Stand up paddleboarding in London

Monday, October 7, 2019

Yes, you read that right.  I have been paddleboarding in London this summer while training for London Regatta.  2019 was meant to be the inaugural year where people could row, kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) down the Thames River from Putney to Greenwhich or Putney to Big Ben and back again.  The river was to be shut to traffic, as well as the tide (by closing the Thames Barrier).  Sadly, the weather wasn't cooperating and the race had to be cancelled.  You can imagine how many authorities and staff were involved to make it a successful and safe event.  Of course, I was disappointed that it was cancelled but I could not fault the organizers for make a tough call. They had the safety of the participants in mind (both in terms of water quality and tide) which is the most important thing.

For the Regatta, SUP participants needed a board that was at least 11 feet long, a flotation devise and a waist leash (rather than an ankle).  They also recommended a carbon paddle which would be lighter than a standard one.  I was grateful to have Two Bare Feet support my efforts by gifting me a Entradia touring board starter pack in pink.  Living in a flat in London, I don't have room for a proper SUP board.  An inflatable board suits me as it is much easy to store in our shed.  The rucksack is 90L and fits everything inside.  After a few times out, I realized the paddles can be strapped to the outside of the bag, making the inside a bit more roomy.  It is fairly heavy to carry though.  My husband and I estimated it to be 20-25 kgs (more than a checked bag).  I took it on the Tube a few times and had to rest along the way rather than my normal rush.  The weight is something to consider if you will be carrying it around town or travelling. with it.  With practice, I think you would build up the strength to carry it more easily.

One way to make the rucksack lighter is to leave the pump and puncture kit at home.  I used Wakeup Docklands near Royal Victoria DLR stop as the place where I trained.  With my own board, I only had to pay a £5 launch fee.  Or you can rent boards there for £20.  They have both manual and electric pumps to inflate SUP boards which I took full advantage of.  The dock they have access to is about a mile if you do the entire edge.  There are other activities going on, such as sailing, swimming, and wake boarding, so you have to keep an eye on your surroundings. One of the instructors, Sarah, was extremely kind and offered lots of tips on how to improve my form and paddle stroke in order to increase my speed.  The Regatta was meant to have a four hour cutoff which meant that I needed to keep a good pace going in order to finish.  I was a little bit worried but now I have another year to train.

Inflating the board took a bit of practice.  The pump has a handy inflate and deflate option which makes packing up much easier.   One tip I have is to realize the board can take more air than you think.  A few times, I didn't realize it was a bit under-inflated until I was out on the water.

The bungee on the front of the board was handy for holding my dry bag down and clipping my water bottle too.  I had started experimenting with having a small bucket connected to the bungee for the Regatta as I thought I would need to store a lot of supplies (dry clothes, food, etc).  I am not sure if the 90L bag with pump would have fit comfortably under the bungee.  This might be something to consider if you were starting in one place and ending in another.

I really enjoy spending time on the water and cannot wait to get out there again.  Even though autumn has arrived, if the sun is out, I will be taking the board out.  I just need to figure out how to keep my feet warm (maybe with dive booties?).  Next summer, SUP'ing will probably be my sport of choice.  I need to obtain a British Canoeing membership to take my board out on the London canals which would be a lot of fun and a change of scenery.

Have you ever tried SUP?  Where is your favorite place to go?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Thanks to Two Bare Feet for gifting me the paddleboard.  All opinions are honest and my own.

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