Words and pics: Tez Plavenieks
It’s safe to say summer 2021 won’t be going down as one of the best weather-wise. With Momma Nature seemingly in a grumpy mood most of the high season, it’s been slightly cooler than average with dull days and those idyllic SUP sessions few and far between. That isn’t to say there haven’t been any. There have! But you’ve had to search for it and want it.
Fast forward to late September then, and the irony is that all of the ninth calendar month has been pure Indian summer at its best – at least in my neck of the woods. Pleasantly warm days with oodles of sunshine, light to zero winds and (most) kids adults back at school or work. The silly summer season gives way to more space and room and less ‘traffic’ on the water. If you’re a watersports nut, then it can be a pretty awesome time of year.
For me (as with many others we’re aware of in similar situations), the challenges of the times we live in continue. Therefore any respite and headspace time can be nothing short of amazing. Spending time with those you love whilst doing the things you love, all without hassle, is something to cherish. Make sure you mark the occasion when it lands in your lap.
It’s no secret I love a bit of full power with my watersports (wind/waves). Still, I also have much love for a serene and tranquil flat water stand up paddle as much as the next person, especially if I’m getting to share the experience with a fellow frother (my daughter in this case).
Living where I do is always pretty busy – on and off the water. Yet knowing the place like the back of my hand allows sneaking off to quieter corners and escaping the madding crowd doable. Local knowledge is, after all, everything. On some of the most hectic days in summer, there’s a nook to seek out and enjoy some chill SUP time. But as stated earlier, this is late September, and the hordes have all but vanished, so it’s arguably easier than the previous.
Something I do miss is foreign travel. Up until recently – as with others – getting gone was a regular occurrence. COVID and family health complications have paid to that for a while as the world sorts itself out. One day we’ll be back, but for now, we have to play things very cautiously. It’s, therefore, very welcome when you rock up at a local SUP put in only to find it resembling a more tropical scene.
The accompanying pics don’t it justice, but shallow water, with a soft sandy bottom, zero wind (or minor ruffles at best), blue skies, blazing sun and only the ambient noise of semi-regular boat traffic and wildlife do make the whole thing resemble somewhere more like the Caribbean. And having spent considerable time on many West Indian islands, I’m not just pulling this comparison from thin air. It’s based on experience!
You know you’ve struck SUP gold when you’re as happy to be taking a dip (in just boardies or a thin wetsuit) as much as wanting to stay dry. Taking your time through the sesh, pulling up at various rest spots to enjoy a toe splash, watch my offspring swim and gaze around and admire is what experiences like this are all about. It’s a cliché these days, but this is about making memories – memories that’ll stick with you a lifetime.
You know it’s a less hectic time of year when all those marine animals start making reappearances, happy to float in your vicinity, even though your craft is far larger than them. Dolphin spotting, seal watching, fish gazing and so on become more achievable when it’s quieter. Perhaps the wildlife appreciates things have slowed and know they’re not going to get hassled. Either way, it’s suitable for anyone making the best use of days like this as the hit rate becomes much higher in terms of ‘spotting’. (It does make me chuckle the fact fisherman are casting lines a stone’s throw away from where we’re standing in shallow water, yet around my legs, large Bass fish are happily going about their business. If that isn’t a middle finger up to those looking to upset the applecart and put a hook in them, then I don’t know what is!).
As I write there’s a bit of a change to the weather. Gazing up into the sky, clouds form, and those thermometer readings have started to fall a tad. Forecasts suggest it’ll be a chilly night (it is the end of September after all), and the next few days will be somewhat changeable with degrees of fluffy white and grey clouds coming and going. The wind’s due to increase as well. Scanning further ahead and perusing the long-range suggests a changeable weather pattern will be on the cards. Absorbing this information, I’m super glad I decided to take my wee one and head for afloat – it could be one of the last truly warm days before we slide into autumn and winter proper.
Of course, there’ll be idyllic off-season days, I’m sure. These bring their own SUP magic as there’s nothing quite like a warming glow to your face as you exit the brine and bright winter day. Warming up next to a roaring fire with a beverage in hand is another scenario I’m very familiar with and like a lot. Unfortunately, the colder months make it harder to get little kids in the drink as they feel the cold. So, again, I’m glad we did what we did during this particular session.
If you’ve been scoring similar paddles to the above, then hats off. Likewise, if you’re carrying on and not hanging up your gear for winter, then doff of the cap. SUP is an all-weather, all-season activity, after all – as long as you plan accordingly and keep safety in mind. For those looking to get amongst it again next spring, hopefully, you’ll kick off 2022 with a session like the one described. For me, I’m reflective on the stoke, having enjoyed September to its full, sharing the experience with my family, outdoors and on the water. A toast then to the Indian summer that was. See you next time!