Research and Plan
Now where to start? You are heading to Cornwall in June with 3 friends, 3 of you have boards and one will have to hire, everyone has SUP’d happily on inland flatwater for many miles, the aim is to paddle a beautiful stretch of coastline which is safe. Sounds plausible?
A great starting point is a hire company, you can choose a beach based one which may fix your launch site or a mobile one, which will give you more choice. Whichever you choose you can ask for advice. SUP in a Bag provides a Journey Planning Service with hires, even if you may want the experience of planning yourself, sounding out ideas is always a good thing.
You may have a favourite spot that you have dreamed of launching from, and that is a great start. If you have a blank canvas, try searching the phrase ‘best places to paddle in …….’ Or pick a place on the map, Mevigissey ‘I’ve heard there are a lot of boat trips there, there must be lots to see!?’
It is worth searching videos too and think about other paddle sports, mindful of the different abilities of different craft. My favourite is GB Paddler who has an amazing series of videoshttps://www.youtube.com/user/GBPaddling/videos be mindful that it is a little extreme for most people and he certainly has a knack for having the perfect conditions.
Searches will throw up all sorts of useful and not so useful information. They may even give you that all important inspiration.
Here are some of my favourite websites:-
www.paddlepoints.net is both a community and a powerful tool which includes launch sites and a platform which enables you to look at OS maps and Google Map generated Satellite pictures as well as tidal information from one screen.
www.cornwallbeaches.org.uk has mapped 100’s of beaches in Cornwall. Each beach has an information sheet describing the characteristics of the beach, what activities it is good for, any amenities and parking. It even has details of the slipway.
www.songofthepaddle.co.uk are a knowledgeable and active Canoe Community who regularly Blog about their trips and offer advice and ideas. The Blogs are usually fairly detailed with pictures, launch sites, tidal issues and even ideas of where to stay. They are dedicated to Open Canoes so you may not be able to join. Note open canoeist’s travel faster, further and tend to stay inland or on sheltered stretches.
www.SUPTrotter.co.uk is an emerging community Platform. It is really interactive and enables you to build up a profile of your paddling.
Local Tour businesses may have done the work for you by describing their Tours and highlighting the ability required. They may also have other resources SUP in a Bag publishes a top places to paddle in Cornwall www.SUPinaBag.co.uk/Places-to-Paddle
The lone blogger often knows a small area intimately and so sometimes comes up trumps, I found one of my favourite little know inland launch sites by reading www.adventureswiththeblackdog.co.uk
The Power of Google Maps
You tested your search engine (other search engines are available), now search for the launch location and click on the map tab, I head straight for the Satellite option. On a large scale you can see features such as Bays and Headlands and on a detailed view you can see rock gardens and small beaches.
I spend hours on Google Maps, I start by looking at the route and if it interests me, I scroll along it thinking is it sheltered from the Atlantic swell, are there changes in the direction of travel, features such as headlands, are there escape routes and in which winds and swell will it work. more about these later).
I often switch to PaddlePoints at this point to look at contours or I load up the Google Maps photos. These help to build a picture of the route. If there are few photos available, it is sign that it is an extremely quiet stretch and perhaps one to be avoided for your first trips.
The OS function on www.Paddlepoints.net has an advantage as it gives detailed names of islands and features. The names given many years ago are usually a good sign ‘Ralph’s Cupboard’ a collapsed cave and ‘the Devil’s Frying Pan’ are intriguing. Other useful spots may include historic quays, though further research is required to see if they are public access.
The OS also gives the gradient of the shore and importantly the rights of way in case you did have to abandon a paddle and walk out.
I usually load up Google Map again and look at street view, I use this for scouting out on road parking options and even reading any restrictions on public use of a slipway, being mindful that this information may have changed.