Lots of paddle time 

It is long time overdue I gave an update on events and what’s been happening in my little paddle world.  I have managed to get out and get some great sessions done, lots of long distance stuff and lots of water time, which is a joy.  I have also been hard at training for the Bournemouth Pier to Pier and the journey towards that event has wielded some great results regarding weight loss.  So much to say I don’t know where to begin?

I gues if I start at the weight loss… I have now lost 5 st 7 lbs and in the best shape of my life so far, I am not content with that yet, I have a long way to go and have hit a wall regarding my diet.  I put it down to the incredible amount of exercise that I am attempting to do, I am swimming for 70 minutes 3 times a week and covering a distance of 2.5 km, I am also going to the gym for 2 hours 3 times a week and burning roughly 900 kcal each session.  This massive increase in activity has done wonders for my general well being, my blood pressure is way done as is my resting heart rate. My body is going through significant changes and I am getting a great deal of definition and something that I have previously never had.  I am happier in myself, calmer, healthier and generally well.  But, I am getting frustrated that for the past 3. Weeks my weight loss has stalled despite what I do to change up the diet or what I eat.  I have ramped up the exercise and kept up with the swimming.  I am now 3 weeks away from the big swim and it is very daunting.  A new friend, someone I met recently on the paddleboard trail, is an old hand at charity events and physical challenges told me the other day that to ‘approach any event with a sense of trepidation is a good thing.’  And I can see his point, approaching the big day, and it is coming up quickly, carefully and with a sense of dread keeps me from pushing too hard, my instinct is to train hard, and as the event gets closer to train harder.  But, part of me is holding back in case I get injured.  And that is my concern, a lot of people have sponsored me and I have raised a significant sum so far, I don’t want to let them down. So, gingerly I train, careful I improve and hopefully will make it through In one piece.

So what’s next?  Once the vent I have trained for for the past 6 months is complete what do I do then, and this has also played on my mind. I have a had a few too many thoughts on this subject and what I would like to do is get in on the emerging Paddleboard race scene.  Living as I do a 10 minute drive from Bournemouth beach I am ideally situated to get in on an emerging race scene.  There is some discussion as to what size board should be used and that is confusing me, guaranteed I will fork out for a race board and it will be the wrong size!  The debate is between 14′ and 12′ 6″boards.  My instinct is to go with a 12’6″, why?  Because a 12’6″ gives more people the opportunity to participate, they are smaller, more manoeuvrable and easier to handle in a turn.  Many races have buoy turns and to successfully mange that on a 14′ you have to complete a very tricky and advanced kick turn which involves raising the nose of the board by standing over the back fin and balancing whilst turning at speed.  Whereas the smaller board is an turn easier on a cross bow turn or hard paddle turn.  I have to say that until this week I have never attempted a kick turn and the thought was daunting, but after some exceptional instruction from http://www.thenewforestpaddlesportcompany.co.uk/ I gave it a go and although I got a bit wet was getting the hang of it and definitely have the confidence to give it a go. I also tested a race board with them.  I tested the Starboard 12’6″ Astro Racer inflatable and absolutely fell in love with it.  It was sublime board, it cut the water like a fish, it responded beautifully and was very responsive.  It opened its arms and said ‘trust me, paddle a bit harder, paddle a bit faster I won’t drop you in the water’, a reaction my current board does not have, my current board has an anti rider repellent on it, as soon as you get on it wants to throw you off. The Starboard encouraged a faster paddle. And as I shortened and quickened my stroke the nose started to rise from the water and my word did it go!  I vowed that that would be my board of choice.  Only problem is that to buy one I need £1090 and I can’t justify spending that kind of money right now.  Hopefully It won’t be long before I do get one, lots of saving to be done, maybe selling some bits on eBay but I do have to get that board.  The only way I can describe it is going from an Aston Martin to a Ford Fiesta.

Riding a board like that really illuminates the faults in my current board. Faults I had hitherto not known about.  I had thought that my board was not bad and any problems in manoeuvrability to stability were down to the rider.  But the instructor who showed me kick turns had a go on my board and could not believed that I was able to do half the things that I have been doing on it.  The flex in the board was astounding when watching someone else ride it, it wobbles around like a nothing I have seen before.  Rigidity is nothing it bounces up and down more than a trampoline.  Handling and tracking are just abysmal.  This is a hard lesson and one I didn’t realise I needed to learn.  When I bought the board I found an online company that offered boards cheaply and claiming a good quality board.  I went, looked and purchased the board without ever getting it on the water.  I did not try any other boards because they were out of my price range and I was desperate to take up this sport that I fell in love with.  So I bought the board and had many many misadventures in falling in before I got the balance and knack of using the board.  The lesson is try before you buy and don’t rush into any decision.  Also, cheap does not mean good, in fact when it comes to something you are relying on to keep you. Out of the water and safe the lower the quality the more at risk you put yourself in.  All things I did not know.  When I bought the board I knew relatively little about paddleboarding but I did know a lot about the water.  As I Kew nothing about the sport, what I wanted to do in the future and much about board design and construction, I ended up throwing £400 away on a board, that I have had fun and learnt lots, but ultimately ended up being shit.  Well, lesson learnt! The hard way!

Paddleboarding is a way of life , it’s a community and there is a comraderie between riders.  A friendly hello to those you pass or pass you on the river or sea or wherever you SUP.  In that spirit I have joined some very friendly chaps on a regular outings.  I paddle with the owner of a SUP specific brand of clothing called Hutch SUP wear and they offer some fantastic clothing at a reasonable price.  They are also a good laugh and good company.  We often paddle first thing in the morning heading out at 7 am and that has made paddling very pleasant for me as before I as lays went out solo.  I have explored new places done many new things on a board and advanced how I paddle.  Check out the range of clothing at http://www.hutchsupwear.com.

So, that is where I am at.  Paddling a lemon wanting to paddle a race.  Hopefully, that Starboard will be mine soon and I can train hard for the BaySup frostbite series in the winter and enter Head of the Dart and Battle of the Thames next year.  I also have grand plans for some long distance endurance SUP’s in aid charity and as I get more planned I will update.  So I hope lots of you are out on the water and staying safe doing so.    Oh and here is the link to the board I tested. http://star-board-sup.com/2016/boards/12-6-x-28-inflatable-racer/

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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!