With a thriving SUP scene and participation numbers increasing exponentially and showing no sign of slowing down, there’s a thirst for discovering what type of paddling you can experience around the country. But what can you expect if you decide to hit up this ‘green and pleasant land’ for a spot of sweeping? With staycation 2021 being more or less decided for most here’s a general view of the four corners of the UK.
Cornwall and Devon paddles
Cornwall and Devon – also referred to as the South West (although some include South Wales in this) – is known as surfer country as most will be aware. That’s not to say there aren’t waves elsewhere in the UK but it’s the South West that’s a consistent draw for those seeking Atlantic juice.
Cliffy postcard esque coastline and white sandy beaches to rival anywhere in the world (on their day) are what keep riders coming back time and again. Bubblegum blue water and consistent waves only add to the mix. That said Cornwall and Devon aren’t as popular for stand up paddling boarding as you’d think – at least not at exposed wave venues. Traditional style surfers in the land of pasties still outnumber SUPers, although there are pockets where you’ll find a few. Stand up paddlers are more likely to be found on the estuaries, inlets and sheltered spots in this neck of the woods.
South (English Channel) coast
The UK’s south coast is where the biggest build up of SUPers can be found. While this varied coast gets its fair share of swell pushing up the English Channel in winter it’s more hit and miss during high season months. Some classic set ups perfect for SUP surfing do exist though – seek and ye shall find.
Further east a bunch of different sand bar style set ups offering great flat water sweeping when the swell goes AWOL whereas a plethora of inland waterways lie close to the coast with rivers, canals and tributaries offering options. London, which isn’t too far away, has a large contingent of stand up paddlers with many clubs, school and SUP instructors being based around the capital or not too far away.
North Sea venues
When dartboard low pressure systems spin above Scotland the amount of world class surf reefs (with a healthy number of quality beachies in the mix) the North Sea has makes it a cold but stoke inducing SUP surfing playground. During recent years stand up paddling has gained traction with increasing numbers hitting up chilly North Sea venues, although numbers still aren’t high. Headline venues may have th elion’s share of paddlers but you’ll still find a quiet spot if you look.
There are no two ways about: the North Sea lacks when it comes to warmth levels due to the absence of the Gulf Stream. But what’s missing in terms of thermometer readings is made up by sheer stoke from those who regularly paddle. And it isn’t just sea venues either. Quality white water put ins are available up north as well as more mellow spots for those beginning and progressing.
Scotland’s SUP offerings are vast and diverse with conditions ranging from gnarly reefs, mellow beachies and breath taking loch/river paddling. The white water SUP choices are also pretty bang on! Some of the outlying islands – Hebrides and Shetland – host truly world class waves, many of which go unridden and/or are yet to be discovered, all with breath taking backdrops and vistas.
If you fancy hitting Scotland then it’s worth having back up plans in place. Mother Nature’s effects can be harsh – especially during winter. But if you score decent stand up paddle boarding then it’ll be all the sweeter. Scotland’s mountain flanked lochs are particular highlights. There’s nothing quite like paddling under wintry snowy peaks with reflections bouncing off gin clear water below.
North West paddling
The North West is predominantly a flat water area – at least at the coast. Offshore islands and Eire’s ‘shadow’ means there’s very little ground swell making its way onto beaches here although occasionally a pulse does sneak up. But who needs this when you have such fantastic flat water/touring venues like the Lake District? Cumbria’s Lakes region is synonymous with outdoor lifestyle and SUP is just another way to experience this wild and beautiful area and glimpse what Wordsworth once viewed. Some coastal venues do offer quality downwind when weather conditions align and North Wales isn’t that far for wave action.
North and South Wales put ins
Both North and South Wales (at least west facing beaches) receive their fair share of swell – more regularly during the off season. More southerly locations are the most efficient swell magnets although further north does deliver the goods at certain times of the year as well.
Wales is famed for its white water river venues. Having once been the proving ground to many a kayaker North Wales has a host of spots, ranging in levels of difficulty. Summer can be hit and miss, with less rainfall (although this is Wales so you never can tell), whereas winter will have pumping volumes of WW more often than not. There’s also Surf Snowdonia, Europe’s first manmade wave park that can be fun to check out and is SUP friendly.
Northern Ireland options
Northern Ireland has two distinct coastal types (more or less). The Irish Sea side is predominantly a flat water/downwind location (although wind swells can be rideable at times). Beaches facing north receive pumping swells as depressions track in from the Atlantic. Some of the beaches in this ‘hood are also truly stunning.
We’re sure you’ll find plenty of SUP fun to keep you entertained in NI. And if it’s not happening then there’s always Guinness…
For more SUP travel related articles and guides head over the McConks Bitesize Travel section –