Words: Tez Plavenieks
Pics: Tez & Fi Plavenieks
Here we throw things back to the previous winter and one from SUPM’s magazine archives.
Following a hectic summer, the tail end of 2017’s high season saw the family and I (complete with new addition) looking for a quiet corner to escape to with a spot of calm paddling thrown in the mix. As much as I (and wife) enjoy bunting about in waves sometimes it’s just nice to stretch out and ease back off the accelerator. With a window of idyllic weather on the cards, we had an opportunity – but where to head?
Following a scour of the interwebs the ever-resourceful better half managed to nail down a decent deal across the straits to the ‘other’ island in the distance. With Isle of Wight ferry crossings being one of the most expensive per square nautical mile, it was refreshing to have been given an inclusive price for boat journey and accommodation that didn’t break the bank. Even though the IOW is but a stone’s throw away from our home it hasn’t been a priority destination in the past. Now with newborn in tow, plus a growing toddler, the prospect of hours to the South West didn’t hold any appeal whatsoever. Instead, a shorter hop was choice with a slumber nook of the island looking far more inviting.
For those that know Freshwater Bay, based on the IOW’s SW corner, is a two-faced spot. On this occasion, the forecast was suggesting calm seas and blue skies – perfect for a spot of mellow SUP touring. I also checked in with Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Charlie Cripwell for a bit more info who confirmed that flat waters would be the most likely offering. Prescription delivered!
A brief Solent crossing saw the four of us land in Ryde. It was then a short hop to our accommodation just outside Yarmouth. The West Bay Country Club and Spa is perfect for families. Chalet style accommodation, in our case a two bedroom affair, plus access to a gym, swimming pool and spa facilities made for a brilliant set up. Yarmouth is close by with Colwell Bay, Alum Bay and The Needles in the opposite direction – basically plenty of stuff to keep us entertained.
There are plenty of spots for putting SUP style in all around the IOW but it was Freshwater Bay that held most appeal for us. Why? Because of the coastline topography you find here. Fresh is predominantly a reefy location with sheer cliffs flanking either end. Gin clear water makes for some fab seabed gazing but it’s the iconic rock stack formation on the eastern side that gives Freshwater its distinct feel. There’s beach at low tide which is good for family sand castles and sundown beers while round the headland to the west offers paddles some awe-inspiring deep water views complete with white cliff framing.
From point to point across the bay is only a short distance. But this was never meant to be an exercise in smashing out the miles. With sublime weather on offer simply sweeping to and fro, maybe doing the occasional full lap was where it was always going to be at. Fun times were had sliding between rocky formations on the western corner out front of the Albion Hotel. Whilst paddling next to the iconic rock stack in the east makes you appreciate the scale of things.
For those with enough loot in the bank there are a bunch of properties in the area that would be cracking for paddlers. In particular high above on the headland overlooking the main surf break (when there’s swell that is) you can see one of these abodes that apparently costs slightly more than an arm and leg. Further along in the opposite direction are other such properties that cash-rich weather freaks would love – some of the storms along this part of the coast can be ferocious. Flying shingle abound!
Back to the paddling and passing the time meandering to and fro certainly allows for calm reflection. As autumn was starting to give way to winter it was relaxing to soak up the last few rays of sunshine in readiness for (what turned out to be) a long and cold winter. Even though there are other paddlers that frequent this area we remained the only ones in sight during our short stay. This shows there’s always possibility of snagging a decent quiet float with no one about.
Post-three days and it was back to our own little island and down to the daily grind. Looking back on this trip and it was one of change for us as a family with new horizons emerging. Being able to share this experience and give our kids a taste of our chosen lifestyle, even though still very young, is what it’s all about as far as we’re concerned. Sometimes hardcore conditions are what’s on the menu. At other times, however, a chilled timeout is what’s needed with space to breathe, recharge and get headspace in the zone for the continuing journey ahead. It also proves that you don’t need to go that far for your own slice of quiet. Seek and ye shall find as the saying goes…