Words: Steve Barraclough
Pics: Norfolk SUP Club
Situated in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, the Norfolk Paddle Co have quickly become Norfolk and Norwich’s premier stand up paddle board club, shop and rental centre.
The business was started by Steve Barraclough and his fiancée Anna Booton at the end of 2014. With over 20 years of working in watersports between them, it was a simple transition from working in the overseas watersports industry to the Norfolk Broads – just a little cooler.
The inspiration came one afternoon sitting in a beer garden overlooking Hickling Broad and asking myself the question: ‘why don’t we see any paddle boarders in Norfolk or on the Broads?’ That was the moment, and since then we have worked tirelessly to get people on the water by running demo days, weekend rental, lessons and also running a successful shop providing experienced and novice SUP’ers with the essentials they need.
Already we have seen the SUP community in Norwich and Norfolk engage with us and around 75% of our rentals have been from complete novices, which is a great advert for the sport. It’s a fantastic activity to do with family and friends either as a gentle paddle or equally, for the more competitive, a race along the rivers.
The Norfolk Paddle Co is situated on the banks of the stunning Hickling Broad, a vast body of water surrounded by reed bed, quaint country cottages and a nature reserve. From here we provide rentals and SUP tuition to people from all walks of life. We don’t ask for any qualifications or experience and actively encourage people onto the water with the right equipment and a few encouraging words.
Hickling is unique and was recently voted one of the most desirable villages to live in England. It is at the far end of the northern rivers and, due to the presence of a century old bridge at Potter Heigham, the big river traffic can’t get to Hickling Broad. This makes it a safe haven for SUP, windsurf and sailing activities, as well as for wildlife enthusiasts. Seeing the Norfolk Broads on a SUP is a wonderful way of navigating the streams and hidden rivers that the boats can’t reach.
We often run organised SUP tours across the Broads network, running from Surlingham Broad, Ranworth, Wroxham and many more. We take the boards to A and you paddle them to B. Rentals can be hourly, daily or weekly; so those coming to Norfolk on holiday get the opportunity to rent a board for the duration. We deliver and collect to cottages or hire boats with a smile.
We stock a large selection of boards from JP-Australia, including several inflatables. These have proven to be very popular with novices as they are lightweight, soft and incredibly stable. Our particular favourite is the JP-Australia Allroundair LE, weighing only 8 Kilos, but the CruiseAir, Sportsstair and Allroundair models are great too.
We also have a selection of surf SUP, tourers, race boards and hard boards for the serious paddlers, including the Fusion, Allround and Open Ocean. We are proud of our association with JP – they are fantastic boards with a great pedigree. We have just started replacing our rental fleet with 2016 kit. something we will do annually.
The jewel in our crown is the Norfolk Stand Up Paddle Club, situated on the river Wensum right in the centre of Norwich at the Red Lion pub. We have our own slip straight into the river and a club house that offers great food plus a tasty beer or two. The slip is just a two minute paddle from the bustling Riverside shopping complex and a 30 minute paddle to Whitlingham Broad, on the outskirts of Norwich. The club is run in conjunction with our friends at CBK Hunstanton, a kite surf school in North Norfolk www.cbk-hunstanton.com .Together we run social SUP sessions, fitness, tours, Yoga, SUP/Bike/Run events and much, much more. The club meets on Monday and Thursday evenings from 6-9pm and during the winter months, as the nights drawn in, we utilise the weekends. The club is active 12 months of the year. All of this costs the member just £65 per year.
We regularly get the brands to pop over to our club house to showcase their kit and let us play on boards we don’t stock. We have also run several demo days, offering free taster sessions to the people of Norwich, which have been a roaring success.
To enquire about our club or to simply see what we and our members are getting up to, visit our website at www.norfolksupclub.wordpress.com
Norfolk is a sleeping SUP giant and we are confident our club will continue to grow and be a success both in Norwich and on the Broads.