Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Upfront -

♦ 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’

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