get help for her friend. Jackson watched in awe as Newbury paddled vigorously back to shore in an exhausting trip taking 30 or so minutes.

“I have never seen her move as agile as that,’’ says Jackson.

“I wasn’t aware of the strength, stamina and calm this young woman possessed. I was very proud of her.’’

Newbury says the trip back to shore was indeed a chore.

“It was extremely hard,’’ she says.

“I actually had to call in sick to work three days afterwards because my body was so exhausted.’’

Safe paddle boarding

  • Like any activity in any environment, make sure you take the proper precautions before going paddle boarding.
  • Match your adventure with your ability level and the conditions that day. 
  • Make sure that you have the right equipment to have fun safely. 
  • Wear a personal floatation device with a whistle.

SOURCE: Parks Canada

Jackson, all the while, sat on her board to ensure she stayed afloat such a long distance from land.

“I wasn’t freaking out,’’ she recalls.

“I was just sort of sitting there.’’

Newbury called the Coast Guard, which activated an emergency alert. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, the three-man crew of the Milky Way fishing boat were hauling Jackson to safety.

“They were so nice – delightful, kind men,’’ she says.

“I would primarily like to say: ‘thank you for rescuing me and for being kind and concerned citizens.’’’

As for Newbury, she has Jackson's "major thanks'' for giving her a new lease on life.

Jackson says the potential power of the sea demands respect. She was struck later that night with just how fortunate she is to be alive following such a potentially fatal misadventure.

“It wasn’t my day to die because if it had been I would have been swept away…and I am quite happy to be here to tell the story,’’ she says.

Jackson adds she likes to seek out adventure when she can and encourages other seniors to embrace life like she does.

“Go out there and do stuff,’’ she says.

“You only go around once.’’

Naturally, Newbury was pleased to play a major role in saving her friend, who appeared as no more than “a speck’’ when Newbury made her way to shore and looked out over the water.

Newbury, who has a bronze medallion in lifesaving, stressed she did not need her actions to be trumpeted.

She was quick, however, to praise Jackson’s adventurous spirit, describing her friend as an outgoing person who always wants to do new things.

“Everybody on the beach was like, ‘oh, she will never want to do that again.’ And I said ‘you don’t know Sonia,’’ she says.

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