Looking for a new surf challenge? Try UK river SUP

Apr 23, 2014 BY Tez Plavenieks

The reinvigorated enthusiasm for SUP (since Laird et al revived the long forgotten ocean sport back in the early noughties) continues to attract new converts the world over. Arguably one of the quickest watery disciplines to pick up it’s never been easier to go for a float. And with plenty of UK river SUP to try out, it could be about to get even bigger.

UK river SUP flickr image by Northwest Rafting Company

SUP Mag UK editor Tez Plavenieks gives us the low down on river SUP – just one of the many forms of stand up paddling varieties to try.

What is SUP?

SUP is short for Stand Up Paddleboarding, it is the art of standing atop a board and using a single blade scoop as propulsion. In this elevated position riders have a unique vantage point as well as numerous other benefits.

Whether it’s charging offshore waves, frenetic racing, casting a line or in this case ‘sweeping’ (slang) the river, SUP is an accessible and extremely diverse water sport.

The beach boy lifestyle

If you’ve ever been stoked on surfing then you’ll understand the urge to slide sideways on a plank. Due to work/life responsibilities many of us unfortunately reside in areas noticeably wave starved – the middle of the country for example. Sojourns to wave-rich counties like Cornwall and Devon are great for quenching the thirst, but what to do in between session times, which sometimes last weeks on end?

Stand up paddle boarding is poised to deliver that scratch for the itch. It might not be how you anticipated you’re board riding career to evolve, but trust me when I say you’ll be hooked for life after your first few sessions.

UK river SUP flickr image by Northwest Rafting Company

SUP instantly gives accessibility to the Hawaiian beach boy mentality of the 50s. You may be miles from the coast but floating around on your local duck pond brings us ever closer to that enviable lifestyle. Even if you never make the move to the seaside, SUP will always be your saving grace and get you out for a float, keep you fit and healthy and allow you to enjoy the great outdoors.

The river beckons

Becoming addicted to all forms of stand up paddling will have you seeking out new experiences and sensations. This is where the UK river SUP comes in.

Any stretch of water is ripe for SUP shenanigans and river running is as challenging as tackling any Atlantic swell. Even the smallest volume of moving water, the teeniest rapid and dinkiest standing wave will test your skills. It could end up being all you think about – dreams of azure tropical tubes becoming a distant memory.

UK river SUP flickr image by Northwest Rafting Company

Safety first

Without wanting to preach or sound like a clipboard wielding member of the Nanny State, it’s important to understand the safety implications of UK river SUP – particularly those with flow. Rocks, drops, weirs, strange currents and your surrounding riverbank environment play a dictatorial part when choosing your kit.

If you’ve entered the world of stand up with a conventional all round board then you’ll need something less prone to dings. Inflatable SUPs work fairly well but there are dedicated tools for the job. This does unfortunately require further purchases, if you’re serious about getting stuck in that is. Check out Badfish MVP as an example of what I’m talking about.

Other considerations

River water in the UK is usually colder than that of the open sea – especially during winter which can be prime time for attacking white water runs. Although a standard wetsuit is fine, you’ll be much better off with a surface immersion suit (drysuit) – but these also cost. And don’t forget your base layer.

A good quality helmet and impact protection pads would be worthy investments. Any river paddler worth his salt will at least wear a lid.

PFDs (personal flotation devices or buoyancy aids) will help pop you up from the depths and shouldn’t be overlooked. A river SUP-specific leash, attached to said PFD, will keep you in contact with your board. It’s always a good idea to have a throwline on board as well – just in case.

The not so extreme

If all this adrenaline fuelled chat isn’t floating your boat then local canals will be fine for a sweep. At the end of the day, if it slaps a massive grin across your chops then it’s job done. For those yet to try SUP, get involved. You’ll love it and it doesn’t matter where you’re based, there’ll be a stretch of water perfect for you.

To find out more about UK river SUP and get hold of the April issue of SUP Mag UK, hit up http://www.standuppaddlemag.co.uk/, featuring not one but two features about river SUP.


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