Will the real Bill Bai­ley please stand up

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

in Bali and we tried out pad­dle board­ing, but of course I got on a race board and it was im­pos­si­ble.”

Un­de­terred by the fail­ure, he de­cided to keep go­ing. “I per­se­vered, and then I came back here and thought, this is some­thing I’d like to try more of. I just bought a board and I went off on trips on the river, lakes and canals and I re­ally loved it. I got com­pletely hooked on it.” Bai­ley fell in love with its sim­plic­ity and free­dom – and the eerie nat­u­ral­ness of stand­ing up­right on the wa­ter, which he claims has long cul­tural prece­dent.

“I just think it’s an an­cient thing. When you’re on the board and you’re on wa­ter it al­ways feels like it’s an old thing that hu­mans have done. I al­ways thought this was some fan­ci­ful no­tion and then a few years ago I was in Tas­ma­nia, down in the south in Me­laleuca, an old Abo­rig­i­nal set­tle­ment. We were taken along these walk­ways to this beau­ti­ful la­goon that looked like a mir­ror and there on the side of the bank was what looked like an an­cient pad­dle board. It was the same size and di­men­sions and length as this board but it was made out of bark. They stood on them and used a pad­dle, 40,000 years ago.”

It’s some­times hard with Bai­ley to know whether you’re hav­ing your leg pulled, but he in­sists that his tale of ne­olithic Aus­tralasian pad­dle board­ers is gen­uine. Yet even if the pas­time has a mil­len­nia-old pedi­gree, on the Thames it’s the row­ers who be­have like the right­ful aris­toc­racy.

As we pad­dle up­river to­wards Kew, we have to give way to the eights, fours and scullers who are ex­er­cis­ing an an­cient priv­i­lege to row on the wrong side of the river, known as “work­ing the slacks”. We man­age to weave be­tween the crews of row­ers with­out in­ci­dent. Bai­ley is sur­pris­ingly quick and I find my­self strug­gling to keep up with him. He has been an en­thu­si­as­tic and in­trepid trav­eller through­out his

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.