♦ ASSISTANT EDITOR ♦ Wobbling his way to becoming a stand-up paddleboarding pro
Whether it’s lazily floating along the Thames or exploring the smooth waters of Lake Bled in Slovenia and the world beyond, the notion of incorporating a stand-up paddleboard trip into a journey is definitely a romantic one. It’s one of the world’s fastest growing sports and is increasingly easy – and popular – to do on your travels. But concerns about planning and technique mean some people don’t get past the daydreaming. However, our guide will have you gliding like a pro in no time…
Why do it?
Stand-up paddleboarding is easier than you think, open to nearly any age group. “If you’re fit enough to walk up a set of stairs, you’re fit enough to paddleboard,” says Christian Russell-pollock from Red Paddle Co, the planet’s biggest producer of inflatable paddleboards. “It’s one of the most accessible ways of exploring. And it’s becoming even easier to get out onto the water.”
Thanks to its growing popularity, beginner sessions are widely available across the country, so you can pick up the basics from a pro. Learn on calm waters and a wide, thick board, which will offer better stability.
You’ll be surprised how little time it takes to get to grips with the technique. Start by kneeling down, to get used to the feel of the board and the rhythm of paddling without fear of falling in; once you’ve gained confidence, try standing up, taking it slow and steady at first. You’ll quickly get your balance. After an afternoon on the water, you should already be feeling pretty comfortable.
How do I plan an SUP trip?
Before you plan a route, you need to ensure you’re legally allowed on the water. “Don’t forget to purchase a licence,” explains Richard Harpham, co-owner of watersports
tour company Canoe Trail. “Joining British Canoeing will provide you with a waterways licence for accessible rivers and lakes. Alternatively, you can purchase a licence from the Environment Agency, although this often has regional designation.” Another licence option is a Canal & River Trust Explorer Licence, which allows 30 days of access per year – a good option if you just want a taster.
Once you’ve got a licence, it’s time to plot your route. “Maps are a great place to start,” says Richard. Pesda Press publishes a series of specialist paddling guides for the UK, which highlight river access points, hazards and other route planning information. While they’re typically aimed at the canoe and kayak community, they include plenty of transferable information for stand-up paddleboarding trips. There are also lots of great resources online. British Canoeing (www.britishcanoeing.org.uk) and the Canal & River Trust (www.canalrivertrust.org.uk) both offer plenty of good route suggestions.
Next: packing. Many paddleboards are fitted with elasticated ropes to secure your gear, but it’s still essential to pack light. “I try to pack considering the rooms of a house as a guide,” explains Richard. “For example, for the bedroom I’d need a bivvy bag, sleeping bag and mat, while for the kitchen I would go for ready made meals that I can just add water to or heat up.” Pack an emergency bag as well, with items such as a torch and spare batteries, fire-lighting equipment and a first-aid kit.
What about out on the water?
“Beware the law of Riparian Ownership in England and Wales,” warns Richard. “It means that if someone owns a riverbank property, they own the water and riverbed immediately surrounding it as well [which means paddleboarders will be tresspassing]. However, however, much river access is linked to the right of navigation, so anywhere that allows bigger craft will usually be accessible for paddleboarders, too.” In Scotland, no such law exists but, like everywhere, respect other users of the water. Other general wild adventure rules apply, like leaving your campsite how you found it, especially if you’re wild camping. Most beginners choose a river for their first paddleboarding trip, but if you opt for the sea or open water, make sure you use a leg leash. It’ll keep you connected to the board, so if you do fall off, your board won’t drift away from you. A leash isn’t a good idea on rivers as it can easily snag on underwater branches or low-hanging trees. Wearing a buoyancy aid is useful, for both personal safety and for storing more kit.
Where should I go first?
The UK is ideal if you’re looking for a gentle introduction to stand-up paddleboarding. There are guide-led trips in London, although you’re not permitted to paddle through the centre of the city. Outside the capital, the River Great Ouse in Bedfordshire and the River Nene in neighbouring Northamptonshire are perfect for beginners. Further afield, the rugged coastline of west Wales is a great option for open-water adventures.
The real beauty of paddleboarding is that it’s actually surprisingly easy to pick up, leaving you to concentrate not on technique but on planning the perfect micro – or major –SUP adventure.
Feel inspired to hit the water? Discover our suggestions for great watery trips online at wanderlust.co.uk/189
‘The real beauty of stand-up paddleboarding is that it’s actually surprisingly easy to pick up’