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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Abingdon-on-Thames river tributary, Oxfordshire.

Location:

Abingdon-on-Thames river tributary, Oxfordshire.

Spot type:

Inland, sheltered tributary of the Thames with a small weir running under a bridge.

Conditions:

A low to medium flow river spot with a small standing wave that’s created as the water cascade down an incline under a ye olde bridge. For anyone looking to get into white water SUP this is a spot that’s perfect for those first steps.

Hazards:

The river is shallow right next to bridge with the bottom being only mm deep where the flow tumbles under the stones. There’s a slight bit of tow back caused by recirculating water but ultimately you will get spat out downstream. Some overhanging tree branches and river shrubbery need to be avoided. The trail leading to the put in is nettle filled and overgrown so booties a must!

Access:

Access to this small nook off the main River Thames is via tiny siding where you can park up. There not much room for more than three cars and with plenty of ramblers/walkers using the trail you don’t want to box anyone in so park coutesously.

Popularity (1-10):

White water river SUP is still very under radar so you’ll mostly be paddling here alone or if you run into UK WW SUP pioneer Dave Adams (aka Wavecloud) you could have company. This is his spot, as it were, but Dave’s friendly and will be happy to show you the ropes.

Amenities:

No amenities on site but there’s a small village back along the main road and Oxford itself isn’t too far away. Should you get into difficulties, however, you need to have a backup paln.

Overview:

Proper medieval middle England this Thames River tributary in Abingdon is a secluded hideaway for SUPers who enjoy peace and quiet. There’re a multitude of other put ins around the area, from flat water to full on high volume whitewater when flows are high. This mellow standing wave is caused by water flowing under a bridge and creating a hydraulic at the bottom. There’s an eddy off to the right where you can take a breather and another across on the opposite bank. Water current boosts straight downstream so whilst the standing wave itself is pretty safe you’ll still end up going for a float should you wipeout. For anyone looking to up their stand up paddle board game and try a bit of river surfing, however, this is a great location to dabble a blade and check it out. You may become addicted…

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.

Location:

Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

Spot type:

Open water, tidal reef spot with two very distinct faces depending on wave conditions.

Conditions:

When there’s zero to little ground swell (or low winds) Freshwater Bay offers a dramatic flat water SUP location where paddlers can get lost looking down into clear water’s at the rocky bottom below. The bay’s iconic rock stack to the left, makes Freshwater instantly recognisable. With solid swell in the mix Fresh turns into one of the best right hand point breaks on the south coast – but not for the inexperienced. The high tide shore dump alone is pretty hefty!

Hazards:

Rocks, reef and sharp bits generally epitomise the Freshwater Bay paddling experience. When it’s calm and still there’s no issue, however. Just be aware if attempting to surf here. Know where there juts of hard lumps are as you’ll be taking waves in close proximity. Rips can be a hassle as can a packed line up when there’s surf, with a small take off, which only add to the fun. Waves do also break off the foot of Freshy’s stack but it’s even shallower here at certain states of tide with some rock heads sucking dry. Boats also command access so watch out.

Access:

Parking is directly across the road from the beach and is pretty standard fayre. It’s then an easy hop and skip until you end up on the fine shingle.  

Popularity (1-10):

As a general beach Freshwater Bay isn’t that popular as it goes. It does get visitors but even during high season the main bulk of those on the sand/shingle are locals. If there’s surf the water can get busy.

Amenities:

Back into Freshwater village you’ll find a supermarket and other assorted shops, restaurants and pubs. There’s plenty within striking distance as this is a small island after all. In fact, heading back to the Isle of Wight’s capital Newport is fairly rapid. Toilet facilities, a hotel and a selection of other accommodations are available at Freshwater Bay itself.

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Overview:

Freshwater Bay really is a chameleon spot. When a solid groundswell pulses up the English Channel Freshy’s geography means it’s a spot that picks up a large helping of all that juice. Usually in winter you’ll get some days which are pretty serious. Overhead waves reel down the reef quick smart making for an exhilarating ride and/or some decent beatings. If riding reef isn’t your bag then steer clear. The shore pound at the very least will make entry and exits ‘fun’. During calmer periods Freshwater Bay is an excellent touring spot that gives some dramatic vistas from the water. The cliffs to the right, which if you continue along will lead you to The Needles, or Freshy’s iconic stack, leading to the ever popular Compton beach further along the coast make Freshwater Bay a good place to begin your journey –  know the lie of the land, tide times and weathr conditions if you plan on long distance paddling though. An abundance of put in options are to be found all along the Isle of Wight’s coastline, depending what you’re after and your skill level.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Harlyn Bay, Cornwall.

Location:

Harlyn Bay, Cornwall

Spot type:

North facing, open water, tidal location with plenty of wave action.

Conditions:

Harlyn’s geography means it doesn’t pick up the same amount of swell as more westerly facing beaches surrounding. This is both a blessing and a curse. When swell’s small, it’s pretty titchy, which mightn’t be that attractive to the hardened wave warrior. If the rest of the surrounding Cornish gets huge and blow out, however, Harlyn really comes into its own offering shelter and offshores with some seriously punchy walls. The issue is every man and his dog knows this and surfers head to Harlyn from miles around when their local is a whitewashed mess. It’s a rippy, hollow and heavy wave over 2ft but the paddle out can often be dry hair and short.

Hazards:

There’s a small river ever flowing into the sea which you’ll need to navigate to actually access the main beach. A few rocks dot the shoreline that need to be taken into account. And the rips Harlyn can throw up are worth keeping in mind. With a decent swell the wave can be sucky, punchy and heavy resembling in some instances a shore dump rather than a wave. It’ll snap boards easily. Other water users need to be kept clear of during busy times.

Access:

Parking is either in the main car park next to Harlyn or across the small country lane in the adjacent field. It gets rammed in summer so be there early if you’re planning a trip during silly season. Both car parks can also be muddy if it’s been raining.

Popularity (1-10):

When the surf’s big and blown out at W facing beaches there’ll be every surfer from miles around making a beeline for Harlyn. And in summer, during warmer weather and school holidays, you’ll never be alone. Out of season on smaller swells it’s a lot more peaceful and mellow with fewer people on the beach and in the water.

Amenities:

The Harlyn Inn is right across the country road from Harlyn’s main beach and access point. It offers food and beverage choices with a number of rooms to make use of. There’s an attached beach shop and toilet facilities. Padstow is a short drive away where you’ll find abundant shops, eateries and every other kind of convenience you need. In the opposite direction is Constantine (another popular North Cornwall surfing haunt) with its own microcosm of amenities.

Overview:

Harlyn Bay is an idyllic white sand beach that typifies the North Cornwall experience. Its azure coloured water, that glistens on sunny days, are begging you to get wet. And during a large part of the season Harlyn offers small to medium, mellow sized waves. When swells ramp up, however, Harlyn can be a fast and challenging spot that delivers a punch in the face close out or fast gunny wall to carve a few turns on. If it’s big and blowy out west then here’s where you’ll find shelter and an offshore. But everyone knows this and therefore Harlyn can get crowded out. There are a few other possibly quieter options in the vicinity, not that far away, but quality of wave can sometimes be lacking. That said Harlyn can be a dream SUP set up when it works and is definitely worth a look. The vibe of the place during quieter periods resemble a throwback to those lost, innocent times before smart phones and surf forecasting websites were a thing. And if you luck out with a flat, calm, windless weather window then SUP touring options can be idyllic.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Widemouth Bay, Bude, Cornwall.

Location:

Widemouth Bay, Bude, Cornwall

Spot type:

Open water, tidal location featuring small to large surf depending on conditions.

Conditions:

Widemouth Bay is an Atlantic facing spot so expect sizable waves at times with the odd day of completely flat water conditions. It’s an exposed beach that has a variety of features making for a changing picture through the tide cycle.

Hazards:

Widemouth Bay isn’t that big a beach really, and is in fact made up of a few different areas – mainly rocky (apart from the actual sandy beach itself) from left to right. The rocks are typically Cornish in geology – slanted scars cut from years of storm, surf and water activity jutting out to sea. In places small stacks of rock vault skywards, the largest and most imposing of which is Black Rock which protrudes to the left – you can’t miss it. Rips can occur at any time but tend to be at their strongest around low water. Other water users can make Widemouth a particularly busy location. The other thing to be aware of is possible landslides if you take a walk along beach around the Black Rock area where the cliffs hem in closer to the beach.

Access:

Widemouth boasts easy access via the main car park just off the coast road. It’s then a short hop down the steps to the water’s edge. At low tide it can be a trek with heavy SUPs, however – this is Cornwall after all.

Popularity (1-10):

Popularity of Widemouth Bay can vary greatly, depending how in favour the beach is. Obviously, with good surf in the mix, you’ll get a crowd. Being a stone’s throw from Bude town means there’s a large local contingent of surfers all frothing for a wave or three. Plus, Widemouth itself (considering its small village feel) has a large crew of wave riders living in close proximity. And a number of surf schools use the beach for lessons during high season.

Amenities:

A couple of cafes and beach shops can be found right on the beach at Widemouth, as can public toilet facilities. There are a few accommodation options dotted along the coast road for anyone wanting to stay right at the spot. Back into Bude you’ll find plenty of pubs, nightclubs, restaurants cafes, fish ‘n’ chip shops, takeaways and surf shops. Bude also has two other town beaches – Crooklets and Summerleaze – as well as a placid canal and river with some flow, both of which can also be good for a spot of SUP.

Overview:

Being so close to Bude you’d expect Widemouth to be a super popular spot. And whilst that’s certainly true at times you may luck out and score the place on a much quieter day. Widemouth seems to ebb and flow in popularity like the tide. The beach itself is mostly sand with a few scattered pebbles at high water. It’s worth scoping the place at low tide, however, to identify where the rocks/reef are. Dominated by the imposing Black Rock stack to the left these reefs are actually ridable (for the experienced) at the right stage of tide. In fact, Wanson, as far left as you can go (under the cliff with the Outdoor Adventure Centre perched atop) can be world class on its day. But not for the feint hearted. Widemouth’s wave, in contrast, is much mellower – fatter at high tide and slightly hollower at low. The whitewater on big days can be intimidating and a mission to get through. It might be worth sitting it out when conditions like this materialise. If the sea goes flat then a few touring routes are there for the taking, the most obvious being along the (mostly inaccessible by foot) cliffs back towards Bude. And further afield you’ll discover a whole load more options, from reef to beach, that work on a variety of swell, tide and wind conditions.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Croyde Bay, North Devon.

Location:

Croyde, North Devon

Spot type:

Open ocean location with plenty of surf to keep everyone occupied.

Conditions:

Mostly, Croyde is surf venue, although it does have flat days (particularly during summer) that can be good for touring and recreational SUP.

Hazards:

Low tide sees the waves of any size dump on the numerous sand back. These can be sand dredging lumps of water that’ll easily pile drive you and your board into the seabed. When Croyde shows size this only increases. Experience barrel hunters relish it. During summer Croyde can be an absolute zoo when the sun’s out. Some rocks at either end and rips aplenty.

Access:

Getting to the water at Croyde is pretty simple. You have the main carpark at one end with numerous access points for walking across the sand dunes.

Popularity (1-10):

10 in high summer, 8 if the surf’s good (whatever time of year), 2-3 at other times.

Amenities:

There’s plenty of eating/drinking options with an onsite café, toilets and changing facilities (paid for). A camp site can be found just back from the beach whilst in the village you’ll discover The Thatch and Billy Budd’s pubs, both next door to one another. Plus, surf shops, pasty outlets, souvenir places and so on. Surrounding the beach beach you’ll find a plethora of self catering accommodation with high season prices that sky rocket. Out into the sticks has a few small hotels and less pricey room lets.

Overview:

Croyde’s reputation for low tide barrels is renowned. With solid swell heavy waves unload ferociously onto the sand bars dotted just beneath the water’s surface. Up to around 3ft is doable for most with experience, although even at that size you’ll easily get taken out by Neptune’s power. It’s quite possible to snap a stand up paddle board if you’re not paying attention. Add to the mix a frothing local pack of hungry surfers, mostly over any type of crowds, and it can all be a bit daunting. Yet this doesn’t stop every man and his dog from making a beeline for Croyde in high season. During summer all manner of craft can be afloat and the water gets quite hectic. It’s usually best to indulge in early or late sessions for the most peaceful experience. For many Croyde is a quintessential surfing town, not unlike its southern cousin Newquay. Whilst it doesn’t have quite the hedonistic rep, or back ti back shops, pubs and bars of the former Croyde’s two local pubs – The Thatch and Billy Buds – can serve up some spirited nightlife to say the least. Especially after little one’s bedtime hour has past. On hot days the whole of North Devon can get packed out which may test some people’s patience. Narrow roads in some parts aren’t for the faint hearted. Saunton, around the corner back towards Braunton, can offer respite from Croyde’s full on vibe. That said, score classic low tide Croyde, snag one of the epic kegs and you’ll be bitten by the Croyde bug for life no doubt! On flatter days grab a touring SUP and head out to Baggy Point for some exploring. Just watch out for currents and a change in weather.

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5 of the best places to SUP in the UK.

Before we get jumped all over this isn’t THE best 5 places to SUP instead it’s more of a selection of what’s available. Lists like these are always subjective. One paddler’s honey is another’s Marmite. Everyone has an opinion and opinions differ based on circumstance, criteria and a whole host of other factors. The list below, however, will have something in it that’ll prick the interests of many. You may not agree with all but we’re sure you’ll discover a location that you fancy tackling…

Where would you add?

Marazion, Mounts Bay, Cornwall

Being a south-west Cornwall spot Marazion can serve up all manner of SUP kinds conditions; from waves to flat water, choppy to blustery. Whilst it doesn’t face the same direction as its north coast siblings, and therefore pick up the same amount of swell, there’s still potential for a spot of SUP surfing if that’s your bag. Alternatively, and often during the summer months, Mazza (as the locals call it) can be flat. With the iconic St. Michael’s Mount off to the left and Penzance to the right it’s a top SUP touring spot that on a windless, sunny day can resemble a more exotic location. Access is easy, with parking right next to the put in. At low tide it has more expose sand which can be good for families.

The Lake District, Cumbria

The Lakes hardly need introduction, such is their reputation for awe-inspiring mountain vistas and elongated waterways plunged at the foot those troughs and valleys. Walkers, climbers and bikers are well acquainted with this spot but in recent years SUP has been accepted onto some of the lakes. Being a sheltered area there can be blissful, windless days, although weather can still be changeable and exposed corners blustery as strong gusts sweep down steep fells. Still, if you want to experience Wordsworth’s land then from atop a SUP couldn’t be better. Ullswater, in particular, should be on your list.

The Broads, Norfolk/Suffolk

Formed after flooding peat workings The Broads is a (mostly) navigable set of lakes and canals that straddle both counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Offering idyllic flat water touring SUP conditions The Broads is a national park punctuated every so often by historic windmill pump stations erected to keep water levels static. For paddlers there’s miles of water to either meander along in mellow fashion or, for those with inclination, put the hammer down. It should be noted that at certain times of year some stretches do have restrictions so check before launching.

Seven Sisters, East Sussex

Formed out of white chalk cliffs East Sussex’s Seven Sisters are the iconic ends of the South Down’s where many a TV and film crew have pointed their camera (Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood had scenes filmed here). Whether you’re after open water tidal paddling, or more sheltered conditions (found at Cuckmere Valley) you’ll be well served. Staring up at the towering cliffs is jaw dropping out at sea whilst meandering along the Cuckmere River is a rather more chilled out affair.

Tiree, Hebrides, Scotland

During bouts of good weather, with sunshine in the mix (which can often be the case in Tiree as one of the brightest locations in the UK), Tiree’s beaches and lapping Atlantic water resemble a more Tropical destination. The small Hebridean island attracts all manner of watersports enthusiasts with its diverse set of conditions. From BIG waves to more mellow surf and even flat water it’s a location that begs you to put in with your SUP. The overall ambience of Tiree, with its small population, makes the whole island very chilled indeed. Nervous newbies will also find a small sheltered lake for taking those first steps.

For more SUP travel location suggestions and info don’t forget to check out the McConks Bitesize Travel Guides.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Esso Beach (Langstone Harbour oyster beds), Hayling Island, Hampshire.

Location:

Esso Beach (Langstone Harbour oyster beds), Hayling Island, Hampshire.

Spot type:

Sheltered harbour, tidal location.

Conditions:

Smooth glassy water at times (sheltered in NE – SE winds), super windy, choppy seas in a blow.

Hazards:

Strong tides, rocks and stones under foot, other water users (windsurfers).

Access:

Easy access with a car park (paid) right next to the put in, pollution at times (especially after heavy rain).

Popularity (1-10):

7.

Amenities:

Esso petrol station behind the launch which is a 2 min walk. Free parking. The Hayling Billy track (a now defunct historic railway route), which Esso beach’s car park is part of, offers decent flat land cycling for those inclined.

Overview:

As with Hayling’s seafront West Beachlands location its primary harbour spot, Esso Beach, is a popular haunt for windsurfers being slightly more sheltered and not have any significant shore break. Esso Beach gets its nickname because of the Esso petrol station located just behind the launch. Low tide dries out with paddling opportunities showing around 2.5hrs before high water. Depending whether spring or neap ties may give an additional half hour window or so for getting afloat. If tides drop and catch you out you may end up with a muddy walk back to the beach. Conditions are Mother Nature dependant but Esso can be nor forgiving than the seafront, although it can still be a rough ride in a blow. It’s a good location for beginners with a shingle spit, lying a few yards off the beach giving additional protection. At either end the coast curves and makes Esso more like a lagoon which can inspire confidence also. Anyone not used to rocky a seabed will need to wear appropriate paddling footwear to protect against cuts and bruises. For anyone fancying a spot of touring SUP it can be a good launch spot, particularly for experienced paddlers used to using tides to aid their journey.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Whitesands Bay, St. Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Location:

Whitesands Bay, St. Davids, Pembrokeshire< wales

Spot type:

Open ocean, Atlantic facing sandy beach exposed to all weather types swinging in from the west.

Conditions:

Whitesands Bay is mostly a surfing beach but as with other wave spots it can go flat if there’s a lack of Atlantic swell action. It’s a spot described as the best surfing beach in all of Pembrokeshire, although that’s more to do with accessibility for all levels.

Hazards:

Rips can occur when there’s surf pulsing in with general open beach current also in affect. Waves can sometimes be heavy as they close out and dump on shallow sand bars or the beach itself. Some rocks need to be heeded and during summer other water users. It gets busy!

Access:

Whitesands Bay has easy access from the main car park but as mentioned above it gets rammed during high season.

Popularity (1-10):

10+ in summer dropping to 1-2 in winter.

Amenities:

There’s a shop/café and public toilets onsite as you walk down to the sand. If you head back in the UK’s smallest city – St. Davids – there are a few eateries, pubs and restaurants plus shops and such. Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire’s main county town, is a few miles back east and has more in the way of nightlife if you’re after that.

Overview:

Pembrokeshire is truly the Wild West for many. Being that much further on, and therefore longer to get to than The Gower Peninsula, Whitesands Bay just outside St. Davids is pretty much on the fringe. That said it gets super busy during summer with all manner of water going craft afloat. If the surf’s smaller you can guarantee it’ll be rammed. Add sunshine to the mix and it becomes more so. On quieter days it can be a good SUP surfing spot for some mellow riding. The waves aren’t super hardcore although they do tend to dump a little. A rip at the northern end can help riders get out on bigger days, if you know what you’re doing. This is where the best wave in the bay breaks. But be aware, local surfers tend to flock on good conditions. To the left of Whitesands Bay is Ramsey Island. This is where the notorious tidal race – called The Bitches – forms. Kayakers have been doing battle with this natural, tidal phenomena for years. Of late stand up paddlers have also tested their mettle. BUT, it’s not for the inexperienced and is best undertaken with safety cover.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Langstone, Chichester Harbour (north), Hampshire.

Location:

Langstone, Chichester Harbour (north), Hampshire

Spot type:

Tidal harbour that separates the mainland (Langstone) and Hayling Island. At low water the whole area becomes one big mud flat whereas at high you’ll discover blissful touring SUP conditions, with the right weather in the mix. Sometimes the downwinding can be good on an incoming tide coming from the Langstone Harbour side (west).

Conditions:

With light winds Chichester Harbour, across from Langstone to Hayling Island’s northern tip (Northney) and east towards Emsworth, can be a paddler’s dream. Glassy waters allow seabed gazing and there’s usually plenty of wildlife to observe. Sunrise and sunset paddles can be especially idyllic. The bridge across to Hayling can also be fun to float beneath, as long as you’re careful.

Hazards:

Shallow water, even at high tide, can sometimes be an issue as it never really gets that deep. Numerous wrecks dot the seabed and are worth keeping your distance from. Shellfish pots, and associated boat warps can cause tangles. As can mooring buoys with their tethered craft, which are abundant during summer months. Watch out for swans as well which can sometimes become territorial!

Access:

Put ins can be found both on the Langstone and Hayling sides although Langstone’s shore can offer easier access. If this is your choice, park next to the ever popular Ship Inn and launch from either the public slipway or next to the barrier. Be aware the car park gets very busy with customers of the Ship, other paddlers and people enjoying the general ambience. If it’s a particularly warm, sunny day you may not find a parking space at all. You could always try Langstone High Street (which isn’t as grandiose as its title suggests). This will lead you down towards the Royal Oak pub (another popular ale house) and an easy put in. Parking, however, can also be tricky here too. You can leave your vehicle in the main road layby and walk along the high street. Alternatively head across to Hayling, turn left along Northney Road, and drop your board in from here. You may also choose the car park within Northney Marina that leads to Northney slipway. This is the quietest launch spot although the marina can be gated and locked at certain times of the day.

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Popularity (1-10):

8.

Amenities:

As mentioned quayside locations of the Ship Inn and the Royal Oak offer spectacular views across the harbour for a post-SUP pint. Both have fully serviced restaurants that dish up typical pub fare. Being extremely popular means you may have to reserve a table during the busiest periods.  Public toilets can also be found next to the Ship. On the Hayling side you’ll find a large petrol station that also has a small convenience store, Subway and Costa. Carry on towards Langston Quays Hotel, into the marina compound, and there’s the Salt Shack Café where you’ll be able to purchase coffee, cakes, savouries and soft drinks. Langstone Hotel itself does operate a bistro open to the public. But you’ll need to spruce up if you want to nosh here.

Overview:

This part of Chichester Harbour can be extremely good for lazy paddling. With light winds and glassy waters meandering about atop a SUP ensures there’s plenty to see. Observing the crowds of Ship Inn/Royal Oak pub goers can be a nice way to people watch – just don’t fall off in front of the gallery! Next to the Royal Oak you’ll find the iconic old mill with a submerged wreck lying just beneath the water’s surface in front to scope out. A number of raised mud bank islands protrude from the depths that can have various forms of wildlife – seabirds for instance – roosting at times. The Hayling bridge can be worth a float beneath, but watch out for hitting its concrete pillars. If you keep going east you’ll eventually come to Emsworth where you’ll be able to stop for refreshments, whilst further along still is Thorney Island and round into Chichester Harbour proper (see description elsewhere). Some use this location to start their round Hayling circumnavigation, which can be 17 miles of bliss or pain, depending of how well timed it is with tides and/or weather forecasts. Head further east and you’ll eventually come to Emsworth where you can stop off right in the middle of town. be aware of tide though as Emsworth harbour becomes mostly mud as the water ebbs.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Thames Sailing Club, Surbiton, Kingston-upon-Thames, London.

Location:

Thames Sailing Club, Surbiton, Kingston-upon-Thames, London

Spot type:

Sheltered, inland river location situated in a built up suburban area close to Britain’s London capital city.

Conditions:

Conditions are very placid, for the most part. Even when storms blow through there’s very little water confusion. Headwinds can be a small issue but not to the same degree as coastal venues.

Hazards:

Recreational boaters/dinghy sailors who run out of the Thames Sailing Club, other water user such as kayakers. Some wildlife, such as swans, may put your SUP exploits on hold for a short time as they pass by.

Access:

Access is via the Thames Sailing Club – the oldest of type in the UK – who have (limited) onsite parking and a well tended club house. The club is right on the main road through Surbiton so is easy to locate. You’ll need to pay a launch fee or take part in one of the TSC SUP sessions.

Popularity (1-10):

6

Amenities:

The Thames Sailing Club has a bar, cafeteria and club house. Toilets and changing facilities are also available. It’s a members club, however, so you’ll need to book a SUP session to use what’s available.

Overview:

This part of the Thames is a pretty, easy going location with not much in the way of hassle or hazard factor. It’s the gateway to other parts of the Thames, which is best taken on under the watchful eye of a qualified, experienced and knowledgeable leader/guide/instructor. The SUP side of Thames Sailing Club was set up by Brian Johncey, of Blue Chip fame, who established a great working relationship with the club. Via the TSC one of the UK’s biggest SUP races is held every year – Battle of the Thames – as well as the ever popular Blue Chip Inflation Day where many of the major iSUP brands have their products on display and available for demo. If you find yourself near the capital and still fancy a paddle then this could be the spot for you. For those not into stand up paddling shenanigans, there’s outdoor gallery seating to take a weight off.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Crantock Beach, Cornwall.

Location:

Crantock Beach, Cornwall

Spot type:

Open ocean, Atlantic facing, tidal location with an estuary style river that works at high tide.

Conditions:

As you’d expect with Crantock facing the open Atlantic it’s a beach that gets its fair share of ground swell. Such is the case it can be great for SUP surfing with various sand banks lining up on different occasions to produce decent waves. The bank in front of the River Gannel mouth can be particularly good, however, there can also be a LOT of current here – partic on an ebbing tide. In contrast Crantock’s super mellow River Gannel, flat water spot, could be somewhere else entirely. At high tide it’s an idyllic touring SUP location, or beginner playground, with riders able to hop on the tidal conveyor belt all the way up to just outside Newquay. Time it right and navigate all the way back with the outgoing flow.

Hazards:

Tides and currents can be problematic if you aren’t aware – especially towards the River Gannel. Other water users need to be taken into account. And the huge sand dune you need to navigate to get onto Crantock beach should be given thought, at least as far as carrying your gear goes. Powerful swell should also be considered if there’s ‘weather’ in the mix.

Access:

Crantock is an easy beach to get to with a gradually narrowing country lane leading to the car park. Then it’s a case of summiting the massive sand dune before descending towards the beach on the other side. If the tide’s in the water’s edge is close. If not then you’ll need to walk further to access the put in.

Popularity (1-10):

Being two miles SW of Newquay does tend to see Crantock fairly busy during good weather. Locals looking to escape Newquay crowds will head here, along with the usual high season tourist melee.

8

Amenities:

Crantock Beach is overlooked by an RNLI lifeguard tower. You’ll also find public toilets and a fairly large car park. Back in the village there are two quaint pubs, a small supermarket and a couple of restaurants. Even though you’re super close to Surf City UK (Newquay) Crantock feels like a world away from the sometimes hedonistic hustle and bustle of town. A static caravan park also overlooks the beach.

Overview:

There’s a super hollow right hander that breaks off the rocks at Pentire Head if the sand bars are lined up. In the river mouth there can also be a decent wave, which is more SUP and longboard friendly. In terms of quality it all depends how the currents have affected things. In the southern corner, with massive swells, is almost a mythical left. It’s an experts only wave though so best left alone. For flat water touring, and/or beginners, the River Gannel is idyllic. As the tide fills paddlers can ferry glide all the way up to just outside Newquay or simply stay around the shallower parts of the river working on their technique. With sunshine and light wind the Gannel is blissful. Crantock’s village itself is a sleepy affair. Of course, during busy summer months numbers of tourists increase but it’s much quieter than it’s rambunctious neighbour – even with Crantock being a mere stone’s throw away.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Gwithian, St. Ives Bay, Cornwall.

Location:

Gwithian, St. Ives Bay, Cornwall

Spot type:

Open ocean, Atlantic facing, tidal location.

Conditions:

Ranging from monstrously big waves to more mellow surf conditions, with even a touch of flat water thrown in (usually summer) Gwithian can be a fun surf SUP spot or hardcore challenging put in – depending on what you’re after. Waves get progressively bigger as you move along towards Godrevy.

Hazards:

There’s a clump of rock, sitting to right as you look out from the cliff top car park, that submerges at high tide but starts to appear as the tide ebbs. It’s definitely one to keep clear of. At high water the beach all but disappears with big waves pounding foots of cliffs. If you walk towards Godrevy (north) you should still be able to get wet at high tide though. The waves themselves can also be hazardous as they tend to get pretty big on solid swells and unload ferociously as they hit the inside shallow section. Also, scrambling down the goat track, as some do, can be sketchy if wet and slippery.

Access:

As mentioned above you can choose to ascend via the goat track straight from parking or opt for the slightly longer walk along the cliff top, past the lifeguard hut, down to the beach below. Actually getting to Gwithian itself is relatively easy as you come in from Hayle and drive along the Towans road, following the signs. There’s a relatively long access road leading to the car park. For all intents and purposes Godrevy and Gwithian are opposite ends of the same beach.

Popularity (1-10):

Gwithian doesn’t get super crowded, generally. It’s a popular windsurfing spot which tends to see fairly large numbers on blowy days. Surfers don’t pack the place out and SUPers aren’t that frequent unless it’s an especially good forecast.

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Amenities:

Amenities are pretty thin on the ground. There’s a surf school perched on the cliff top and lifeguard cover occurs during summer. Drive back towards town, however, and you’ll find a supermarket, Costa, McDonalds and M&S. Head imnto the countryside and you’ll discover plenty of pubs and such. Hayle itself also has restaurants, cafes and bars. Back the other way towards Gwithian village and you’ll find the Red River Inn which has a small grocer tagged onto the side. It gets super popular with diners and revellers alike. A beach café is accessed via Godrevy beach for more refreshment options.

Overview:

Gwithian sits across St. Ives Bay, from St. Ives itself, and occupies the northern corner next to Godrevy. Slightly confusing Gwithian village is actually closest to Godrevy’s end whilst Gwithian is back towards Hayle. It’s a huge expanse of sand at low tide that links up to The Bluff and offers a multitude of peaks right the way along its length. Wave size increases progressively the closer to Godrevy you go. Waves can be significant in this part of the world, depending on the forecast, so be aware. Rips can also be fierce so know your onions on this front. Tides engulf the whole beach when in flood so best to wait it out for lower water, or head towards Godrevy. The water clarity can be amazing and with Godrevy Lighthouse keeping watch on the horizon, and the bay arcing round towards Carbis Bay and St. Ives, it’s a picturesque surfing spot with lots of appeal. You’re also not far from south coast facing beaches such as Marazion (St. Michael’s Mount) and Praa Sands giving plenty of options depending on the forecast. Carbis Bay, closest to St.Ives, probably offers the most shelter (usually) and The Lizard Peninsula is also readily accessible. All in, this area of Cornwall delivers a huge amount of options depending what you’re after – SUP or otherwise.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Chasewater, Staffordshire, West Midlands.

Location:

Chasewater, Staffordshire, West Midlands

Spot type:

Inland reservoir that was created to feed the local canal network. Chasewater is now classed as a country park and offers a variety of watersports opportunities. Chase Sailing Club run SUP taster and improver sessions during summer.

Conditions:

Being an inland spot Chasewater is flat without tide. That said it’s fairly big (9 square metres) and as such can get quite choppy with windy conditions in the mix. It’s a big draw for local windsurfers and dinghy sailors and now a large windsurf foiling community. It’s still great for paddling, however, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.

Hazards:

Waterski and wakeboard boats are a common site on Chasewater. Whilst they have their own designated area they’re still worth keeping an eye out for. As mentioned above there’s also a big dinghy and windsurfing scene. These craft should be steered clear of. Other than that water temperature should be heeded. Inland lakes/reservoirs warm up fast with good weather but also cool down quickly. Weeds can be quite bad as well in some places.

Access:

Official access for stand up paddle boarding is on the shore where Chase Sailing Club stands. But if you’re prepared to walk you can launch from a multitude of places along the edge of Chasewater.

Popularity (1-10):

8 in summer dropping during off seasons.

Amenities:

Chase Sailing Club has a club house with changing facilities, showers and a bar/refreshment area. You need to be a member, however. During summer there are other food and drink outlets that can be found next to the kiddy playpark on the opposite bank. You’re also super close to Norton Canes, Burntwood, Brownhills and other villages where you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained off the water.

Overview:

Chasewater is a fairly exposed stretch of inland water that attracts many types of outdoor enthusiast. In the past ten years the site has been reshaped to cater more for this with activities like mountain biking, hiking and watersports further encouraged. Now there’s a big SUP scene that goes hand in hand with dinghy sailing/windsurfing. It’s also a noted spot for wakeboarding and waterskiing. On any given day you’ll find a peaceful, calm bit of water that won’t tax you too much in terms of delivering full on conditions. During spells of breeze, however, it can be hard going for SUP with strong gusts puffing across the water. You’re best off sitting it out at this time, if you’re a progressing paddler, or attaching a sail (if you can) for some windSUP action. Chop in the middle of Chasewater can get quite big and for those with experience downwinding can be indulged. We also have it on good authority that winging is starting to feature.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Llangenith, Gower Peninsula, Wales.

Location:

Llangenith, Gower Peninsula, Wales

Spot type:

Open ocean, Atlantic facing spot with a massive expanse of golden sand being in close proximity to Swansea (although you wouldn’t know it). The northern half of Rhossili Bay ‘Genith picks up most Atlantic swell and is the indicator break for many of the surrounding surf spots. It’s also notorious with big waves in the mix for its hellish paddle out with the onslaught of relentless white water.

Conditions:

Llangenith can throw up some fairly big surf – especially during winter. At 5km long there are peaks for everyone so even if conditions are good and there’re a few in you should be able to find some quiet space. As this is open water rips can occur at certain times whilst the wave type will change slightly through the tidal cycle. If you head south towards Rhossili there’s less size whereas the opposite rings true if you head north. All water craft are popular here, not just surfing and SUP. Llangenith can be good for windsurfing as well. E winds are offshore.

Hazards:

Rips, currents, other water users and some rocks at high tide. It can also be a bit dumpy with high water as the beach is steeper.

Access:

Drive (slowly) through the village and head towards Hillend campsite where you’ll find parking and beach access. Walk 200 yards across the sand dunes and you’re in. During high season the campsite and car park can get very busy.

Popularity (1-10):

10+ during good weather falling to around 2 in winter.

Amenities:

Hillend campsite has all the facilities you’d expect plus and onsite café and bar. In Llangenith village you’ll find the King’s Head pub which serves food and beverages. It’s not the biggest, however, and reaches capacity quickly. Across the road you’ll find PJ’s (surfing legend) Surf Shop which stocks all your surfing and SUP essentials.

Overview:

Separating the men from the boys (and girls from the women) when a big swell pulses in ‘Genith is ferociously hard to paddle out back. At other times, when it’s less than 4ft, you’ll find a fairly mellow, easy going wave that’s great for learning to SUP surfing. Improvers will also be challenged whilst experts will find fun walls for all manner of carves. Llangenith is exposed and does get blown out quickly. The southern Rhossili end offers shelter from S wind with other breaks available around the peninsula working on various conditions. Overall Llangenith’s vibe is quite family and laid back during summer. There’s an almost Californian vibe surrounding the village and beach with plenty of dude and dudettes mixing/mingling with mum and dad types. If it should go flat there’s plenty of opportunity for SUP touring, with the imposing Worm’s Head rock formation offering potential for investigation if you know what you’re doing.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Westward Ho!, North Devon.

Location:

Westward Ho!, Bideford, North Devon

Spot type:

Atlantic facing tidal location flanked by a huge expanse of beach at low tide. Split from Saunton Sands, to the north, by the Taw & Torridge estuary, its 2 miles of sand is a draw for many visitors.

Conditions:

Although Westward Ho! technically sits at the mouth of the Bristol Channel it’s still a magnet for Atlantic born surf that can pulse in at any time of year. Being further up the coast it doesn’t get quite as much swell as it’s southern counterparts, yet it can still produce a decent SUP wave. Rolling in from way out back pulses wrap around Hartland Point and slingshot towards Westward Ho! beach. The waves tend to be more rolling in nature and therefore easier to catch. Upon hitting inside sand banks the surf will pitch and usually close out. When it goes flat there’s opportunity for recreation/touring paddling.

Hazards:

Rips at certain stages of tide and sizes of swell; rocks and reef to the southern end (town side); rocks, groynes and large boulders at high tide; strong currents flowing out of the estuary to the north; other water users (kitesurfers, windsurfers, kitesurfers); beach users.

Access:

Access is via the main car park in town or the Northam Burrows end which has parking next to the golf club.

Popularity (1-10):

8 in summer falling to around 1 in winter.

Amenities:

Plenty of facilities including cafes, pubs, amusement arcades, restaurants and such in town. Toilets can also be found here as well. There isn’t anything other than an ice cream truck at the Burrows end. A few surf and SUP school offer hire and tuition.

Overview:

Westward Ho!, unlike its more popular neighbour Saunton Sands, isn’t quite the surf town you’d perceive. More a seaside resort the Ho! doesn’t attract wave riders in the same numbers as other more popular North Devon locations. As such it’s a peaceful surfing spot. The peak closest to town does get fairly busy as it’s walking distance from a lot of accommodation. Simply head towards the Burrows, however, and you’ll find less people in the water. The waves themselves are noted as being mellow with easy roll in take offs up to about 4ft. After that whitewater can be a bit relentless making paddle outs arduous. As swell hits the very inside it does tend to dump and close out. High tide sees the beach all but disappear, although riders can still get wet if they’re careful. When surf disappears WH can be nice for a spot of cruising. You can even paddle into the estuary if you know what you’re doing! Don’t underestimate the current flowing out of the estuary’s mouth. For further flat water touring head round to Appledore or across to Instow for an easy, white sand beach launch. If you’re into winging, kiting or windsurfing Westward Ho! can deliver some fun in westerly, onshore winds. Whereas many south western beaches aren’t doable in onshore breeze the wide expanse of beach means booting up and down, parallel to the sand is fine. Even with monster white water and waves outback navigating the inside section is still no problem. For swimmers there’s a tidal pool located on the rocks at the south end where you can indulge in some saltwater crawl, if that’s your bag. A number of villages surrounding the Ho! have decent pubs and eateries with Bideford itself having a selection also. If you’re after a quieter North Devon surf SUP spot, offering easy access within walking distance amenities Westward Ho! could be the spot for you.

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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Chichester shipping canal, Chichester, West Sussex.

Location:

Chichester shipping canal, Chichester, West Sussex

Spot type:

Inland, non-tidal placid flat water location.

Conditions:

Flat, sheltered, most shallow with little to moderate effects from weather.

Hazards:

Occasional small boat traffic, other paddlers, some river debris and wildlife to be aware of.

Access:

Access can be anywhere along the bank where easy put ins can be found. Mostly, however, paddlers launch from the main basin next to the canal office.

Popularity (1-10):

6-7

Amenities:

The main reception and office has a small café where refreshments can be purchased, as well as your pass for using the canal. It’s upkeep is charity based so the small launch fee of £6 goes towards maintenance. Parking can be found next to the basin although spaces are limited. You can also find some spaces in side roads although these are residential areas so respect should be given to those who live there. Sit on top kayak and SUP hire available.

Overview:

Chichester’s shipping canal is, these days, quiet, tranquil, sheltered and blissful. Run by a trust it no longer is a busy shipping route instead caters for kayakers, stand up paddle boarders and outdoor lovers. It still links Chichester to the open water of Chichester Harbour and those who fancy can navigate their stand up paddle board toward the sea. For most, however, the canal offers flat, placid, calm water that’s little affected by weather conditions. Even in the strongest of gales the water remains flat – so much so that a number for local SUP racers use the canal for training runs when sea fronts are too choppy. Newbie paddle boarders will also be well served here as it’s a perfect training ground for developing skills.