Heard of stand up paddleboarding? I had, but before last Saturday, I’d never tried it. It involves, quite literally, standing up on a paddle board on water and gently paddling with an oar. A quick search on Google brings up idyllic pictures of bikini clad ladies in the sunshine, blissfully enjoying the sunshine in tropical soundings. I’m not quite sure where I mistook my post pregnancy body for beach babe and the Thames for the warm water of the Carribean, but this is exactly what I did when an email dropped into my inbox inviting me to try out a session.
Crewroom, a stylish sports company who clothe the Oxford and Cambridge boat race crews, have joined forces with Active 360, Britain’s biggest stand up paddleboarding school to launch SUP London, a new club based in the Crewroom Headquarters in Putney, along the Putney Embankment. The club was declared open last Saturday and I was amongst the first few people invited out on the water.
SUP is really growing in popularity and health benefits include strengthening the core and posture, whilst enjoying the outdoors. The incredible Paul Hyman and his enthusiastic team of coaches clearly love the sport and were incredibly supportive, quick to put us nervous newcomers at ease, despite the choppiness of the Thames. A safety briefing and a chat on technique later, we were kitted up and ready to go!
Being a Cornish girl, I’d had exposure to a few water sports in school and I’m pretty comfortable in a kayak. Attempting to stand up on the Thames however was a different experience and I was very quick to lament my clumsiness, compared to the ease and grace of everyone else! We were advised to stay on our knees for stability to begin with, before progressing to standing up. We were told that we would not end up in the water when on our knees. I very nearly proved otherwise, but thankfully managed to save myself from a bath in the murky Thames!
I found myself to be quite adept at travelling backwards to begin with, gradually drifting away from the group, completely unintentionally. A quick lesson in paddling from one the instructors and I soon got the hang of turning around and moving back and forth. I was determined to manage to stand up, but due to the combination of nerves and not being able to get my feet flat to the board (stupid tendons), I only managed it for a split second. The Thames being so choppy didn’t help. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! Next time, I hope to stand up for longer.
Despite the fact I spent most of the time kneeling, I was really surprised by what a workout it was. When I came out of the water, my legs were trembling and there was a definate ache in my quads. I felt a little stiff when I woke up the following morning, but luckily it didn’t prevent a third place finish in the tenpin bowling Kent Area Championships…
SUP was a lot of fun and definitely something I’d like to try again. From Putney, long trips of 2.5 hours are also available, where you learn the technique as you go. You can also join the club and enjoy hire of the boards on the Thames. With Putney being such a great location, this is definitely a fun activity to try this summer.
I was also fortunate enough to have a chat with Kate Giles, the founder of Crewroom. A former elite British rower, she founded the company when she was recovering from pneumonia and cracked ribs from coughing so much, after training in the rain. She wanted to create perfomance clothing designed to protect athletes. Crewroom was initially a juice bar, and Kate moved into clothing after her stay in hospital. I’m new to the Crewroom brand, discovering them this year when I bought a visor for the London Marathon, but I’m impressed by how practical, stylish and ethical their garments are. For example, those sustainable shirts Royal Parks Half Marathon runners wear and love? Yep, they’re supplied by Crewroom! Considering “function”, “fabric” and “fashion”, Crewroom’s clothes are made of comfortable performance fabric, with features such as Oyster card holders and iPhone pockets, making them truely practical for athletes, especially those of us in London who may indulge in running commutes to and from work.
Thank you Alec for inviting me along to this session with SUP London and Crewroom!
Photos courtesy of Alec Lom with the exception of the final selfie – thank you!