Thomas Oschwald

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Thomas is our ochs und junior selene tester France! A standard test? Not quite!

He’s now spent over two weeks paddling his SUP board from Geneva towards the Atlantic…

He’s currently around 180km from Bordeaux – and from there it’s no longer far to the Atlantic!!

Swiss Television SF 2 covered the run-up to his departure. Now we bring you an e-mail interview:

(pictures: Thomas Oschwald)

Thomas, you’ve now been paddling for two weeks in your second attempt to reach the Atlantic. You’re making good progress. What does time mean for you?

The kind of time I’m familiar at home going about my day-to-day business is gradually losing all meaning. I don’t have meetings to go to, appointments to keep or obligations to fulfil. I have complete control over what I do and when I do it. I eat when I’m hungry, lie down when I’m tired, and I spend my time doing other things when I don’t want to paddle anymore. It’s a luxury to have complete control over one’s time, and it’s something I’m re-learning on this trip.

What do you think about during your hours of paddling? How tough is the paddling?

I paddle an average of 12 hours a day. Plenty of time to think about things! That said, I don’t really think about much while I’m actually paddling. Rather, I free my mind and focus on what I’m doing. I listen to my body – I have to be absolutely focused on achieving my daily targets and need to know what my physical limits are; I have to be careful not to let my ambition get the better of me. The day-to-day challenges tend to be exacerbated by the weather – that’s really what it’s all about. Head and side winds can quickly make the going tough and rob me of all pleasure. But it’s not always like that, and the wind can’t always be blowing in the wrong direction.

Are things panning out as you expected them to or have you had surprises on the way?

What really surprised me was how hard it was to get food on the stretch down the Rhone. Although there were plenty of villages on the banks, the shops tended to be far away and way out of reach. Finding food on the Canal du Midi is easier in that respect: you can find snacks at almost every lock.

Are you meeting people? How do they respond when they find out what you’re doing?

I get lots of waves from people in their houseboats on the Canal du Midi. Most contact tends to be fleeting, though. Those people I do speak to are fascinated by my idea – I fancy I can detect in their eyes a longing for adventure such as mine. To be free, if only for a few days.

How do you go about eating?

After the Rhone odyssey, finding food on the Canal du Midi is a delight. Because of the many houseboats and the canal tourism, there are plenty of restaurants and shops close to the water.

How are your muscles and joints? As we speak, the Tour de France is on: three weeks of cycling – but the athletes get regular massages… How do you relax?

So far, so good – no real strains to report. I have a hardened muscle in the back and a swollen tendon in the middle finger of my right hand – they give me slight problems every now and then, but that’s all. Apart from that I’m in good shape, which is good. I’d have to abort my trip if that wasn’t the case. I would never pump myself full of medicines just to be able to reach the Atlantic. I’ve taped up the troublesome joint, but I wouldn’t take painkillers or things like that, as that would prevent me from knowing where my limits are. I have nothing to prove and no tour to win! All I have to do is live my life the way I feel it should be lived. Free from thoughts of performance and the pressures of society. When I feel tired I go to sleep, and if that doesn’t refresh me, I have to change something about the way I do things.

And if I wake up too early in the morning every once in a while, I just need to look at my watch to know I can happily turn over and go back to sleep for a few more hours. No flickering mobile phone display, just two simple hands that impart relaxation and wellbeing.

You’re wearing your selene Tinta every day of your arduous trip. You are without a doubt the most active wearer of an ochs und junior watch! What has your selene been telling you during your long paddling days?

Well, for a start, I’m glad to say it hasn’t been telling me any stories. It would be a sign of sunstroke if it did ;-)) What I can say, though, is that my selene Tinta (with its misspelt “bonne voyage” inscribed on the back!) is a major part of my venture. It’s a tiny technical marvel, unique in its moonphase complication. It goes its own way in the world of watchmaking. It was born out of an ambition to create something amazing – and that’s the way it’s turned out. It’s an embodiment of how life is. Have ideas and dreams, no matter how grand they are. Hang onto them and grow with them as you go about making them a reality. Don’t always go down the well-trodden path. Find your own way into the world and deep inside yourself. Be unique, yet remain part of humanity… if my selena Tinta could speak, that’s what it would say.

And if I wake up too early in the morning every once in a while, I just need to look at my watch to know I can happily turn over and go back to sleep for a few more hours. No flickering mobile phone display, just two simple hands that impart relaxation and wellbeing.

How does the selene feel on your wrist during your exertions?

Great – I don’t feel it at all. The natural caoutchouc strap is comfortable in the heat and is very strong. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught it on my backpack or wherever, and the watch and strap just shrug it off. So far the watch has withstood temperatures above 30°C, as well as rain and canal water. It’s here for ever!

Has anyone commented on the watch and its lack of branding?

I go so quickly past the houseboats, all they see is an orange streak ;-)) Although I see plenty of people during the day, the contacts tend to be fleeting. I’m not sure I know enough French to explain the unique workings of the moonphase complication…

Bonne” voyage!!(sic)