The Triumph is in the Trying: from grief and menopause to the joy of rowing and SUPing – 006: Jo Moseley

Jo Moseley promotes positivity to a midlife audience as a writer, speaker, mid-life adventurer, and award-winning film-maker. Jo says that joy is simply knowing there is a blue sky above the clouds, which many women will relate to. After losing her sense of self, Jo realised that she desperately needed to do something to help herself and to rediscover that joy. She talks with Zoe, sharing honestly about her experience with the menopause and how the grief of miscarriages, divorce and the death of her mother washed over her like waves. Jo offers golden advice for dealing with the many pivotal stages in our lives as women, often through exercise and adventure. She talks about how she dealt with her own grief through movement using rowing, and ‘not fighting the grief but just recognising the grief’. While heading right out on a huge challenge to stand-up paddleboard from coast to coast, 162 miles from Liverpool to Goole, Jo realises that the success is not in the completion of the journey, but that ‘the triumph is in the trying’. Although she finds some days hard, she knows that the slog bit in the middle is where the magic happens. Jo is such an inspirational individual and exudes empathy, joy, care and a ‘Yes I Can’ attitude from every pore.

Jo Moseley after paddleboarding through a tunnel on her coast-to-coast challenge

Zoe Langley-Wathen  00:24

Hello, and welcome back to the HeadRightOut Podcast. My name is Zoe Langley-Wathen, and I am here to help encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, doing things that scare you, building your resilience in the outdoors. We have conversations with resilient women, and particularly today, I am so excited to bring you an interview with Jo Moseley. Now although I recorded this episode with Jo back in August, I’m only just publishing it now. Jo promotes positivity to a midlife audience. Her Instagram account is @healthyhappy50, and obviously that speaks volumes. Jo says that joy is knowing there is a blue sky above the clouds. For some women I know that is really going to make sense to them.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  01:14

After losing her sense of self, Jo realised that she needed to do something to help herself, for herself, and to rediscover joy. Now I was so moved by Jo’s story, I cried when I watched her film ‘Brave Enough’. Her authenticity touched my very core. I loved her honesty about her experience with the menopause and how grief came to her in waves. While it was tough at times, it’s perhaps a reassurance to other women that there is hope, and if they’re feeling similar things, it means you’re actually not going crazy. So enjoy the episode. It’s a real treat, and a total honour for me to be able to call Jo a friend.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  02:05

Okay, well welcome everybody. I am really excited because we have a very special lady here today, to speak to us. I have Jo Moseley. I chatted with Joe a couple of times and I feel like I’ve built up such a relationship with her already, even though it’s only over the telephone or over social media. But I am so excited to actually speak to her, almost face-to-face. So this is not quite in person but it as close in person as we’ve got yet. So Jo is a mum of two sons. They are aged 24 and 20, and they live on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Now she describes herself as a beach cleaner, joy encourager, and a midlife adventurer. In August 2019. Jo became the first woman to SUP, that’s stand up paddleboard, coast-to-coast, 162 miles along the Leeds and Liverpool canal, picking up litter, fundraising, and raising awareness of the problems of single-use plastic.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  03:04

Now Jo loves writing and speaking about adventure and wellbeing. She also makes tiny films about the joy of the outdoors for our mental health, particularly after losing her mum and experiencing a difficult menopause. Her films ‘Finding Joy’ and ‘Found at Sea’ have both won awards. Jo’s recently launched a podcast called The Joy of SUP – The Paddleboarding Sunshine Podcast and if you’d like to listen to the podcast, there will be a link in the show notes. A documentary film about her coast-to-coast adventure has also just been released to great reception and four, sell-out online screenings which I was at the second one I believe, and it’s called ‘Brave Enough – A Journey Home To Joy’. There will be a link to the trailer, also in the show notes.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  03:52

In addition, Jo has a newsletter called ‘Postcards of Joy – Stories To Lift The Soul’, and there will be a link to the Postcards of Joy also in the show notes. You know, this is amazing because all the way through this, I just sense and feel that there’s this element of joy and positivity, and thoughtfulness, care and kindness about not just Jo Moseley but about Jo’s brand. And so yes, Joe, welcome to the podcast!

Jo Moseley  04:25

That’s really kind. That’s everything. Yeah, kindness, joy, encouragement. That’s exactly what I try and promote really, and to a midlife audience in particular, although I get a lot of younger women as well saying, oh, watching you and the people that you share means it encourages me to know that it doesn’t all end at thirty or forty or fifty.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  04:47

I think that’s important as well, isn’t it because our younger women are at some point going to become older women, and they need to have that message that there isn’t an end to adventures, there isn’t an end to the fun, there isn’t an end and they’ve got lots to look forward to, and I think that’s such a wonderful message that you impart to them.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  05:08

So you have got that great list of achievements all wrapped up in the word ‘joy’. But where did it all start? Because I know there’s quite a lot of experiences that you’ve been through this got you to this point.

Jo Moseley  05:20

Yeah. So I think the joy is really important to me, because joy for me is knowing that there is blue skies above the clouds. It’s that sort of sunshine, whatever the weather is, and it’s finding that internal sunshine and it comes really from a very personal experience, in that I lost that understanding that there was sunshine within. That joy was there, whatever I was particularly going through at the time. It wasn’t like just a one moment, it was over a few years, I really lost my sense of self, my sense of joy. I lost what made me happy outside of my roles as a daughter, mother, sister, friend. Those roles always bring me joy, that’s a given. But I’d lost my sense of joy outside those roles. It all kind of came to a bit of a crashing when I just burst into tears in the biscuit aisle and just said to my boys, I can’t cope. I just can’t do this anymore. That wasn’t the first time I burst into tears, and also not the last, but it was just that one moment where I just hit that rock bottom, really. From then I started to learn how to find my joy again.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  06:31

Wow. So the meltdown in the biscuit aisle. Was that a whole culmination of things… life kind of getting on top of you? Was there something that triggered it?

Jo Moseley  06:42

I think that there was a lot of things. One, I was a middle-aged mum, I was 48 at the time and a single mum kind of juggling all the things doing what I could for my boys.  Both mum and dad were going through chemotherapy. So dad has had breast, bowel and skin cancer, and mum was being treated for lymphoma. And then on top of that, but not realising that I was also going through the perimenopause. So I wasn’t sleeping, I had night sweats, heart palpitations, incredible anxiety, tinnitus, itchy legs, aching bones and joints, cold flashes, you know the whole, I think there’s thirty-eight different symptoms, and I could tick off almost all of them, except hot flashes, I don’t get hot flashes. And so that was the background to these other things that were were pretty stressful at the time. That moment was just when it all came to a… it wasn’t that it just came to a head. It was that moment, I guess, because I had cried in supermarkets. And I had been upset. But I think it was the moment which then turned me from thinking I’ve just got to keep going to, I probably need to do something about this. With that recognition that there was a problem. And the first time I vaguely asked somebody for help, or vaguely even mentioned to somebody that I wasn’t really managing everything very well. So I think like many women of our generation, the sense that you just have to keep going was very, very, very much part of the way I looked at my life. And also, as a single mom, I had that terrible belief that I had to do everything a thousand times better, because I didn’t want to be seen as as not coping. So it was one moment that just represented a lot of moments.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  08:34

So yes, Supermum comes into mind that isn’t it you you just feel like you have to be Supermum, and you can’t do it. You’re going through all those things, but particularly then with your parents care as well, and the worry for them. Yeah, it’s such a difficult time. So you mentioned to somebody that you needed help?

Jo Moseley  08:55

I just said a friend of mine because mum and dad were obviously really busy with their own appointments, I didn’t want to worry them. So I just said to a friend, in that sort of joking way, “haha, I was crying in the supermarket” and just as a way to sort of gently let somebody else into that circle of trust, really. And she said “how much exercise do you do?”, and I said, “well, you know, I spend all my life at the rugby pitch, but I’m not playing rugby”. She said that she had an old indoor rowing machine, and did I want to borrow it, because exercise might help me sleep. And I hadn’t had a really good night’s sleep for years and it had nothing to do with the boys. You know, they were way past that stage. It was just worry and anxiety, and what I realised now all the sort of hormonal changes that I was going through. So she lent me this indoor rowing machine and it really changed things. So yes, it was just at that moment where you say, I don’t think I’m handling this as well as I could be and I need some help. Which is just as well.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  09:58

And that exercise. Gosh, it’s exercise and focus, isn’t it? So you suddenly you have a new focus and something that takes you out of that place that has been causing your anxiety. So when you’re on the rowing machine, did you immediately think, ‘okay, I need to make this into a challenge for myself,’ or were you just enveloped in that wonderful feeling of moving your body and being able to sleep? Where did it transition from being exercise that was helping your mental health into suddenly, ‘okay, I need to make this a bigger thing that I’m then going to completely focus on and take it a step further’? Where did that transition happen?

Jo Moseley  10:40

At first, it was just so I could sleep, and within a couple of weeks, I was sleeping and so life just felt so much better. And I felt so much better. And then my mum… so that was May 2013… and then my mum died on the 21st of December 2013. But what I realised was that as we were doing all the stuff around her funeral, and all things like that,but I continued to row. It was never about getting fit or anything like that. My technique wasn’t particularly good, I didn’t do anything brilliantly. But it was just that rhythm of having a place to go, but also having a sense of… I sort of say it and we say this in the film… it was like the grief that I’d had through my life. I think a lot of us, you know, you don’t get to your mid life without things happening. I had the grief of miscarriages, of my divorce, which I’ve never really talked about, of just feeling like I failed everybody. And these things, then along with the grief of obviously Mum, had just settled in my bones. You know, it was like in my bone marrow, so to speak. And the movement helped me move that, (sounds a bit woo-woo), but the movement helped me move that grief out of the core of my bones and somehow exhale it.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  12:03

Oh you’ve started me off.

Jo Moseley  12:06


Zoe Langley-Wathen  12:07

No, please don’t apologise. It’s really powerful.

Jo Moseley  12:11

That’s what it did it, and I’ve since read articles about Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and ‘Big Magic’. She talked about dancing at her, I don’t know if it was her wife’s or her partner, I don’t they were officially married, but when her partner died when she died, they danced at her wake, or in the days afterwards. And I just thought, yeah, that’s what they were doing. It wasn’t dancing for joy. It was dancing and moving to get that grief out of their bodies or recognise that. Acknowledge there was grief and anxiety in their bodies. That’s what the rowing did for me. And so after I had bereavement counselling, where the gentleman said to me, “how do you feel?” And I said to him,” I feel like I’m on a rickety old boat in the middle of a lake. My old life is the shoreline, and I need to get back to that old life. I want that stability. I want to know what’s, what. Everything has been turned into a new world. My mum who was so central to our lives is no longer here, and I need to find a way to get back to some stability”. And he said to me, “what do you need to do?”, and (metaphorically, obviously), I said, “I need to sit down, I need to stop waving from the, from the boat, and I need to row my way back to the shoreline”. And obviously, I meant it metaphorically, it was just a way to get myself back to the shore and then establish a new life for the boys and myself, and my dad and my sister, etc.

Jo Moseley  13:37

Then three or four weeks later, I decided that I was going to row a million metres, a marathon for Macmillan, who had supported Mum and Dad and you know, have continued to support Dad. And so it went from really just an idea into a thing in about three weeks with absolutely zero planning. Yeah, that’s kind of the way I do things.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  13:59

Sometimes it’s the best way because then you have less time to overthink it.

Jo Moseley  14:05

Yeah, just sort of decided it was what I wanted to do. So it was just a process. I never set out to get fit. I never set out to… I just was allowing my body and my soul to teach me what I needed to do next. And then I rowed the million metres of marathon, and I did the marathon, and two half marathons. I did the marathon on the first anniversary of her death and five days before my fiftieth birthday.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  14:28

Wow. And so that’s, you know, a way to mark your fiftieth birthday but also to acknowledge your Mum’s death, acknowledge the grief, again, it’s another transition through into the next stages.

Jo Moseley  14:41

Yeah, yeah, it is.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  14:44

Wow, well, actually something you said there has just… I don’t want to catapult into the film just yet… but there’s a sheet of paper here, which is all the notes that I wrote when I watched Brave Enough and I’ve highlighted a couple of things there that that really kind of jumped out at me. Something that you’ve just said about why why you started rowing, it wasn’t to get fit, it was because you just needed to be doing something, just needing to move. I’ve highlighted something you said in the film, and it was about the need to move. And I’ve written ‘love the need to move, not to compete, or to lose weight, but to bring joy’. Once again there, it’s almost like your subconscious knew, that you needed to move in order to bring you if not joy, at least peace in the first instance. But then in bringing peace, that then just seemed to unfold into happiness.

Jo Moseley  15:47

Yeah, peace opened the door, to the joy. I think you do need that sense of peace, that’s a really good way of putting it. I do think you need that sense of peace and to allow yourself in the grief, to feel joy again. And to say that the grief won’t… you don’t, I don’t think you ever… it’s not one or the other. It’s not like you’re grieving or there’s joy. Both can exist every day, intertwined. It’s like a dance between the two, and the way that you get through it is just to recognise. Recognise the joy, like every time, I go to spend time out on the sea, I can see the sea right now where we are. Every time I go, wherever I am on a paddleboard, at some point, I recognise that joy. I’ll stop for seconds or minutes and say, “this is joy and I’m banking, that joy”. Because grief is, as we all know, is going to come along at some point, and anxiety and worry. Having the two in your lives and knowing that there will be grief and not trying to deny that grief, but knowing that there’s also joy, it’s like they’re just together. And, and allowing both to be together just means that you can kind of flow a little bit more in your life, because you’re not fighting the grief, you’re just recognising the grief, and recognising all those emotions. And yeah, the movement. You know, sometimes I wish I really was competitive, I really do wish that I would like I need to do this faster, I need to do this, or I need to compete. Because I think sometimes I would maybe push myself a bit harder, or I don’t know what. It is always coming down to that joy, and my body’s saying, ‘this is good. This is gonna help you sleep tonight’. And my whole life rests on nicely.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  17:28

Perhaps if you were competitive though, it would dilute what you are in other ways, you know, so it might dilute that feeling of joy, and that inspiration that you pass on? I don’t know. We are the way we are, for a reason aren’t we? So yeah, not necessarily to fight that, really.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  17:45

So your boys, where were they in all of this? Did they understand what you were going through? Did they understand your need to do the things you needed to do? And how did they feel about all of that?

Jo Moseley  17:56

Good question. I think as I started to be more focused on particularly with the fundraising and the challenge, and they could see that it was giving me a real purpose, that was positive. Because I was just piecing together that I was going through the menopause, I couldn’t give them any good reason why I would fly off the handle, or burst into tears or, you know, for so long, I was in quite a big, well it was Tescos. I said to the journalists that for about two years, I thought that I was getting the flu, you know, really regularly, because I was getting cold flashes and headaches. I was going to bed early thinking oh, I’m coming down with the flu. And then the next morning, I’d be fine. And what I realised was I was just having cold flashes, and it wasn’t the flu. And so I wasn’t able to say to the boys “look, I’m going through the menopause. These are the symptoms. I’m really sorry, when I kind of fly off the handle or burst into tears or, you know, forget the keys or forget to pick them up, but I’m not gonna forget to pick them up. But I might kind of screech in a bit late or whatever”. And they were, you know, teenagers, they weren’t babies, I guess I wish I’d been able to give them a book and say, “this is what I’m going through”. But I didn’t realise what I was going through until probably two, three years later, by which time, I’d found ways to handle it. And also, nowadays, it’s so much talk about menopause. Even eight or nine years ago, it was really not talked about, and I just didn’t have the tools to do that. Then as I felt happier and I started doing things, I think they just chilled. You know, people say to me, after I give quite a few talks, particularly to the WI, and people say to me at the end, the boys must be really proud of you and to be honest, they’re just like, ‘yeah, cool Mum, whatever’.

Jo Moseley  19:40

You know, they’re not standing there going, “oh, she’s amazing”. And that’s great. You know, they’re doing their stuff. And it’s just like, Yeah, come on with them. Okay, let’s move on, you know.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  19:51

Yeah, and they’re not teenagers anymore, are they? They’re in their early twenties. But yes, they still have a way of thinking like that, but I’ll bet you give them twenty years or when they have their own children, perhaps, if they have their own children. That’s the point where they’ll reflect back and think, gosh, did my mother actually do that? That’s amazing.

Jo Moseley  20:10

Maybe. My sons, my eldest son’s masters graduation, which has like been postponed, like for two years. I was taking the photos and his girlfriend, she’s really sweet. She’s like, “you really know how to take photos, because of your social media use,” and I was like “yes, maybe something about what I do on Instagram is working”. Yeah, and they had booked some accommodation. And I said, “well, did you book accommodation for me?” And he says, “well, we figured that you just know how to do stuff like that. So you could do it on your own”, and I was like, “okay”, but it was just like, okay, Mum just sorts it all out herself. Yeah, they’re just chilled about it. And I guess when I say I’m gonna do something, they’re like, Yeah, that’s great. Okay.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  20:56

Has it inspired them to do anything, do you think? Have they started doing or showing signs of doing anything themselves that you thought perhaps they might not have done otherwise?

Jo Moseley  21:06

They both did Duke of Edinburgh at school, and and they both went on expeditions. My eldest son and his girlfriend want to go travelling when they can, obviously COVID slightly challenged that. My youngest son’s got a thing he wants to do and he’s got a long term project. And I was like, yeah, that’s really cool. Like, where’s my dad was a bit like, Really? I was like, Yeah, and I guess for me, it’s very much helping them understand that at twenty and twenty-four, they don’t necessarily have to have it all figured out. Yet they keep learning and keep exploring, and particularly after COVID. It’s a generation whose lives will continue to be really heavily impacted, careers and stuff like that. So yeah, hopefully they’ve seen that you can just keep trying and they’ll get there in the end.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  21:53

Yeah, I think long gone are the days  where for our age group, when I was at school, it was like, you know, you leave school, you you find a job or career, and then you’re not considered reliable or experienced unless you’ve had twenty years in the same job. That thankfully is now not the case, and the more experience you have is more down to the more things you’ve had to go at and can talk about. Yes. And not stagnating in one place.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  22:18

Okay, well, let’s move on to your big one, which was your journey along the Leeds Liverpool canal. So where did the idea for that blossom, how did that all come about?

Jo Moseley  22:30

So I had my first lesson in September 2016. I’d injured my knee and had my first lesson in the lakes. I knew the minute I stood up on a paddleboard, that it was something special. Yeah, I just I didn’t know how special it was going to be. But I just knew immediately that it was, and I decided about a couple of months afterwards that I was going to do the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. So we’re almost halfway across the country like Liverpool to Leeds. And again, I’m not really sure why. So that was back in 2016. It just sounded like a really cool thing to do. But I made a mistake, and that is I told a few people at Christmas parties and things. The response was that they thought it sounded quite boring, quite logistically difficult, and also quite difficult for a woman of my age. And I was only fifty-one at the time, almost fifty-two. So I put the dream away and just allowed myself to keep building my, I didn’t put it ‘away-away’, I kind of like put it at the back of my head like an idea, and just carried on paddleboarding. I went back to like body boarding and swimming in the sea and hiking and all those things I’ve really enjoyed as a child. Well I started to do those actually, after my rowing challenge, but you know, I continue to use all these things to build my confidence. And then in 2019, I realised, like, my youngest son will be going off to university and I would be empty nest, a single mum.

Jo Moseley  23:55

Also a number of my girlfriends, some obviously closer than others, had died in a very short space of time. And I just realised, if you had you know, the spark of a dream, you should try and give yourself the chance to achieve it. Whether you achieved it or not, that almost wasn’t the point it was at least giving yourself the chance to try. So like the triumph in the trying. And so I just decided, right, again, it was just like, right, I’m just going to do it. And I’m not going to go just from Liverpool to Leeds, I’m going to go from Liverpool to Leeds, and then change onto the Aire and Calder Navigation and go to Goole. So as coast-to-coast as you really can do.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  24:36

Wow. I’m pleased that you did ignore what they said. Isn’t it amazing how others words can have such a profound impact on your belief in yourself?

Jo Moseley  24:48

Yeah, they underestimate us hugely, yes.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  24:54

Yeah. And I think now as I’ve got older, I think I’ve learned that in those people saying those things to you, generally, it’s them not having the belief in themselves isn’t it? They’re saying, oh, gosh, that sounds boring, because that perhaps they’re not interested in it or that you’re probably too old to do that, because they wouldn’t think that they would be capable of doing it. I just think they tend to project their fears, their beliefs, limiting beliefs, onto us.

Jo Moseley  25:21

And one of the great things as you get older is all those things, you just realise that time is really short, and you don’t know what’s around the corner. And, you know, just give yourself a chance, because what other people think really, isn’t important, and they only think about what you’re doing for a fleeting moment, and then move on to something else. What they think is really not important.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  25:44

Okay, good. I love that what you said about the triumph in trying so you said the triumph is in trying. You did try and you did succeed! Take us through some of those highlights of your trip. How long it took you? And some of the fears you faced, you know what was going on there?

Jo Moseley  26:02

So it took eleven days, and I guess the biggest fear was that because I shared it on all my social media and I had fundraising goals that I wanted to achieve, and awareness I wanted to achieve around plastic, single-use plastic consumption, that I guess the biggest fear is, you know, putting your head above the parapet and saying I’m going to do something and then not being able to do it. There was one night in particular, day four, I didn’t sleep because I was up in the night thinking you know, what have you done? What if you can’t do this? You’ve told all these people that you can, and maybe you can’t. Then I just remember about four o’clock in the morning, finally going to sleep and just saying to myself, however long it takes as long as you’re not injured as long as you get to the other side. So I kind of gave myself a bit of compassion and grace then and that just eased that worry.

Jo Moseley  26:54

So the weather wasn’t massively kind to us. The first few days it rained, we had some rain throughout, we had a couple of really beautiful days. People on the canal didn’t always believe I could do it. I got a few comments like, you know, you could put an engine on that. Or sometimes people would say, or men would say, how far have you come? And I would say, well, I’ve come from Liverpool. And at this point, I was day five, six. You know, I’d already done about eighty miles. And I said I’ve done about eighty miles and I’m on my way to the other coast, and he was like, ‘yeah, in your dreams’, like literally ‘in your dreams’. And I was like well, I have! Somebody? I know somebody laughed at me saying why didn’t I go through the locks? And I was a bit like, why would I go through a lot, you know, on a paddleboard, I can just pull it out. So I had a bit of that. Mainly ninety-eight percent of the time, people were really encouraging. And it was, you know, only two years ago, but nobody, not many people had seen paddleboards, so they were asking me what it was like. Most people were really encouraging really kind they would give me their coppers from their pockets, to help with fundraising. But there were times when people did doubt me, most days were really, really different. So there’s different scenery, there’s different trees, or in an urban area, and then a rural area. And there were just a couple of afternoons, particularly one afternoon where it was a slog, and it was a bit like, just keep going, just keep going, just keep going. And sometimes boredom is a factor. You know, it’s not all adrenaline, and it’s not all rah rah.

Jo Moseley  28:22

Then the end was pretty amazing. I was joined by an amazing filmmaker, Frit Tam of Passionfruit Pictures joined me. And Frit had arranged for these lovely people to be there at the end, and that was amazing. I won’t give the game away, but there was some serendipity at the end. So yeah, it was like life. It was up and down, hard work, cruising, surprises, kindness, doubt, all of it. All of the things it was everything.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  28:50

Wow. And I know Frit, and he’s been here and he’s a fabulous filmmaker and individual, and I’m sure you’ve both inspired one another there. And you know partway through the film, I think you were going through a tunnel and I think you were facing a huge moment where you have I’m assuming it was fear. But can you tell us about that tunnel moment and how you got yourself through it?

Jo Moseley  29:16

Yeah, so there were two tunnels. One was only 511 … I always getting muddled if it’s in metres or yards, but it’s not very long. And then there was the other tunnel which is that Foulridge Tunnel which is about just under a mile long. And I was really scared. I’m not great in the dark. Nobody can join you in either tunnel. There’s no towpath. And Foulridge, it’s got like these three shafts of light that you just kind of have to focus on and it’s on a traffic light system, so you know that no other boats are going to come towards you. But you have, I think half an hour to get through and I didn’t because I know time my paddleboarding I don’t know how fast I am. I was like I hope I can do it. And so it was really scary.

Jo Moseley  30:00

Something it’s really interesting that you bring it up. But I think something happened in that tunnel that just made me think I’m a bit braver than I thought. And I came out and I felt quite triumphant. And you know, when you’re excited, and you’re babbling away, and I’m babbling away with some people, and this person said, “all you did was paddle through a tunnel”, and this person hadn’t paddled through a tunnel, let me say. I just turned around, and I said, “don’t rain on my parade”, you know, and I’ve never in my life said that. And I’ve never said it before or since. But I had done something that I felt was really scary. And I just overcome that fear. And I’ve gone ahead and done it. And I also was a bit worried that there was going to be some swans at the other side, that they’re very, very territorial. And so I had that extra little worry, because, you know, when we’re in swan territory, it’s their territory, you know, it perhaps, and respect that territory. And, and I just said, “don’t rain on my parade, let me let me be excited that I did this”. And so yeah, that really, really made a difference, that tunnel. From then on, I just thought this is going to happen! We’re going to do this by hook or by crook, we’re going to get to the other side.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  31:09

You know, after doing this challenge, how has it changed the way you now approach things? Because it sounds to me very much like, you know, you’ve come from this place of almost darkness, you know, anxiety, and worry, and just kind of worrying about other people and not yourself. You’ve come through all these challenges, and you’ve discovered a new you. So how has this changed your approach to things you do?

Jo Moseley  31:37

I think it’s given me a freedom to say I’m going to try and a freedom to give myself some grace and compassion that I’m going to do my very best. I think it’s made me worry less about what other people think as long as I’m doing my best, that almost is really good enough. It’s allowed me to feel that I’m more creative. So we did the film. Obviously, that was a collaboration. I launched the podcast, I say yes to things. And I made my own little film ‘Found At Sea’. Yeah, I think it just just made me feel braver to give things a go, and just do my best. And then there’s also those funny little things like, you know, sometimes when you’re in the thick of a project, the excitement of the project is at one end, but you can’t see the excitement of finishing the project, you’re in the thick of it. And you know, the bit that sort of Brene Brown calls that bit the messy bit in the middle, and there’s no rah rah, and there’s no triumph. And there’s nobody saying, Yeah, you’re in the middle, it’s that happens at the beginning, when people send you off on a project. Yeah. And that happens at the end, when they welcome you home. The bit in the middle, it’s so cliche, but that’s where the magic happens. That’s the bit where you have to test your resolve and your self discipline and your motivation just to keep on going. And there were days when it felt like that, as I said, there were afternoons where it just was like paddle after paddle, you know. I’m just going through a lot of weed, so I was making very slow time. But you know, just literally. I think I bring that to my project, say, like doing the podcast, where there’s so much as you know, that you’re learning and piecing it together. And it’s really hard and you don’t know what you’re doing or writing the book or whatever. And I just say to yourself, you’re just in the middle of that. There’s nothing unusual about this, you’re in the middle of an expedition here, and the bit will happen at the end. But right now, it’s just stroke by stroke, edit by edit, write by write, you know, sentence by sentence, that’s all you have to do is put in the work. And you’ve got to stop questioning the work and just do the work.

Jo Moseley  33:42

You’ve got to get in the flow and, and you just got to do the work. And I think that it just I knew that I knew that already. Obviously I taught my children that you know, growing up, but sometimes an expedition. It’s a potted life, isn’t it? It’s lots of life in a short period of time, and there’s lessons that you can learn. And so sometimes I’ll just go back to that. You’re just in the middle, and you just keep having to do the work. Just chip away at the work. Yeah. And then you look back and and I felt that very much with the podcast, you know, launching the podcast, it was very much like, oh, gosh, everybody else was doing their Christmas stuff and kind of looking forward to that. And I was just there editing.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  34:24

Slogging away. Right?

Jo Moseley  34:26

Yeah, I’m just doing the work.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  34:28

Yes. Yeah. It’s actually a positive message.

Jo Moseley  34:32

Yeah, I hope so. I saw a really good thing on Instagram yesterday about and it was like a mountain or an iceberg. And it was like a line across the summit and it’s like the work you see and then the work you don’t see. And most people, all we see are people’s achievements at work. And I launched a podcast, I wrote a book, I made a film, I was the first person to walk this trail, or you know, I’ve given a talk here, but nobody sees the hours that go into creating that. Like you’re doing with your podcast. Hours and hours and hours. Yeah, it’s huge. It is a mountain. I think that’s why you have an affinity with people that are doing creative things, because you know what they’re going through, you know that what they show whether it’s a picture or whatever. It didn’t just happen overnight. And yeah, I think the expedition challenge helped me with that.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  35:23

Yeah. Wow. And so tell me about your book, Jo, because that’s another challenge. Another episode. I mean, it feels like it was a natural progression. But have you had to battle with it at all?

Zoe Langley-Wathen  35:39

What’s it, you know? What’s it going to?

Jo Moseley  35:41

Yeah, I have, I have. So it’s got a deadline of… quite soon! It’s about beautiful places to paddleboard in the UK. And the biggest thing I think, coming out of COVID, I got second and third lockdowns, I was on my own first lockdown, my son was at home. Second, and third, I was on my own. My dad was my bubble. But he lived a long way away. So we kind of didn’t really pursue the bubbleness. The third lockdown, I was busy launching the film with Frit and we were just like, crazy busy. And then I realised, you know, when can I get out and start going to these places. I didn’t want to go in lockdown people saying, well, it’s work. And it was, but it didn’t feel right. And then I think what happened was, I lost some of my confidence meeting people. You know, Zoom was great, I was giving my WI talks. I was doing corporate talks. But actually face-to-face meeting people, I think I had lost some of my confidence. So that took a little bit of time. So I kind of didn’t get out on the starting block out of the starting blocks as quick as I would like to. And a lot of it is choosing places from research. And then hoping that when you get that they’re as beautiful as you hope they’ll be, and as interesting as you hope they’ll be. Thankfully, every one of them has been. So that’s good that I can trust my judgment, and worrying about the weather and worrying about people getting COVID, and people you’re going to meet, then having to go into self isolation and everywhere.

Jo Moseley  37:06

You know, the weather hasn’t been amazing. Sometimes you’re just hoping that you’re in the right place at the right time, weather wise, and accommodations, and as an extra layer. But it comes back down to the joy that when you’re out paddleboarding, and you see seals or dolphins, or this extraordinary beautiful place that you want to then get home and write about that place, and share that place with somebody else who then might choose to go there. That is just a huge honour. You know that bit is like, wow. And that all the doubts come in, and all the worries. But that bit is being able to say to people, this place is extraordinary. And you may not have this, right, because I’m trying to have places that aren’t on everybody’s radar, you know, honey pots and all that sort of thing, and just sort of spreading paddleboarders around, partly just to then say, Gosh, I didn’t realise something like that. I didn’t realise a canal in the middle of London to be beautiful. I didn’t realise that there was this beautiful sculpture in Wales, I could paddle around, or I didn’t know I could go to a lighthouse in the northeast, you know, those are just extraordinary things. And being able to share that with people is just such an honour. So yeah. And there’s all the worries about whether I’m doing it right.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  38:20

Aww, and when is that due to be published?

Jo Moseley  38:23

So it’ll be spring next year, so I’ve got a few more weeks to get it in. It’s like, pedal metal, all that stuff. Yeah, pedal, pedal, but they spend way too much time on on weather apps, you know, fourteen day forecasts ahead of me, and because I’m booked in and I booked places, and I’m meeting people, and I don’t have that. I can’t say I’ll come next month because you know, I’ve got to do it when I’m gonna do it. So I’m looking at weather forecasts and checking them all the time and thinking it looks like it’s getting a little better in two weeks time in that place where I’m going to be. So yeah, it’ll be nice for a little bit once it’s submitted, not to have to check the weather forecast every day and two hundred miles away. It’s lovely.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  39:05

Oh what an amazing project that sounds like, to be able to go off around the country and explore these new areas. And yeah, I mean, our canal. I know I’m biased, but the canal that we’re living on is absolutely stunning. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the Mon and Brec, but it just it just contours around the side of the hills. It’s high up, it’s not low down, it’s high. And so so you’re above everything all the time and just the Brecon Beacons poke their way through the trees every so often. And yeah, it just is quite stunning. That’s all I can say. And if you’re planning to come up, you must come out and say hello. Come up? No come down!

Jo Moseley  39:43

Definitely be a book on Wales and a book on Scotland. You know, there’s so many beautiful places. This is just a taster, and hopefully a taster that people will think oh, I’ll think a little differently about because I’ve written about the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, I hope people might think Oh, where are the canals near me.


Two minutes from my doctor’s surgery where I go, with a paddleboard and it was only you know, in the last three or four years, I realised the beauty. Hopefully, other people would then think, Oh, where’s our local canal? Or where’s our local lake instaad of maybe what there’s been: I’ve got to go to Devon, or I’ve got to go to the beach. Actually, there’s places on their doorstep that they could paddle. So that sounds a lovely place. And I’ll put that on my list.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  40:23

Oh, we’re coming towards the end of time now, Jo. But a couple more things that I wanted to ask you. This is something that I ask everybody – do you have a HeadRightOut Moment that you could describe for us? It’s a moment where you know, deep down, that you have headed well out of your comfort zone, there’s something that you never believed that you could possibly achieve. It might be your paddle across the coast-to-coast. But it could be something else, it could be something smaller. But is there something that you could perhaps talk about?

Jo Moseley  40:55

That’s interesting, and I think and I haven’t really talked about this before, but I think it was the day after I hadn’t slept the night before, and I got up and I literally was on two to three hours of sleep. Frit was going back to London to work. So I was then going to be on my own paddling all day. I had a friend Sharon, who was coming who’s part of the wonderful wild women community up in the lakes, and Sharon was going to meet me. But apart from that, I was going to be paddling all day, no filming, and then a friend of my son was going to collect me. So it could be quite a low day, other than Sharon joining me. I think the HeadRightOut Moment was thinking, I’m really tired. And I’m really doubtful, but I’ve given myself that grace, that as long as I just keep paddling, I will get to the end. And somehow there was a level that I’d stepped up in my soul about the trip. But I just needed to keep paddling. And I needed to keep believing. But I also needed to be compassionate to myself, that if it took twelve days or thirteen days or fourteen days, I would just ask work for more time off work. And you know, I just would ring them and say I’m really sorry, I’m really slow. But can I have a bit more annual leave, and they would have been fine with that. Doing that would have given me most of the next weekend, so I think that was probably a HeadRightOut Moment, knowing that I didn’t think I could do it, but I still was going to do it anyway. And I was going to try anyway and give myself all the grace that I could to just keep trying and allow all the doubts to come with me but not allow the doubts to overcome me. And I’ve never told anyone else that.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  42:37

Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And that leads me then to ask if you were going to give other midlife women, any tips, any advice about how they could not necessarily go and do stand up paddleboarding, although that obviously is a great thing to be doing. But how would you suggest they should start and approach doing something that they feel scared about, or they feel anxious about? What advice would you offer them?

Jo Moseley  43:03

I think it comes back to the triumph is in the trying, allowing yourself to be a beginner and allowing yourself to say, I don’t know how to do this, but I’m willing to learn and be open to it. I think yeah, allowing yourself to be a beginner allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to fail because anything new is going to allow you is going to require that you fail at some point in some tiny way. But know that by actually, say you’re paddleboarding, falling and standing up again is part of it. I would say only do it if it really brings you joy. And if it doesn’t try something else. You know, life is too short to keep doing stuff just because everybody else loves it. Just allow yourself to try things and then pursue the things that bring you joy. And also surround yourself with people either online or in a community or in your podcast. You know, because I think podcasts are like having friends really in your ears who believe in you who will inspire you to keep trying. Yeah, I was driving back from Cullercoats on Tuesday, and I was listening to a really old Oprah Winfrey podcast and it was 10.30 at night. It really struck home to me, just something she said. And I think if you just keep bringing those good podcasts and good knowledge into your brain, it seeps through and it helps remove all the negative and the cynicism that is understandably in the world at the moment.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  44:28

Interesting you should say that actually, because I found that when I was going through some of the most tricky times in my life in the last five years, I would say and that was listening to podcasts, they got me through some really difficult times and now I treat them in the same way that I would treat YouTube for example, if I’m wanting to learn about something, I will find a podcast on it and I will keep that in my ears for a week or two. You know if I’m writing a book it’s all about writing, if I’m starting a podcast, it’s all about podcasts and so on. So naturally, if you’re going off on an adventure then I think listening to inspiring stories from people has to go a long way to feeding that need and giving us some some good advice.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  45:09

Well talking of good advice you have given us absolutely masses, Jo. And it’s been wonderful. I just feel you’ve been so honest, so so honest with us and so genuinely authentic and showing us the vulnerability that you have gone through and I just I really really appreciate that and I know others will too. I know the listeners will certainly appreciate your story and how you’ve told it to us and I just I wish you so much luck with your book and all of those future things that you’re going to head off and do. In fact, can I just ask what is next, apart from the book which is obviously a really big thing for you? Is there anything that’s coming in 2022?

Jo Moseley  45:53

I think I would like to do more coastal paddleboarding, but I would like to do something where I include other people and you know have them come along. So there’s a lot of safety stuff. I need to understand a lot about the coast that and tides and stuff like that, that I’ll need to really understand and maybe put a team together. But yeah some more coastal paddleboarding and always always relating it to you know plastic consumption, litter picking, so yeah, not round the country. I’m not going to go around the whole country. The Yorkshire coastline which is special to me. So you know, just in case people think I’m going to go around the country, I’m not. I don’t have that as a goal but just including other people, including other people. I’ve always done a lot of stuff on my own and I’ve realised that other people do want to be part of something and if we can make that happen and I can then celebrate what they’re doing. Less about me and more about them, that’s what I would like to do.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  46:50

And so the motto of your podcast that I think that leads beautifully into what you live by, could you tell us what it is?

Jo Moseley  46:58

So the motto is ‘we rise by lifting others’, and it was something that I was playing with as an idea as I was launching the podcast and one of my very first interviewers she said it and I’d like that’s it she’s already said it that means it’s a sign that that’s what it should be so yeah ‘we rise by lifting others’ is the motto of the podcast and that’s what I aim to do and that’s what I try and do with mine and you clearly are doing with your so thank you for inviting me It has been a huge honour.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  47:26

Thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you. So Jo, thank you can you please just tell us where people can find you on social media and where they can go and listen to The Joy of SUP?

Jo Moseley  47:38

Yeah, so The Joy of SUP Podcast is on Instagram as @thejoyofsuppodcast_ and also if you just look on Apple and Spotify and Stitcher, it’s there. There’s links from my Instagram and I’m also @healthyhappy50 out on Instagram and Twitter. My website is and there’s links there to everything as well.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  48:01

Brilliant thank you

Jo Moseley  48:02

And you can sign up there for Postcards of Joy and find out about where to watch the films.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  48:07

Yeah, everybody you need to do that. I get the Postcards of Joy through, and it’s not one of th,ose emails that come through and you think ‘oh gosh not another one I’ve got to read’ it really is feel good, inspiring. Short, little ditties that are just going to lift you and yeah, it’s fabulous. Jo Moseley, thank you so much. It’s been a wonderful hour talking to you and I hope we get to meet sometime in person. That will definitely be a day of joy for me.

Jo Moseley  48:33

Thank you Take care.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  48:43

Well, I feel like I spend my life saying ‘wow’, to my guests… and ‘wow’, after I’ve spoken to my guests, but then that is what this is like. Jo’s words just were so powerful. She had so much advice to give, and I hope you’re going to take something away from that, because I’ve got loads of nuggets there lots of useful pieces of information, and useful advice for dealing with different stages in my life and I hope Yeah, I hope you have too. Things like her talking about ‘from the grief of miscarriages, divorce and menopause to the joy of rowing and SUPing and about how sensitively she dealt with her grief through movement and through counselling, and ‘not fighting the grief but just recognising the grief’. These are all things that yes, we can definitely relate to, but we don’t always put these things into practice. I’m just thinking back to times in my life now where gosh, I could have done with hearing those words. I know that personally when I went through a period of loss after a long-term relationship ended, I turned to running and I had never run before… at least not through choice. I found that movement helped me to heal and allowed myself to feel and to process and to return to that joy, again. That joy that Jo talks about. I’m sure it’s the movement that helps release those endorphins, and I’m pretty certain there is research and scientific evidence that backs that up.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  50:20

I love Jo’s saying, ‘the triumph is in the trying’. It’s not about the outcome. It’s not about succeeding in a challenge or succeeding in an activity. It’s not about getting something, right, whatever that right might be. I’ve been telling students this for years, as a teacher, but the triumph is actually in the trying where you are just having a go, you’re giving yourself that permission to have a go. And how ‘the bit in the middle is where the magic happens’. It’s so worth remembering that if you have an adventure, or project or you’re studying, putting in the work and slogging through it over and over and over when you feel like you just can’t go any further, remember – the bit in the middle is where the magic happens. Wow. There she goes again… wow.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  51:12

Now I’m going to move on. So we’ve got the SheExtreme Film Festival coming up on the 23rd of October. It’s in Bristol, it’s at the Arnolfini, and it is a free event. There’s going to be some amazing films from female filmmakers there. I can’t wait. I’m actually attending this. I can’t wait to go and see the films, I can’t wait to get the opportunity to go and meet with other women, other like-minded women that I can talk adventure and challenges and podcast and all sorts of other wonderful things about with them. And I’m also excited because Jo is going to be there. So I am actually going to get the opportunity finally to Meet Jo face-to-face. So I feel like I know her really, really well. If she’s giving hugs, I am going to give her the biggest hug ever. Yeah, so that’s gonna be really, really lovely to meet with Jo.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  52:16

I need to apologise for the feedback issues in the WiFi noise. Again. This was recorded back in August, back on the boat, and the WiFi clearly was in and out. And it took me masses and masses of editing time to get it to the point where it was as listenable as it is now. So I know it wasn’t perfect, and I don’t expect it to be completely perfect. But there was a lot of feedback today, which I hadn’t expected. So yes, stick with me. And yes, hopefully this is something that I can work on and develop and find out how I can sort this issue. If it means changing my service provider to get a different provider for my mobile WiFi router, then that’s what I’ll do.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  53:07

Okay, so this is the section where we talk about HeadRightOut Moments. Jo’s tunnel experience was an amazing HeadRightOut Moment, in addition to her experience after two to three hours sleep and believing that somehow, somehow she COULD keep paddling regardless of whatever her thoughts were. I think she said she was ‘going to allow the doubts to come with her’ but what was it, ‘not allow the doubts to overcome her’ and again, more wise words but now today I am going to share a HeadRightOut Moment of my own with you.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  53:39

It was up in North Wales back in the summer, in August. Mike and I went up to visit our friends, Steve and Liz, and Liz is a marine biologist. She’s got a lot of friends who are in the business and know the waters around where they live very, very well. And she had a tip-off whilst we were up there to say that the bioluminescence was back at Penmon Point, on Anglesey and would they like to go. There was going to be a group, a big group of people there on the beach, they were going to have a barbecue and a wonderful gathering and wait for it to get dark. And then we could go out and we could paddleboard and swim and see the bioluminescence. Now for those of you who have never heard of this before, my very basic knowledge of it is that it’s plankton that stores energy in the form of light and it gives off the light at night when it gets dark. So it stores the light through the day and then it gives it off again at night and it glows and it glows this beautiful blue-green. And naturally I wanted to see this phenomenon for myself. So Mike and I went along too and I took my cozzy and a towel and we took some food and chairs and yes, we set up a little camp. A little mini camp on on the pebbles at Penmon Point.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  55:04

Now this is going to sound very odd, but I have never swum in the sea. I have paddled. I have fallen in when I’ve been paddleboarding in Poole Harbour, and it’s very, very shallow in the stretches of Poole Harbour I’m thinking of. But I’ve never actually gone for a proper swim in the sea, certainly not at night either. I’m not a strong swimmer, but I can manage swimming. And so the sun set and it was beautiful as the sun set over Penmon Point and it glowed across the lighthouse. And then it reached a point by about eleven o’clock or half eleven, and we could see the sea starting to glow, and people were throwing pebbles into the water to watch the splashes come up in that green-blue glow that is characteristic of the bioluminescence. Then Liz invited me to go out on her paddleboard with her. Now having only been on a paddleboard three times at that point, I wasn’t confident enough to go out on the water on my own, but definitely not in the dark. But I knelt on the front of her paddleboard and she took me around the bay, and it was the most incredible experience. As the paddle lifted up out of the water, I watched what I can only describe as, it was like fireworks of water that would shoot across in front of me, and they would land on the board by my knees. These droplets, these greeny-blue droplets would just bounce and roll around and then spread and then dissipate. And it really is, I almost can’t find the words to describe it, and I haven’t written any of this down. This is just all from my memory and from my experience. I have no photographs of this because I was too frightened to take my camera out onto the water in case I fell in. But it was just so beautiful and so serene, and nothing like I’ve ever experienced out on the water before.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  57:07

So then I climbed off, thanked Liz and went back to the area where we had a fire lit just to warm up again. And I kept saying to Mike, I’d love to go out for a swim. But Mike doesn’t swim. So he couldn’t come out with me. And there were lots of people that were going out, but they were going out with other people. And I just kept looking and thinking I just need to get out there. But I knew it wasn’t right to go out on my own. And then this lovely woman came up to me with a big smile, and she said, “do you want to go out for a swim?” And I said, “yes, I do”. I said, “do you” she went “yes”, she said, “but I’m too nervous to go on my own”. And I said “me too”. She said, “well come on, let’s go out together”. And so we did. And as I got into the water, and I took the first strokes, the temperature of the water took my breath away. It wasn’t freezing, but just because I’m not used to being in sea water, I guess. But it took my breath away in the first few moments. And then I took my first strokes and with every stroke that I made, I did my best to keep my eyes open so that I could see these blue-green splashes, firing around in front of me. If I didn’t know better, if I didn’t know it was bioluminescence, I would say that I was going to get out of the water and I would be covered in blue-green paint because that’s what it felt like. You’re swimming in the water. It feels like you’re being covered in the colour. It’s just so serene, and such a beautiful experience.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  58:37

So thank you, Liz for taking me out on the paddleboard. Thank you, Steve, and thank you to Mhairi who is now I believe up in Scotland, maybe Glasgow, as she was moving back there the following week from North Wales.

Zoe Langley-Wathen  58:52

So this has been a long reflection today, but thank you so much for listening in. Thank you for staying with me. Next week we’ve got Stephie Boon coming on, she’s going to be talking to me about her deep love of hiking and managing dark periods in her life, and the early onset of menopause, when her son was just FIVE years old!

Zoe Langley-Wathen  59:14

Don’t forget to hit follow and share the podcast with one of your friends. Let them know how much you get from it. And let’s just share, share, share and get the HeadRightOut Podcast growing. HeadRightOut Hugs to you all. Take care and do something that scares you every day.


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