One Man’s Summer

From SAD to SUP…

We experienced the first sub-zero temperatures here in Milton Keynes earlier this week which was a bit of an unfortunate reminder that ‘Winter is coming’. Warm jackets were brought out from the back of the wardrobe, the heating was cranked up a few degrees and salads have been well and truly replaced with warming soups and hot, pastry based items.

Rather than dwell on the dark days ahead I thought I’d share some memories and images from earlier on this year which might help stave off any inflictions of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD as it is so aptly abbreviated!

The last two years I’ve spent a few weeks each summer down in Charmouth, a beautiful spot on the Jurassic Coast, where a friend of mine has set-up her own paddle boarding business; giving up the London rat race and relocating somewhere that couldn’t be more different to Chiswick and Tottenham Court Road. Certainly a big leap, and whilst she does return to the ‘big smoke’ occasionally, she really is living out what many people aspire to – a more relaxed life with the beautiful beach clearly visible from the house. So began my first experiences into strand up paddle boarding, or SUP.

Following an intensive couple of weeks last year where I was well and truly thrown in the deep end, I was hooked. Its certainly not an extreme sport by any means and with a bit of practice, some soreness (using muscles you didn’t think you had) and the inevitable swim, most people can be standing up pretty quickly. Its popularity has exploded in the last few years for the very reason it’s so accessible.
I purchased my own board, a beautiful (in my eyes) Fanatic ‘Ray Air’ inflatable board that, when deflated, can pack down into something not much bigger than a large rucksack. Cue some derision from my colleagues and friends as I lived in Milton Keynes, one of the cities furthest from the sea……..Ok yes, so whilst the sea isn’t exactly down the road, there are a number of rivers (Ouse & Cherwell), canals (Grand Union and Oxford) and lakes to take advantage of. One of the reasons I went with an inflatable board is that you can pack it down, put it in the car and easily drive to anywhere that takes your fancy. Not being from the area, initially I did struggle to know where to go but with some intensive Googling and excitably grilling any canoeist or rower I saw, I soon found out some great spots. Luckily, the Grand Union canal runs straight through Milton Keynes and admittedly might not be the best spot for a beginner (the water quality is on the low scale) its sheltered, quiet and on still days there are some beautiful views.

Whilst paddle boarding is ideally done on warm days, it’s an all year round sport and doing it on cold, crisp days just involve wearing a few more layers and ideally avoiding a teeth chattering dunk!
The great thing about the sport is that you can go at it as hard, or lightly, as you want – yes people do take part competitively all over the world, using incredibly strong, light (cue, expensive) carbon and fibreglass boards (that look more like missiles) but many people enjoy the sereneness that comes with gently paddling on some still water, taking in the views and switching off, or even taking your dog for a ride (sadly not mine, Daisy the dog took some convincing but is now a true professional)

So whilst Winter might be here, and people generally start to hibernate, I will keep keenly checking my weather app (it’s become something I check more than Instagram these days) and looking for the next day when the wind is low, the sun is out and I can paddle to the nearest pub.