Words and pics: Chris Kenyon
Cornwall has always held a special place in my heart. It’s where I have spent many a summer since before I could even walk. I have strong family ties there and my grandfather was an avid sailor in Mounts Bay as well as a volunteer for the coastguard.
South West Cornwall has a rugged beauty about it that is like nowhere else. You can really feel the history of the county when you are there. Of course, once it was also my stomping ground for surf too, with Praa sands and Sennen Cove right on your doorstep. As a SUP destination it’s second to none, offering the paddler a variety of experiences to indulge in from the cracking surf to the picturesque tours to be had both in the ocean and on the rivers. We will certainly be seeing more of what South West Cornwall has to offer in the next year or so, especially with the announcement of the European race tour stop in St Ives this coming May.
On one of my many trips down to the coast I met a guy called Lawrence Smith, founder and owner of Ocean High. Lawrence had established his business offering kitesurfing lessons eight years ago in Marazion with St Michael’s Mount as the dramatic backdrop to his operation. I don’t think you can get much better than that as an office view in the morning!
A marine biologist and former curator of two of the largest public aquaria in the UK, Lawrence had given this up to pursue his passion for the water. Three years ago he began the first SUP club in Marazion too, in line with the explosion in popularity of the sport. I hit it off with Lawrence straight away as we both shared the same love of SUP and the location that he set up in.
The strap line to Ocean High is ‘freedom on the water’, which is exactly what you get down here. Not long after I met up with the guys at Ocean High SUP club, we took a summer’s evening paddle around the world famous St Michael’s Mount. It was an awesome experience, with glassy clear water all the way around the Mount. After that we had a good look around the surrounding coast line and all it had to offer.
If you haven’t paddled the Mount before then put it on your bucket list as it’s one that you don’t want to miss – just make sure that you check the tides and wind conditions as it is never the same once you’re out there. Lawrence told me that on other occasions when the club has paddled around the Mount they have seen some spectacular wildlife, from seals and dolphins to basking sharks, sunfish, giant balls of whitebait and mackerel and swarms of jellyfish the size of a dustbin. The water can have amazing clarity at certain times of year with 10m+ visibility. The castle on the Mount is even more impressive from the seaward side – and is best appreciated on a SUP.
Having local knowledge at your fingertips is great and Lawrence pretty much knows all there is to know about the area. Of course I naturally tried to get him to give away some of the secret spots too, but that’s not something I’m going to write about here!
Hayle harbour is another venue for the Ocean High SUP club paddles and this was to be the next stop on our tour. Ocean High has exclusive permission to SUP in Hayle harbour, which has a very important wetland habitat and RSPB reserve inland and then leads out to the stunning estuary mouth or “Bluff” and into St Ives bay. On a sunny day the azure blue of the water would make you think you were in the Caribbean.
As it’s tidal, the window in which you can paddle the harbour can be small, but it is well worth it. On the day we paddled it we were able to experience the full beauty of the area. As we continued up towards the open ocean there were a few waves to be had as well – and who were we not to indulge. As a touring venue, you have a lot of options here for all levels of paddler as well as a few pub stops too.
We were fortunate to paddle the harbour, as it remains a working harbour so you will need a license and insurance to paddle it. Ocean High SUP club managed to get permission to be able to get on the water here by working closely with the Harbour Master, so I wouldn’t recommend just jumping in paddling away.
In addition to this you’ve got a number of north and south coast beaches too, all within easy reach, so if you want to get some surfing time in then there is a lot of choice. I’ve mentioned Praa Sands and Sennen but there are plenty of options including some of the beaches on offer in St Ives.
South West Cornwall has something for everyone; like most of Cornwall it gets busy in the summer months, but there is still plenty of action to be had. The Helford River and Fal River offer some beautiful flat water adventures with myriad tributaries to explore if you want to paddle inland.
If you’re heading down to Cornwall this summer then it’s well worth trying to hook up with the guys at Ocean High as they really know their stuff when it comes to the area. With his extensive knowledge in marine biology, Lawrence is running ecology SUP tours this year as there are some very significant marine habitats in Mounts bay that are ideally observed via SUP and a mask and snorkel. Ocean High has worked with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to do some pilot surveys of the sea grass beds locally that used to be home to sea horses in years gone by. Using underwater SUP LED light systems, they will be conducting night time surveys this year with GoPros mounted underneath their boards. What an amazing experience that will be.
Ocean High has ASI and BSUPA qualified instructors and offer BSUPA ‘ready to ride’ and ASI courses from its base at Marazion as well as Penzance and Hayle Harbour. Coastal excursions and trips down the nearby Helford and Fal Rivers add a wide variety of locations and experiences for their visitors. Board hire is available off the beach at Marazion and their sister SUP and Kitesurf shop Lodey Kite Loft has a range of brands and boards to demo, so you have no excuse to get yourself out on the water.
Ocean High is also planning several events and demos as well as running SUP yoga sessions this year to bring SUP to a wider range of people and they are working on some new, very exclusive SUP destinations in the near future. I will also be joining them on this adventure too so if your down this way in the summer then come and join us for a paddle.