SUP: From the Lake to the River

Paul Ainsworth
Written by Paul Ainsworth

Is this the year that you take your paddle board from the lake and onto our UK river networks?

In this article, I want to give you eight hints and tips to widen your paddling adventures.

I had a fantastic paddle last Sunday on the River Witham. The sun was shining, and it was just me out on the water. I quietly slipped along on my board, and each time I rounded a bend, there was a new sight to enjoy with a range of wildlife for company.

We talk about well-being, but what could be better than this paddle therapy?

The lake where I swim in the winter and teach SUP Yoga during the summer provides a safe place to enjoy your paddleboard all year round (Activities Away Lake Lincoln). While I have embraced the cold water to swim, I’ve watched some members of my SUP Yoga classes practice their paddling through the winter.

During the summer, a regular conversation with my yogis covered where and how to safely transition from the enclosure of the lake to navigating our local river network. These were some of the suggestions I made to help them enjoy their paddleboards to the max.

  1. Join British Canoeing, which gives you a license to paddle on the 4500km of Canal & River Trust and Environment Agency waterways. There are also resources on the website, including advice on CPD and a whole range of paddling opportunities.
  2. Take part in an ‘Aqua Paddle’. If you want to enjoy a river paddle, be part of a group, and meet some new paddling friends, why not sign up for your local ‘Aqua Paddle’? This is the paddling version of ‘park run,’ where volunteers organise a 5km paddle with a safety team so that you can safely paddle in a group and perhaps enjoy a drink together afterward. They will ‘time’ you, so some paddlers will treat this as a time trial opportunity, whereas there are many other paddlers who just enjoy the safety of the communal paddle. You will need to sign up in advance and print out your registration number to wear for the event. You must have a buoyancy aid, and you are expected to have a license to paddle. See the website Aqua Paddle | Homepage for more information.
  3. You could look for a local instructor who will provide you with an introduction to paddling on a river. This will give you an idea of a location where you can paddle yourself in the future while giving you the confidence on your first river paddle. They will also provide advice on both how to paddle safely and your paddling technique.
  4. Sign up to a Facebook paddling group. I am a member of the ‘SUP Lincs’ group on Facebook, and there are regular group paddles posted by other more experienced paddlers. In recent threads, there have been opportunities to paddle ‘The Brigg Loop’, visit the ‘Humberstone Sea Forts’, or even take part in a dawn paddle of which the photos looked amazing. Again, this will give you ideas on where to paddle independently when you feel more confident and perhaps some paddling friends.
  5. If you are a woman, you could sign up for ‘shepaddles,’ which runs a range of day and even two-day paddles where you will be in a female-only group who will help and support you. Some of my yogis took part in this last summer and loved the experience and the confidence it gave them. See the British Canoeing website for more information.
  6. You could go with a friend and learn together, in which case downloading the ‘GoPaddling’ app is an excellent starting point. One of the most challenging things about beginning your river paddling adventure is knowing where you can safely enter and exit the water with your board. This app shows locations on rivers where this can be done easily and explains about the best place to park nearby.
  7. Ensure you have the right equipment. So, a buoyancy aid is essential, and most paddlers will recommend a quick-release waist leash for the flowing waters. A waterproof case for your phone can be useful. Finally, think carefully about your clothing. In a recent article, I suggested what you could wear on cold days.
  8. Have fun! There is so much freedom to be had by exploring local rivers and viewing your locality from a different angle, whether that is paddling through your local town or city or just exploring the local countryside.

I hope this article gives you the inspiration to take your paddling from your local lake to see what the waterways around you have to offer, and I look forward to seeing your adventures captured on Instagram!

Main – Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash