Welcome to a series of How To SUP Tour blog posts. My name is Jules and over the next few posts we're going look at one of the fastest growing disciplines and interest areas in paddle boarding today: Touring and exploring.
In this multi part How To series, we're going to guide you through the steps of getting out on a SUP tour and explore. In part one, we’ll look at what SUP touring is, and how you guys can get involved. This series is going to cover a wide range of subjects, including; how to plan a route, what you should take – waterproof SUP bags, phone cases, waist packs and backpacks. The Dry Bags crew are huge fans of SUP Touring and have been getting away on multi-day paddles along he south Cornish coast and Welsh rivers this summer (2021). It is all about the adventure, exploring new places, you don’t simply go on a trip, you get to see what's around the corner. Whatever your level of paddle boarder, go on some sort of Expedition. You may have learned to surf on the sea or cruise on a lake or enjoy developing your skills in that location, but now you can push yourself that little bit further and get exploring in your local area or perhaps somewhere further afield.
To help you get started the DryBags team have put pen to digital paper and offer up some hard-earned experience. There are no hard and fast rules on how long your sub tour needs to be. It could be for one hour. One night, one week, or even more for the hardcore adventure junkies!
If you're spending a little bit longer on the water than your normal session, you might want to consider a few more pieces of kit, such as waterproof bags, food, water, and perhaps spare fin and paddle. And if you're going on an overnight trip there's much more to consider if you’re planning to be fully self-sufficient (and comfortable).
SUP touring and exploring really is for all abilities. You just have to be realistic about your level of paddling and apply that to the type of SUP exploring you're planning to do. For example, the further and longer you want to go touring for the better your paddle board skills need to be, to ensure you're able to go the distance.
Set your heart on a coastal or inland waterway tour and make plans once you have sufficient paddle board skills and understand the risks involved. Then take the relevant safety precautions and research the safety equipment you need. More on this later….
Different types of trip involve different risks and challenges that you might not have yet experienced. You need to be prepared to take responsibility for your own safety, and perhaps those less experienced that you might have as part of your group. You can paddle on a sea, a lake, a canal or tidal river. You can go literally anywhere you could do with general round paddling, but you just need to be aware of how to keep the group safely together. If you're touring larger distances you might need to be aware of a few other things than your usual paddle. Considerations include; secure all day / overnight car parking, access on canals and rivers and winds tides and currents on coastal waters.
Don't be fooled thinking the inland waterways and lakes are much less risky than the coast. Each presents their own risks that you need to understand. There are really no rules on how you should approach each environment. But you can go on a solo adventure and push your own limits. If that suits you, or you can go as a group. Personally we enjoy both, and they're both extremely fulfilling in their own right. Solo touring and exploring means you can often get away from everything and push your own physical and mental boundaries. Whilst going on an adventure as a group can also be great fun, allowing you to learn from others in the gang, and have a really sociable time. Don't forget to consider the use of multi person boards as well. They offer a slightly different elements touring and exploring and can be great to help develop a paddling partners confidence if they're not so happy to go on their own board, but also allow families to go and paddle together as well.
You can go SUP touring on any board. Don't think you can't go touring if you don't have a specific SUP tour or exploring board. If you're serious about SUP touring a specific touring board will help you in a number of different ways. They're designed with the requirements of SUP tours in mind such as being longer to aid with glide and have numerous tie down points enabling you to carry all the kit that you might need. We'll cover more about the different types of boards and equipment in later parts of this blog.
Planing a journey takes a little bit of time as you need to have an idea of where you're trying to go, make sure you have the kit, food and water for the time you're out there. And since you're not necessarily planning on paddling to a place you are familiar with you need to scope out the area, planing get-in and get-out, and be content you're going to be safe, particularly if you're leading less experienced paddlers. You may need to look at the weather, particularly if you're touring adventure is taking you more than one day. We will guide you through specifics on planning and packing in the later parts of this series.
So we recommend you start small and get more adventurous as you gain confidence. I like to try and push myself on every tour I go on, just a little bit, be that location, distance, or some other unknowns. If you're just getting started. Look in your local area, see if there's a canal or slow-moving river you can paddle on and find a bar or restaurant for lunch, or take a picnic.
If you're struggling for inspiration, there's plenty of tour and exploring content in Facebook groups such as this one.
SUP touring exploring, doesn't mean you have to go camping. Personally, I find camping makes the trip much more adventurous, but some people just don't want to have to camp, you can always day paddle, it's still SUP touring, but with the benefit of very transportable iSUPs. We have had great fun making one-way trips down river and catching a bus, taxi, or even a train home at the end of the day. Furthermore, if you do your planning really correctly, you could SUP tour and stay in luxury hotels and B&Bs en route. The possibilities are endless!
Camping or bivying on your trip just means that you can be more flexible and, apart from finding a suitable place to pitch up at the end of the day, your progress isn't constrained by anything. Just remember to leave no trace!
You can make SUP tour and exploring as challenging as you want, depending on how hard you want to push yourself. A lot of the enjoyment is pushing your own mental and physical boundaries, as well as seeing the paces and enjoying the outdoors.
Some of the first challenges you will face when travelling longer distances is fitness and endurance. Doing the right board and paddle combination will really help with planning your way, including understanding the risks of weather and the watertight planning of what to dry bags to take and how to pack them will be the biggest challenge, particularly when planning an overnight trip with camping and all the other equipment. You need to understand how to become more self-sufficient, how to plan and how to pack it onto the board. We're going to cover a lot of that in the later parts of the series.
So, that's a snapshot of what SUP tour and exploring is and how you can get involved. We really hope you found this useful and it inspires you dip your toes in the water and plan a trip. Do send comments, pictures and videos of your SUP adventures to us via our social media channels.