As Britain’s waterways open up to the public again, we talk to Lizzie Carr, author of Paddling Britain, about the surge of popularity in stand-up paddleboarding.
Where have you been spending lockdown?
Lockdown has been difficult. I’ve been at home in Nottingham, unable to get out on the water. Leisure access to Britain’s waterways has been banned until now so as not to put unnecessary strain on the emergency services, and I’ve been campaigning for people to stay indoors – which is not like me at all!
Where was the first place you headed for when restrictions were eased?
I’ve been out on the River Trent several times, my playground when I’m here.
I’ve also been out on the sea at Anderby Creek, near Skegness in Lincolnshire. I’d visited before, but not with my paddle board so it was great to explore a new place from the water. Next on the list is Scotland – as soon as I’m allowed. I can’t wait to get back up there.
What do you think is responsible for the recent rise in interest in paddleboarding?
Well it’s not just this year, there has been a steady increase over the past five years, but yes it’s been particularly noticeable in the last 12 months. It’s not uncommon now to see as many paddlers on the water as canoers or kayakers.
I think people have been using the time to plan adventures and ways to be active after lockdown and now they’re excited to get out and about again. We’re all craving adventure after so long inside, and Britain’s waterways are a great way to explore the country.
For those who haven’t tried the sport before, what’s the appeal?
It’s just an incredible activity for both physical and mental health, as well as being a meaningful way to get out and interact with nature. It’s low impact – you don’t have to be super-fit – and it’s accessible.
Inflatable paddleboards can be relatively cheap to buy, and much easier to store and manoeuvre than, say, a rigid canoe or kayak.
What advice would you give first-timers?
Firstly, have a few lessons to get the basics right before you leap on to the water. As long as you’re sensible it’s a perfectly safe sport, but as with anything involving water you have to be mindful. Secondly, start off with some easier routes.
And thirdly, this is something I always recommend – get yourself a second hand paddle board to begin with. Not only is it better from a sustainability point of view, you’ll quickly outgrow your first board so don’t spend loads of money on it.
Be honest – as someone who’s been paddling for years, aren’t you secretly annoyed at this sudden popularity, as lots of other people muscle in on your territory?
No, I think it’s brilliant! For the first time this year, I saw paddlers (other than myself) on my local river. I’ve been promoting paddling for years and it’s very rewarding to see it take off like this.
I suppose the safety side is a slightly concern – you do want to be sure that people are acting responsibly – but as long as people are sensible, the more the merrier. See you on the water!
Lizzie Carr has been uploading instructional videos for paddleboarders to her YouTube channels during lockdown. See here for her tips for beginners, and for more experienced paddleboarders here is her guide to paddleboarding the English Channel on a budget.