2nd week, 2nd paddle

I said last week that I was a planning a paddle around Keyhaven.  Well, unfortunately I bottled it.  The reason is that I was not confident enough to try to paddle around the bay as, after reading the charts and local advice felt it was slightly risky given the time of year and temperature, if I get stuck or get it wrong it is a very cold way to spend the day. So I decided to alter my plans and I went to. The slightly more protected and safer option of Mudeford Quay, in between Christchurch and Highcliffe.  It is a fascinating little place that is a large sheltered bay behibd Hengistbury head and the Solent.  For the most part it is no more thN  a feet deep even at high tide, it has some deep channels of a few metres and a also houses a treacherous channel loving called ‘The Run’.  Essentially the Run is to be avoided at all times. The whole force of the tide is squeezed through a deep channel about 10 m across.  The force of that outlet to the open sea is akin to the worst Rip tide you will ever see and if your caught in it you won’t be seen until you reach the Isle of Wight. Fortunately though the bay is about 4.5 miles around the edge so plenty of room to paddle without vanishing off into the Solent.

I read the tide well and arrived 40 mins before high tide and they was plenty of Water I. Which to paddle, and I was not the only one.  I bumped into another boarder just starting  out.  The other paddler was slot more experienced than I so I let him toddle off before I ventured of the water, essentially so I could see where he went and if there was any issues on the water.  A very chilly wind was whipping around chopping up the water which made it challenging to paddle, also made it a bit cold.  But, wrapped in neoprene I barely felt the wind so was happy to crack on.  I hit the water and was immediately surprised by the strength of the wind and the effect it had on paddling, to get out into the bay I had to travel into the wind. It was hard going and my feet were getting a bit chilly. About 500 m out into the bay my feet went numb.  I was wearing neoprene shoes but it was very cold. I endured and went further into the bay, the sun was glorious but the wind was high making a challenging SUP.  I went further and missed the signs for the shallows as they were submerged, and ran aground and fell in. Whoops! It was a chilly dip and wasn’t my only one.  I have so much to learn about this sport.  
Inclement weather means that I cannot get out for at least a week so I am in the pool every other day!


New Year, New Regime!

It has been some time since I have posted a blog.  In fact I have only blogged once before about my exploits on the water.  I have had A couple of health issues recently that I am under investigation for but when we heralded in the new year I heralded in a new me!  I let myself go a bit, put on a to of weight and also became a bit lethargic.  So a radical weight loss programme that includes a great deal more exercise. Part of the regiment is to get the board out every week, whatever the weather, and have a paddle for at least a couple of hours.  I have done so at my usual paddle spot in Christchurch, Dorset and it has been one of the oust dramatic, changeable and challenging paddles I have done.

I am still very much a novice and have so uch to learn, but the good news is I am getting to know my board and how it reacts I different types of water.  On Tuesday last week I caught a break in the weather and a forecast of light winds and lovely winter sun.  Signs were good, tide was on the turn and I pumped up and got on the water. What I had not accounted for was rain water run off.  The amount of rainfall we have had o the south coast has not been as severe as the poor folks in the North of England, not by a long shot, but the increase in volume of the Stour made low tide like high tide and the speed of the water was quite remarkable.  I tried to paddle up stream, but after 15 mins and getting about 500 metres I finally turned the board around and headed out to the bay behind Hengistbury Head.  It could not have been different, once away from the river mouth the water changed from a torrent of run off to a mirrored glass, it was perfectly still, no wind at all and the clouds and sun were perfectly reflected in the water.  Sometimes I can be philosophical and floating in such a perfect place of peace and tranquility brings in to sharp relief what is happening in ones life and in ones own world.  People often speak of getting back to nature and to realise that they are just a small speck in the world at large.  I did feel insignificant, just another of natures creatures enjoying some time alone.  Lost in ones thoughts. Relaxed I decided to return home.

The return journey was not pleasant, nature decided to show me that for every peaceful Monet one enjoys there is a stressful one just around the corner.  The tide should have been I o the turn and I should have had a relatively straight forward paddle through the river out hand back to the slipway. Yeah….right!  The rain run off into the river no the increase in water volume meant that a very strong current was still flowing against the tide making the approach in to Christchurch choppy and like paddling through treacle.  I battled hard against the torrent but it was exhausting, it was incredible the war of the water, just a little bit and how much it would effect the board and the paddler.  I had to get to the side of the river and beach just to get my breath back.  It was so difficult my inexperience showed in reading the river and underestimating my ability, especially after a month and a half lay off.  I waited about 5 minutes by the side of the river watching as the flotsam and jetsom whipped by out towards the sea. I tried not to get panicked and tried to find a route that I could walk the board back but there was too much in the way, reed beds and deep water.  I examined the river closely and saw that the reed bed on the opposite side of the river had a greatly reduced flow so I pointed the board across the river and tried to mount the board.  

Top tip: point the board into the current paddle across and angle the board slightly a let the current take you across.  Do not do what I did and point the board 90 degrees to the river bank into a strong flow and have it flip over.  I got a bit wet, but thankfully was wearing a winter wetsuit and didn’t get too cold. 

I managed to get myself back to the river bank and pointed the board into the flow and got to the other side. The water flow was greatly reduced and I made my way up river towards Christchurch.  Getting the last 200 metres was hard with the strong flow, but exhausted and 140 minutes after I set out I was back at the slipway and to my car.  I packed up the board and went home.  Once I had washed the board off, rinsed the wetsuit and got a cup of Tea (never underestimate the awesome restorative power of a good hot cup of Tea), I sat and reflected on the close call. It really was a near miss and a very valuable lesson to learn.  

Lessons learned: always be mindful of what the water is doing. Never assume what the river is doing as it might just do the opposite.  Never overestimate your ability, you could end up looking like a prick, and that could be the best case scenario.  The worst is you get into some serious life threatening situations beyond your ability to get out off.  I was a tyke bit scared and I have definitely learned my lesson.  But, I am not discouraged, I will just be a bit more mindful of the conditions and take greater care.  

So, what’s next well, the tide times are favourable to attempt a new SUP.  Keyhaven to Hurst castle, a paddle that demands a high tide as there are a lot of shallows and sand islands.  But, Hurst Point and the castle is a fantastic place, a true bastion of history and a delightful day out. It seeps history and catalogues the advancing warfare through the ages from the age of sail to steam, to modern naval power whilst also standing like a beacon of the importance the UK put in commanding and defending the oceans. I have, many times, walked the mile long shingle bank to the castle and I really want to take the board and approach from the water.  That is the plan for this week to come.  

Mayors Mead slipway, Christchurch, Dorset, UK.  

My first forays

I have not been Paddleboarding for very long, in fact I am very new. I tried it out in Scotland whilst on holiday, on Loch Lomond, and the instant I fell off I was hooked! It was peaceful, calm and serene. I got an amazing sense of achievement when I paddled, standing up, out of the bay and managed to keep my balance and remain standing up.  The board I was on was definitely not suitable for me. After all I am a fatty! Standing at 6′ 2″ tall and weighing in at 20 st I am not the most likely candidate for this sport. However, I am not one who gives up when things are tough! I investigate thourghly what boards were out there and what would be suited to me. I eventually got frustrated and spoke to a company in Poole called Sandbanks SUP style and after talking my stats through with them I went and bought one of their boards! 

I then, within 24 hrs, was at the beach staring out at the sea and seeing 6′ breakers crashing into the sand and thought, well won’t be going out today! So, plans to SUP on hold. I waited for a couple of days and went again. In the meantime I had read about SUP surfing, paddling out and then catching waves like a surfer! Great, I thought that sounds awesome I will give that a go. So good waves breaking I pumped up the board an paddled out. Half an hour later and half the sea swallowed I realised I may not have been ready for that. Still, it was great getting out there. 

I had a chat with a friend and she also has a board and she told me tha she goes out at Christchurch Quay and paddles the Stour river and she was willing to come along and give me a few pointers. Fantastic! After a long shift we ventured forth the early evening sunshine, pumped up and got on the water! Under her invaluable tutelage I was up and paddling. That trip had 2 swims as I fell in and I knew I would need a lot of practice turning on the water. I learnt that going in a straight line was easy, turning pits you off balance. There are two primary ways of turning a the board, a ‘J-Stroke’ which turns in a gentle, wide arc or a back paddle which is sharper. As a novice I was yet to realise that I needed to counteract the forcs of the turn by shifting the weight in to the opposite side of the board. The inevitable happened. Splash! 
It’s a lovely, as yet unelected excursio. Schedules have not allowed me to have further tutoring. But, I deterred I continued to go out. 

I went back to the beach between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers. Only this time flat, calm seas with a maximum of 1′ swells. Perfect SUP conditions. The water was lovely and not too cold but I soon found out that paddling on a river and the sea are 2 completely different animals. On the sea I was up and paddling  but was falling off a lot. I wa not compensating for the tide or the waves and falling in. 

I went back to athe river twice on my own and practiced, practiced and practiced putting in 4 hours over two sessions and not falling in once. My confidence has grown massively, I know my board better, and I have bought you up to date.

Tomorrow theses is forecast as flat, the weather dry with a slight favourable north-easterly wind. My plan is a whole day on the beach, learning about what tide is best as I will be there during an outgoing and incoming tide, learning how to control the board on the sea. I am now self teaching, gaining experience and learning the sport by doing it. So if anyone is at Bournemouth and sees a Farman paddling, give a wave and friendly encouragement as it takes courage  and determination to try the sport and to fail so publicly!

I welcome friendly comments so please do share your thoughts equally I would love to hear your stories! See you on the water!