UK SUP Clubs Great Glen Challenge

Well that was a pretty EPIC Weekend! FULL ON!!!
A few weeks a go I found out that a race I never even knew was on was being cancelled and rearranged by Joanne and Pete Vale (UK SUP Clubs) and Tony Bain (Green Dragon Activities).  I’d been looking for a new challenge for some time and had eyed up the Great Glen before, so I quickly cleared my calendar for that weekend and paid the reduced £30 entry fee. Now all I had to do was show up and paddle.

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Some of the finishers and support crew.

I decided to take the day off work on Friday so I could drive the 600 miles up to our accommodation and base at Fort Augustus, with a slight detour to Widnes to pick up my new friend Tony Bain. Driving from Southern England to the Scottish Highlands really does put the size of the British Isles into perspective, setting the scene for the epicness of the weekend to follow and setting us on a journey in more ways than one.

The initial plan was to start the paddle from Inverness at 5:30am, however with still an hour and a half of journey time left and with an ETA at Fort Augustus of 10:15; we were called by Pete and told that everyone else had gone to bed and the new start time would be 3:00am.  It didn’t take a brain surgeon to work out that we would have to be awake at 2:00am and as a result only get around 3 hours sleep!! We could have started later, but felt that this was an event where we should all start together.

The pedal was firmly pressed to the metal and we made good time, being greeted outside our digs by Pete at 10:06. We unpacked and hit the sack as soon as possible, probably drifting off around 11:00. “Three hours”, I thought, “that should just be enough”. Our roomies however had other ideas, a certain Bart de Zwart and his lovely wife Dagmar  were awake at 1:00am making breakfast and getting ready for the race. Two hours sleep to paddle across Scotland…… So much for preparation.

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A very dark start in Inverness

We packed up in quite  a rush and headed off to the start line in Inverness. I was now the furthest north I had ever been in the British isles. We placed our boards on the water to a 10 min countdown from Pete and before we knew it we were placing the first few paddles of the thousands that would follow over the next few hours. The first few km’s along the canal were pretty hot with paddlers stripping off a little if they could. We portaged around the first lock and headed off towards the entry to Loch Ness, where Jo HV offered a wee dram of whisky to Nessie and asked for safe passage. The next 37km would test all of us and Nessie decided to throw up some pretty testing down-wind conditions, with half of the distance being covered in the dark, and boy was it DARK!!!  Thankfully daybreak arrived, the torches were turned off and we were able to enjoy the amazing downwind conditions on the Loch pretty much surfing the wind swell all the way to Fort Augustus, and our first support stop for over 37km. Bart arrived first with Jo arriving 25mins later and myself a further 5 mins after that. Bart and Jo spent minimal time on this stop, I however was offered a bacon buttie, an offer I just couldn’t refuse, so not surprisingly I took a little longer to get back on the water.  After refuelling I set out on the steady paddle along a short section of canal and on to Loch Oich, a beautiful little Loch, but not big enough to sustain a wind wave so no down winding here.

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I cant remember which Lock this was. very picturesque though

I was really looking forward to getting to Lock Lochy and getting out into the wind again. The entrance to Lochy marks about two thirds of the journey from the Inverness end and I was told that there was 20km of Loch and 10km of canal left to the finish. Lochy did not disappoint. As we made our way down the Loch the wind strengthened and started to push some awesome waves down the 20km stretch of water. For me this was the best part of the paddle, real down winding with thigh high rolling wind swell just pushing us along to towards the end. You really had to work the board to link the swells and prolong the glides, just awesome!! and so much fun I actually forgot I was towards the end of a 93km paddle.

After Lochy the pace slowed somewhat as the exhilaration of the glide passed and was replaced by the last 10km slog along the canal into Fort William. This was definitely my lowest point. My lack of sleep the night before hit me like a train and I actually thought I was gonna fall asleep while paddling. My knees, back, calf, and shoulders were all aching and I knew I just had to get through these last few very bendy km’s . I finally rounded the last bend and could now see Neptune’s Ladder and the finish line. I crossed the line to cheers from Jo,  Pete,  Dagmar and Bart. It was Great that they could hang around for a bit after their finishes. I Paddled up to the pontoon i third place. Absolutely knackered, but with a great sense of achievement and was asked If I enjoyed it and would do it again, the answer to both questions was NO!!! However I’m already planning how I can beat my time next year and also thinking about what I could do for my next challenge.

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Me just coming into Fort Agustus at the end of a dark, but pretty epic paddle along Loch Ness

I’d just like to shout out to all the guys, and gal  who completed this epic challenge. Really well done to everyone. It was fantastic that everyone finished and with times they were happy with too.  Bart de Zwart, Jo Hamilton Vale, Tony Bain, Allistair Swinsco, the blind and dangerous Dean Dunbar, Glen Parry (surf Ski) and Tom Wakeford. I actually never met the last two guys as it was a rush in the dark when we set off and I was sparko in a nice warm van when they finished. Sorry guys.

And a big thanks must go our to our support crews, we couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thanks a lot.

Also a big thanks to all those who sponsored me. I have managed to raise over £500 for the Save the Children, Syria emergency fund. Its not too late to add to this great cause if you wish.

Just click on the link below,  or text ‘ISUP97  £2’ to 70070

Just Giving

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Here are the final timings:

Bart De Zwart.   10:50
Joanne Hamilton-Vale. 11:38

Phil Plume. 12:41

Glen Parry (surfski). 13:00

Tony Bain. 13:56

Dean Dunbar 14:47

Allistair Swinsco 14:47

Tom Wakeford 16:38

My stats

 

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SUP: Adam D Short, Paddleboard the Nile – cops, cars and robbers update #2 — SUP Mag UK

We recently caught up with Paddleboard the Nile adventurer Adam D Short to get an update on his adventures. Trust us when we say it’s been ‘colourful’ so far! Adam D Short is, in his own words, a new breed of extreme adventurer and endurance explorer. With several action filled challenges already under his belt, […]

via SUP: Adam D Short, Paddleboard the Nile – cops, cars and robbers update #2 — SUP Mag UK

From Scotland to Syria

socialmediacoverimage_851x315_isup97_1475615569681A couple of weeks ago I committed to complete the Great Glen Challenge. This is a non-stop 97km paddle along the Caledonian Canal, from Fort William to Inverness. I have decided to do this on my Stand-Up-Paddle Board.

Last week I saw a video on social media detailing the events in Aleppo and focusing on the kids caught up in this horrific conflict. It made me feel like I should be doing something to help, but I really didn’t know what I could do, or how I could help.

I have decided to use my paddle to raise awareness of the situation and raise some money in the process, so that the aid is there when the guns stop and the aid workers can get in.

I can’t change the attitudes and views of either side in this conflict, and I don’t really have much to give myself. What I do have however is my health, my freedom, my sense of what is morally right, and some pretty awesome friends.ad_216378309-e1471591939690

I want to make a bit of a competition out of this, and wanted the prize to be something active that the whole family can do together. Some of my friends in the SUP industry have agreed to give up their time to deliver either a SUP lesson, or experience to the winner and their family. These guys are spread around the country, so we should be able to put you in contact with a SUP instructor near you.

All you have to do is have a guesscropped-11892309_10153526752325767_5515932123502360862_o1.jpg on how long you think the challenge will take me to complete, and leave your time as a comment below my ‘Great Glen’ life event on my facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/607826313/posts/10154002225396314/?pnref=story

The winner will be the one closest to my actual time (hours and mins). Entries left after 6am on the 15th October will not be counted. After the event I will contact the person with the closest time. I will require the winner to provide proof of their donation, so please keep your confirmation emails and text. Minimum donation is £2, but please feel free to donate more if you wish. You can also donate by text by texting ISUP97 and the amount ie £2 TO 70070.

Click on the Just giving icon below to donate.

I have chosen to support the Save the Children Syria emergency fund as I believe that this is the best way of getting the money raised to those innocents who need our help.

Thank you!

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

SUP: In full plume – Plume family SUP profile

Great article on my family from UK SUP Magazine. Thanks Guys.

SUP Mag UK

Interview: SUP Mag UK

Pics: Phil Plume, SUP Armada, Georgia Wharton

Phil Plume is husband, dad and regular fixture at stand up paddle board races around the coast. Fanatic supported, his family is made up of three offspring and one long suffering wife. The kids are regularly in the water, paddling, surfing and having fun. We caught up with the Plumes to get the lowdown on their SUP antics.

Where’s home and your local SUP put in?

All – Home is about 30 mins from the coast in Midhurst. Local SUP put ins are Bracklesham Bay, Pagham and West Wittering in West Sussex on the south coast of England.

Tell us how you all discovered stand up paddle boarding?

Jack – Dad

Alfie – Dad

Sophie – Dad

Phil – I became aware of it in the early days as I am also a windsurfer. I discovered an old stand…

View original post 2,301 more words

SUP Armada 2016

They say that your perception of time is directly linked to the number of memories you are making. A day that creates lots of new memories flashes by at the time, but when re-run as a memory seems to have lasted for ever!  This means that the key to living a long fulfilling life is the creation of memories.

Last weekend the kids and I attended, and I was involved in organising, the 2016 SUP Armada. A memory generation machine!

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UK SUP Clubs race series

SUP Armada is the brain child of Dan Charlish, and was born in 2014 out of the despair of a windless weekend on the pre-existing kitesurf Armada.  The key idea of the Armada is to break the Guinness World Record for the longest parade of paddle boarders over a 1 mile course, while raising loads of cash for the Armada’s charitable trust. This year was an evolution of the format to include Racing, Yoga, Trade show, tasters and onsite camping. It also happened to coincide with a weekend of amazing weather.  The 2016 event also included a change of venue to the beautiful Bewl Water in Kent, a man made and very picturesque lake on the Kent Sussex border. Bewl has fantastic facilities, complete with adventure playgrounds,  cafe, and a perfectly formed beach and lawned area from which to stage the racing and other events.

I was asked by Dan to get involved in the racing element of the Armada by acting as race Director to stage 4 of the UK SUP Clubs race series, which would be held at the event. I have only done this once before with a handful of competitors, so stepping up to manage over 60 racers, with series points at stake had the memory generation equipment in overdrive. The planning before the event paid dividends, with both the 6km technical and 1km sprint races running bang on schedule and like clockwork.

Aside from the  UK SUP Clubs racing,  many new paddlers took the opportunity to try out paddle boarding  with SUP taster sessions run in the safe waters just to the left of the race area. Teams of between 6 and 8 took on the megaboard challenge racing together around a short course with no rules on which way to turn around the marker buoy; cue the carnage and smiles.  All the while SUP yoga sessions were taking place just off the beach using Fanatic’s awesome Fly Air Fit platform.

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Red Paddle Junior racing

The Red Paddle Junior racing was a highlight of the day. The future of UK SUP racing battling it out in front of the crowds for honours in the age categories  under 10, under 12 and under 14. It wasn’t all about racing for the kids though. In fact kids of all ages, including my own, just had a ball playing in the water, on boards and in Bewl’s fantastic playgrounds.

All the while recreational paddle boarders were just having fun paddling around, having fun and soaking up he atmosphere, as well as a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

At 15:00 the main event started, boards were queued up on the beach and paddlers waited patiently for their chance to break a Guinness World Record. Super mario bros, Iron Man and a number of assorted caped individuals were spotted paddling. With some great scenes of comradery  as more proficient paddlers helped  others around the 1 mile course; and the result? well we did it! We broke the Guinness World Record for the Longest Parade of Paddleboarders with 390 paddlers, beating the previous record by 97! What a result!!

So the time had come to pack up the Sup village, light the BBQ, or retire to the bar to enjoy a cold one, while watching the last few paddlers enjoying a sunset SUP across the lake. This is the stuff that memories are made of.

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Armada Movie

SUP Armada Website

UK SUP Website

Georgia Wharton Photography

 

 

 

 

The Race Season Begins

Well here it is! The start of the 2016 SUP race season! and what a baptism of fire.

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The SUP Company Hayling Island SUP Challenge takes place every year on Hayling Island in Hampsire on the south coast of England. For those unfamiliar the Island is situated between the two Harbour’s of Chichester and Langston. Check it out here.  Google Maps

The race has a long history in the windsurfing world.  First staged in 1980 entrants numbered in the hundreds in the races heydays. In recent years the event has seen the inclusion of Open Canoes (OC1) and (OC6) and of course Stand Up Paddle Boards. This year there were 3 categories to challenge all comers.

Round Hayling Island with Starboard SUP UK & Ireland – 14 miles
The Bridge and Back with Red Paddle Co – 9 miles
The SUP Company Fun Challenge – 4 miles

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I will be writing about my experience of the Round Hayling Island Race.  A real challenge! a full 14 miles of grind around the island. What makes this race so challenging is not the distance, its the variety of tidal and weather conditions experienced along the way. The 2016 edition held on good Friday was no exception.

The day dawned bright with a brisk northerly wind. The forecast was for the wind lessen to a light breeze coinciding with the race start, before swinging  around through the west to a southerly flow and then strengthening again into the afternoon. As the competitors prepared and attended the pre-race briefing, all eyes were on the wind. would it drop??

 

As the SUP start time neared I headed out into the choppy waters on my 14′ Fanatic Falcon. The OC’s and then then the windsurfers departed on their races. So now it was time!Just a minute to go! The wind had dropped a little, but nowhere near the predicted speed. Final manoeuvres were made, GPS watches started and everyone lined up along the start line. The green flag dropped and we were off!
I got off to a excellent start and paddled into a good position in the lead pack. We soon opened up a lead on the rest of the field while jostling for position. The paddle up to the bridge was pretty comfortable as the wind had switched around to the west providing shelter in the lee of the island. I passed under the bridge in fourth place. Paul Simmons (Starboard) had taken the lead by this point, being chased by Mark Slater (Fanatic) in second and Tim Harley (JP) in third.

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As we rounded the northern tip of the island and into Langston harbour. The trick here is to stay in the channel and use the outgoing tide to boost your paddling speed. Local knowledge is what pays dividends here, and I started to gain on the lead three. The paddle down Langston was a slog and by this time the wind had swung around a little more so were were still paddling head on into it.

The Ferry bridge Inn marks the entrance to Langstone harbour and the western end of the island. The outgoing tide at this point gave us all a welcome boost, and I was within striking distance of the top three.  The Ferry point lulls the paddler into a false sense of security, thoughts of ‘almost there’ and ‘nearly done’ race through the mind; however the seafront is often the hardest leg of the circumnavigation and at around 7km, accounts for one third of the total distance. As we rounded the point we were met by waist to chest high waves breaking on the bar. This meant a paddle out wide to avoid the worst of it. Even though I avoided the break, paddling sideways across the swell was a challenge in its-self.

I think I can safely speak for every paddler, when I say that the sea front was the most challenging part of the race. The wind was now bolt onshore, not too strong, but just enough to kick up an evil short period wind chop and require constant paddling on the left. This was combined with a small ground swell and backwash off the beach, confusing the sea state even further.  It was at this point that I regretted the decision to paddle in  shorts and rashy. This was great on the harbours as it stopped me overheating, but resulted is a few chilly dips into the brine.  Fatigue and mild hypothermia began to set it, but I wasn’t alone. I could see Mark and Tim also taking dips just ahead of me, Paul on the other hand was storming it and increasing his lead with every stroke.

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As we progressed along the front Paul and Mark started to pull away from Tim and I.  Marie Buchanan (Starboard) who was sitting in 5th started to close the gap behind me. By this point I was really struggling and a final plunge into the water made the muscles across the top of my back, forearms and calves cramp up. This really slowed my progress and Marie managed to overtake me just as we turned back into Chichester harbour and the home straight. Here I managed to catch a few rides from the swell pushing up the channel. Then a final push up against the tide to the finish line outside Hayling Island Sailing Club In a well earned 5th Place.

This is a great race Thanks to The SUP Company, Sail Racer and Hayling Island Sailing Club for an awesome, well organised Event. Congratulations to all who took part, and to those who made the podium.

The Round Hayling Challenge is a great race, and a great personal challenge for those brave enough to take it on; however as I stated at the top. This is a very challenging race, at a time of year when clothing choices are difficult due to the strength of the sun and temperature of the water. I Personally took two hours to fully warm up and I know of one other experienced paddler who was in the early stages of hypothermia and had to be rescued. Be careful out there guys. Anyone can get caught out.

 

Thanks to my sponsors Cave Active Fanatic ION K66

Thanks to The SUP Company and Sail Racer for race organisation and photos

Its Downwind Season!!!

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Stand Up Paddle boarding is seen by many as a fair weather sport, something for when the wind is slight and the sun is beaming. However there is a growing band of SUPers in the UK who are getting their thrills from taking their boards out in conditions that are normally the domain of windsurfers and kite surfers.

Downwinding is basically the art of paddling down wind; a concept that many of you will be familiar with. Lets face it, paddling down wind (with the wind on your back) is the preferred direction for most. How many really enjoy that upwind slog?????  The Idea is to surf the wind-generated swell connecting the bumps as you go.

There are different degrees of down winding, ranging from the leisurely ‘drift back down wind after a cruise’, to exhilarating balls to the wall surfing of ocean swells in strong winds. Downwinding  is open to anyone, you just have to be sensible about your own capabilities, equipment and level of support.

The UK can have some pretty awesome downwind conditions. You don’t have to jet off to Maui and you don’t even have to paddle exposed coastal stretches, as this Inland downwind edit from Charlie Grey, shot just a couple of weeks ago, proves.

Safety 

Safety in Down-winding is paramount. Don’t underestimate the power of the ocean especially when combined with strong winds. If you get this wrong you could get into trouble very quickly.

Here are my golden rules for downwinding.

  1. Always wear a leash!!!! and ensure it is securely attached  to your board. This is so important! Your board is your flotation and your leash your life line. Never paddle without it! It is all too easy for you to get separated from your board and if that happens you are in a world of trouble.
  2. Paddle with friends who are experienced paddlers. Find a group and tag along. They will be able to advise you on conditions suitable to your skill level and support you along the way.
  3. If you don’t think you can handle it, don’t go out! Remember the conditions never look as rough from land as they do from the water.
  4. Understand the route you are taking. Where are the put in and take out points? is there anywhere you can stop and rest if you need to, or be extracted in case of emergency. What are the tides doing and will they help or hinder you if you get into trouble?  There are plenty of  awesome inland routes for those who are new to downwinding, or if the conditions on the sea are too full on.
  5. Consider the use of a  Personal Flotation Device (PFD) this could be a life saver.
  6. Make sure you are hydrated and fueled and if its a long trip take more along with you. Don’t underestimate how tiring downwind paddling can be. The instability of the board combined with sprint paddling to catch the next swell can be draining.
  7. Make sure someone knows where you are, what you are doing and when to expect you back.
  8. Dress appropriately a wetsuit or dry suit should be considered for down-winding in the UK.

The Board

Any  board over the 11ft mark can be good for downwinding.  Although to really get the best performance a longer all-round race or touring board would be the way to go. Flatter  rockered boards may be more prone to ‘pearling’, when the nose dives under water. The longer boards will make it easier to catch those swells and if you really catch the Downwind bug,  specific down wind boards are available.

Technique

The clip bellow is a pretty cool, on-board clip containing some easy to understand tips to improve your downwinding skills

So now you know where to paddle, who to paddle with and how to paddle safely; so what are you waiting for?

Escape Your Cave and give it a go!!!

Don’t forget to post pictures and video to Facebook and Instagram with the #escapeyourcave

And Click on Here to view the Cave Active Store