Words and photos: Chris Kenyon
One of the most pleasurable parts of stand up paddling is being able to head off and explore new places.
This is made even easier with an iSUP as we can pack kit down and transport it with total ease to pretty much any destination we choose. When I first started paddling, and indeed surfing, part of the essence of being on the water was that of travelling and the inbuilt need to experience new places.
Living in the middle of the country doesn’t give easy access to waves but we do have an abundance of waterways – all perfect for stand up adventures and touring. After all, SUP is super diverse and therefore perfect for anywhere with access to canals, rivers, lakes or even duck ponds – it’s not just a coastal pastime.
Picture the scene
Let me ask you to imagine something: it’s early morning, you pick up your paddle and launch your board onto the river you will have seen many times. Perhaps on the way to work you’ve thought what it would be like to SUP here, but up until this point you have not experienced it.
As early morning dawns a sense of freedom descends and you feel at peace. Putting the blade into the water and heading off, everything feels just right. Moving with the flow you take in the majestic scenery that unfolds before your eyes. There is a sense of calm which is punctuated by the sound of your board quietly cutting through the water as you head further into the unknown. The sensation of gliding in the middle of the countryside seems unreal but feels great. Nothing matters now – it’s just you, the water and your surroundings.
That to me is probably the best written description I can give you about SUP adventuring, but if you’re reading this then you already know what I’m talking about. You’re probably imagining your last stand up journey and where it led right now at this very second.
Being an inland paddler brings new perspectives. Suddenly a huge array of water networks are available for you to explore. You’re no longer landlocked and rivers and streams are your playground – anywhere wet is game, even your local swimming pool (if they let you!).
It’s all part of the appeal; planning your route, checking entry and exit points, observing the conditions and most importantly which pubs you’re going to stop off at on the way. With some knowledge and paddle skills it’s highly achievable to cover lots of miles and the options are limitless.
Being a Midlands chap, I have already experienced paddling in the heart of Birmingham – to much astonishment and surprise from onlookers who think we’re all mad. Being privileged enough to paddle some of the most breathtaking British countryside watery cuts in the UK is a fantastic experience, but it also does get you some strange looks.
On your doorstep
We often miss what’s on our doorstep, whether we live in a large city or rural village. There are frequent groups and clubs going up and down the Thames all the time as well as many of the major rivers in the UK. We also have this option at the coast, of course, with many places perfect for touring and taking in some of the sites – especially if there are no waves to be had. The surfers may have to stay at home but if it’s flat calm you can still be out there getting some time on the water.
As the UK SUP scene develops and some great racing events pop onto the calendar, it will be interesting to see what happens in the touring / social paddling side of the sport. It’s a huge growth area which encapsulates many of us, young or old – it really does not matter your age or where you SUP just as long as you’re getting out.
A number of individuals have undertaken a variety of distance challenges including the guys who completed the Source to Sea challenge. This year we will also witness The Great Glen Paddle – what an experience that will be viewing such a breathtaking part of Scotland from the water.
In a sport that is often dominated by the race scene, which is no bad thing of course, it’s good to know we have other areas of the sport we can gravitate towards if this isn’t our thing. So my advice is to grab that paddle, have fun planning your route and enjoy the adventure of being free on the water and exploring somewhere new.
Chris Kenyon is a pioneering stand up paddle boarder from the Midlands. He owns and runs Central SUP and the Central SUP Shop. You can find out more about Chris and Central SUP by hitting up http://centralsup.net/