My favourite thing to do is to grab a few good friends, load up the boards, be armed with a picnic and go and explore a stunning stretch of Cornish coastline. At any point in time I have a wish list of paddles, special because they are challenging, on quieter more exposed stretches that are only possible a couple of days a year, are noted for their wildlife, have mesmerising named features such as ‘Flavel’s Hole,’ or there is destination waterside pub awaiting.
As a SUP Guide living and playing in Cornwall I know how lucky I am and I so enjoy sharing my passion for exploring the coast and making it accessible to all abilities of paddlers. I notice that paddlers tend not to paddle beyond the cove and that there is little support or resources to help you make the step to independently create your own micro adventures.
This article is aimed at giving an overview of the key issues in planning a 1 hour to 1 day paddle along a section of coastline. It is not a definitive guide but will raise the key issues and point to further resources.
The usual disclaimers apply with all such advice in the outdoors. All watersports have risks and no amount of information can be a substitute for training and experience. Only you can know your ability, and that of those in your group, only you will be able to read the conditions on the day, and so be able to make good decisions.
If in doubt employ a Guide or seek training.
A bit of general advice
Paddle within your own and your group’s abilities, prepare and equip yourselves.
Remain flexible with your plans
I know how tricky this is to do, particularly if you have just a weekend and you have set your heart on a particular adventure. When you are gathering experience you need conditions to be excellent and mother nature is not always co-operative or even predictable. Have a back-up plan for different conditions and have the confidence to postpone or even abort a trip, this is never a bad decision.
Research and plan
There is so much you can do sat at your computer at home. The internet is an amazing resource which I use daily and in so many different ways.
Leadership and the group
It is important (and fun) to share the experience with other people. The moment you plan the activity even if everyone is at the same level you become the leader by default. Sharing out tasks and planning together is a great way to share the responsibility but also to upskill the whole group.
Gain more experience
You want to stretch yourself and the best way to learn is to gain experience but if you are not sure, seek out professional help. This may involve being guided on the particular stretch of coast first and talking through the key issues on route.
The best locations & conditions in which to plan your first coastal journeys
- In a location which has access and egress points all along it, and which is sheltered from the Atlantic swell.
- In conditions which are deemed flat (this term can be misleading as on the sea the water under your boards moves constantly in all conditions)
- In gentle off shore winds of less than 10 mph. It is always great to have the wind assist you on the return journey.
- With a couple of well-equipped friends who are all competent paddlers.