London has many beautiful sights and landmarks to offer, but seeing even a couple of them on one day can be very stressful. So imagine paddling past the House of Parliament, the London Eye, the City, London Bridge etc. all by yourself in total quietness on a SUP.
Extreme SUP Paddler Bobby Thatcher (thesourcelondon.com) did what we thought was impossible. Circling London on a 44 Mile SUP ride. He tells his story to SUP-guide.com
I was totally unprepared for the paddle. I knew the Ring of London existed but I didn’t really know it’s layout. The only preparation I did was to check the tide table (so I could catch the tide on the Thames) and a brief look at the route on Google Map. Then off I went.
The section of the Thames through central London is an amazing place to paddle; although it’s very familiar to me as I learnt to row there as a kid.
My lack of planning showed after about five hours into the paddle. The route I looked at on the map wasn’t navigable in reality, so I found myself heading much further west than I had planned. I had arranged to meet my wife and parents by Camden Market in central London by mid afternoon. My Dad called me to say they were there waiting and asked roughly how long I would be. He was shocked when I told him I was in the outskirts of London, some 20km away.
It was a bit of a mental blow as I didn’t have any food and I still had a long way to go. However, I was determined that I would complete it.
Most of the Canal out west was pretty nondescript. Although when I hit the stretch from Notting Hill back to Limehouse it was amazing and it gave me the lift I needed. This final stretch was about 16km and I paddled through really cool areas such as Maida Vale, Regents Park, London Zoo, Camden Town, the Berlinesque areas of East London. But probably the highlight was the paddle through the Islington Tunnel, which travels for 1km under the streets of London. So I guess I could say that I was London’s first underground Stand Up Paddler. It was 71km in total and it took me about 9 hours 30min. I would totally do it again and would recommend it to others; although I would probably take a bit more food!”
Equipment used for the London Ring Paddle:
Board: Starboard K15 (for more info, see Race Boards Section)
Paddle: Starboard Power Paddle
He was wearing boardshorts, a T-shirt, Neoprene Booties, a Leash and had a backpack drink dispenser. Bobby SUPs in overhead waves and did not wear a life vest. In line with coast guards, SUP-guide.com advises to always wear a PFD when paddling on Rivers.
WARNING: The Thames water conditions can be very dangerous and are only advised for seasoned paddlers and extreme athletes like Bobby. He first took to the water in a rowing boat, aged 12 and under the guidance of his father. He went on to row for Great Britain for ten years. During this time he won Gold at the Junior World Championships in the Coxless Fours and World Silver in the Men’s Heavyweight Eight, as well as competing at the 1996 Olympic Games.
After his international career Bobby took up coaching. Today he is running thesourcelondon.com. Bobby’s business focuses on flat-water SUP fitness sessions on the Regents Canal and the Royal Docks, weekend SUP and surf trips from London and personal training and rowing coaching for individuals, groups and corporate team building. Bobby believes it’s healthy and important to open yourself up to new challenges and experiences outside of your daily working life. He has seen the positive effects of sport on his own life as well as on the lives of many of his students and feels that the daily challenge of sport can be met by anyone with an open mind, regardless of age, sex or ability.
For 2011 he is planning to paddle the length of the Thames from the source to the sea for help the hero’s. It’s about 220miles. Watch this space for news…
And here are some amazing shots by Oscar Von Massenbach