One of the activities that was on my list of things to try when I retired, was stand up paddle boarding. Unfortunately, due to the travel restrictions, not mixing in groups and all the other strange things that have happened over the last eighteen months, it was something that I never got round to doing.
However, last weekend I finally managed to go and give it a whirl, along with my husband and two friends. We had booked a beginners lesson with Lake District Paddle Boarding. The lesson was three hours long and we booked a private lesson for just the four of us as we did not want to be holding anyone back or being embarrassed by not being able to actually get on the boards.
I have to say that we had an excellent afternoon. When we first arrived on the edge of Ullswater, it was very murky, overcast, with a chilly breeze. Whilst we sat and ate our picnic, we were all shivering – I think from the cold rather than the sheer terror of what was to come. We were all convinced that we would be in the water within five minutes and frozen to the core.
We went to introduce ourselves to our instructor Joe, who was excellent. He reassured us that we would be able to get on the boards and was confident that we would be paddling across the lake by the end of the afternoon. We were slightly more doubtful! He also convinced us that the water wasn’t actually that cold and we would not be chilly if we fell in.
The first hurdle was to get into a wetsuit. This is no mean feat when you’re younger, but when you are over fifty, overweight and not particularly fit, it becomes a bit of a workout in itself. By the time I managed to shoe horn myself into the suit, I was definitely not chilly anymore. I was relieved that I had fitted into one, as I had nightmares about being stuck half in/half out of a wetsuit, witnessed by hoards of Lake District tourists.
Joe explained the basics at the side of the lake, whilst we watched and asked questions. He was really encouraging and patient with us. He made it sound very straight forward. He then got us all to get onto the boards, kneeling up and we set off into the water. They were much more stable than we had anticipated. After about ten minutes, the boys were already trying to stand up and doing a pretty good job of it. Us girls were a little less confident, but with lots of help and encouragement we were all actually standing on the boards and paddling, much to our amazement. It was quite hard work, requiring a considerable amount of concentration. The advice to look ahead to where you are going and to relax, really helped, but what you actually want to do is look down at the boars and cling on by clenching your toes.
After we had paddled up and down near the shore for a while, Joe then suggested that we paddle across to the island in the middle of the lake. Despite our initial reluctance, we were now all up for this and made our way across with a combination of standing and kneeling, depending on the choppiness of the water. I was mostly kneeling, as I still did not feel particularly confident. Once we had had a short rest on the island, we then crossed the lake into some of the more sheltered bay areas, where it was a little easier to stand up. I still needed a bit of help getting from kneeling to standing, but I managed to paddle standing up for a short while.
Joe showed us some further skills on the boards and also some tricks, which the more confident paddlers tried, some with more success than others. The boys both ended up in the water, mostly from showing off and being over confident. But we laughed so much! Once we had gone in and out of a few more of the little bays, it was time to make our way back across the lake to where we started. I don’t think any of us could believe how quickly three hours had passed by.
As we set back off, the steamer was approaching and Joe warned us that it would cause a few waves. The choice was to kneel down and be more stable in the waves, or stand up and try and balance. Needless to say the boys tried standing and riding the waves and ended up tipping off into the water.
We all managed to make it back safely and a little quicker than going out, as the wind was blowing us in the right direction. We had had a great time and were really impressed with the whole afternoon. We all had slightly achey legs and had definitely used muscles that we hadn’t used for a while.
I would definitely recommend this as an activity and would suggest booking a lesson to try it out with some instruction. I can also heartily recommend Lake District Paddle Boarding and particularly Joe, who was encouraging, amusing and very knowledgeable, nit only about paddle boarding but about Ullswater too. One of the other really nice things was that he took lots of photographs throughout the session, which he then sent us free of charge. The photos make us look much more confident and proficient than we were!