The thing I love most about SUP right now is that the sport, although growing at a massive rate, is still small. There is a really friendly vibe. When I go surfing at my local break I know most of the other SUPers, although that is starting to change now as more people get into the sport. So to be invited up to a brand new and growing club, was a real treat to feel that buzz of something new.
A couple of weeks back Chris Kenyon got in touch with me via the stand up paddle forums and we started chatting about SUP, clubs and the scene generally. Chris is based in the Midlands, which as the name suggests is slap in the middle of the UK. Chris is one a select number of individuals in the UK who drive a sport forward through their own energy, time and money and I admire him for what he is putting together in Birmingham - the Central SUP Club.
I have family in the area so I agreed that next time I was in the Midlands I would load up a board and give some coaching tips to the club members. We agreed to meet up Easter Sunday at Edgbaston Watersports, a watersports centre minutes from the middle of the UK's second city, Birmingham.
Birmingham is the most populous British city outside London, with 1,028,700 inhabitants according to 2009 estimates (thanks Wikipedia!), its history is steeped in the industrial revolution with a large maufacturing and industrial base (that is sadly declining as more industry moves to the Far East). In the last 15 years the city has been reinventing itself with money pouring into the rejuvination of the canal system, the National Indoor Arena and the iconic Selfridges building in the new Bullring Shopping Centre. I should also note that you can get the best curries in the world in Birmingham from the infamous Balti Belt of resuatrants.
So all in all, both geographically and cultrally the Birmingham scene is, or was, about as far away from the SUP beach cultre as you can get. Which is what makes the Central SUP Club such a great asset in bringing the beach to the city.
Anyway I arrived at the Edgbaston Watersports Centre to see a number of brand new Tabou and Starboard boards lined up ready to go, with some keen people ready in wetsuits. After a safety brief we hit the water, I took the complete beginners through the basics and quickly they were up and paddling. Then I started to work with individuals to improve paddle technique. That took us to the other side of the lake, so now it was time to get wet!
I decided that what everyone needed was some practice cross-stepping on flat water, so after a brief demo from me I sat back and took photos of the carnage. Although to be fair a lot of the guys and girls were able to pretty much master it and have fun seeing how long they could stay on the nose before back stepping.
After a paddle back and a brief break the boys got back into the water, so it was time to finish the session of with some interval training. This really did finish us all off in grand style with lactic acid build up preventing anymore paddling.
Chris has worked hard to create this Central SUP Club, so if you are a complete beginner, or experienced paddler and are in the area then get in touch with him and check it out. It is a friendly club and brings a little bit of the beach to the city.