April’s been another month with plenty of opportunities to get out on the water and the early hint of summer we had at the beginning of the month was very welcome. I had a particularly memorable day SUP touring between Maidenhead and Windsor in shorts and T shirt, paddling barefoot with the still cool Thames lapping over my toes. Let’s hope that was the first of many this year!
As regular readers of this blog will know I’ve spent increasing amounts of time on paddleboards over the last couple of years. When SUPs first appeared I was very much in the camp that saw little point in them. If you want thrills and spills take a playboat to one of the Thames weirs. If you want to travel fast on the water take a touring or – even better – a racing kayak. If you want to journey in comfort take a canoe. Where do SUPs fit in? The answer for me has become that paddle boarding is a whole new class of paddlesport with its own attractions and not something to be compared against others.
For me as a paddlesport enthusiast, one of the attractions is having a whole new suite of technical skills to work on. While the basic SUP strokes share the fundamentals of canoeing or kayaking, the standing position lends new meaning to the use of the core and body weight to drive the paddle into the water. The ability to change your trim much more quickly than in a canoe opens up manoeuvres that would be impossible in most other craft. And having a skeg at the back forces a whole new mind set when it comes to turning or moving sideways.
Then there’s the convenience that comes with SUPs, particularly the inflatable ones that have so transformed the sport in recent years. Rather than shifting heavy plastic boats on and off roof racks and trailers it’s a joy to lift an iSUP. What about all the pumping up? Well the boards that I inflated this time last year have needed only a couple of top ups since and, while I’ve not succumbed, I’m reliably informed that you can plug an electric pump into a car’s 12V socket.
Falling off? No problem! Apart from being easy to climb back on if you do fall in, the chances of falling off in the first place decrease rapidly with only a little practice. Until you start pushing your step back turns!
Perhaps the best thing about paddleboarding for me however is the fresh perspective it’s given on my local waterways. Seeing more over banks, looking down into nests, and most of all looking down into the water with much less refraction than experienced in a canoe or kayak and glimpsing the underwater world of aquatic life on a sunny day. I’m looking forward to SUPing on more of these days this summer.