Tez heads out to Cornwall to get some waves and sample the atmosphere for stand up paddle surfing, did he find it to his liking ? Go west young man, go west...
Living on the South Coast does have its drawbacks when you’re into waves and the act of riding them. To be honest we just don’t get the consistency or regularity round here. I mean it’s great when we do get swell, but more often than not you arrive at the beach to find nothing but tiny dribbles lapping gently along the shoreline.
Now don’t get me wrong, one of the main reasons for me buying an SUP was the fact that my number of surfable days would increase, but still, waiting weeks on end for solid conditions was starting to get to me. So with that in mind and with an added idea of checking out what the SUP scene was like down in Kernow (Cornwall), we packed the car and bailed for the West Country.
This also just so happened to coincide with a solid long period ground swell hitting the beaches, offshore winds and some of the warmest sunniest weather we have had in a long time. So needless to say I was stoked and looking forward to it!
However, if I’m honest, I was also a little anxious as to how I would be received by the local surfers. Being predominantly a surfer myself I have had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of some agro from time to time, as well as witnessing other peoples incidents. But I was prepared for this and would have no problem exiting the water if it became obvious people started to resent my being there. The last thing I wanted was to give SUP a bad name. There are already enough sceptics out there without me adding insult to injury!
Before hitting the water, I checked a variety of beaches and made sure that the one I chose wasn’t too busy and that the paddle out was going to be doable. Again for fear of being a kook and giving the sport a bad name I am not condoning that you rock up at a crowded break and proceed to be the most lethal wave riding craft out there. That’s just not cool. Make sure you assess the line up before hand and also be honest about your abilities. Remember, your board is big and heavy and you can’t duck dive it, which can make you a dangerous prospect to a regular surfer who is in your vicinity.
So the beach was chosen, the wetsuit donned, sun cream applied and then it was off into the blue I went.
What can I say? Absolutely brilliant! Solid chest to head high waves and sunny!
I did get a few funny looks from some of the guys out in the line up, but on the whole I seemed to be accepted (or at least tolerated!) But on the first day I was the only paddle boarder out there. Everybody else in the water was on surfboards.
To be fair, it was pretty solid and you definitely had to time the paddle out back as a few sneaker sets were coming through that would catch you by surprise. And likewise you had to choose your take off.
But what a session! Being on the 11.2m meant that you could glide along perfect walls of water, effortlessly sliding around the sections before setting up for the next. Awesome!
So what of other SUP ers?
Well a small group did turn up at the beach on the second day. Although the swell had dropped slightly (I did get a comment from a guy getting in the water on the first day who asked in surprise “…ain’t it a bit rough for a sup?...)
All the group were pretty competent at riding the smaller waves, but that was the only day of the whole trip I encountered other paddle board riders. On inspection of other beaches in the area I counted only 2 other paddlers across the whole of our stay.
To be honest I’m not surprised at the lack of participants. Last summer should have been one for the records, where new SUP blood was attracted and the numbers of stoked paddlers increased. But the fact that it was one of the wettest Augusts on record kind of killed most peoples drive to get outdoors. Add to the fact that we have had a really icy winter of late and it’s not hard to see why all but the hardcore have lost enthusiasm.
In some ways though it’s not a bad thing. The rubbish weather has hopefully given the industry time to educate people about SUP properly and therefore try and avoid the ravenous packs of new paddlers trying to access the wave beaches off our coasts. This would have been both chaotic and dangerous, as well as putting the sport in a very bad light.
Hopefully this summer should be a warm and sunny one (fingers crossed!) and with this, SUP should take off. That then should mean plenty of stand ups out on the water enjoying the sport for the first time. What needs to be maintained is the level of respect for the water users that are already there. It would be such a shame if bans or limitations were placed on us due to a few misguided peoples actions or bad choices.
All in all, out trip to Cornwall was a resounding success. We scored good conditions everyday and hopefully proved that with a bit of thought a prior planning we can co exist with the other water users fairly safely.