Dip Your Toes Into Water Sports And Make A Splash This Summer
As you've probably already heard, 2021 is likely to be the summer of staycations (wait, wasn't that last year?); it's hard to know whether we're going to be allowed to go jet-setting before September, so that means making the most of the best Britain has to offer to holidaymakers!
Although us Brits can't always rely on the sun, we're counting on a scorcher this summer to lift our spirits, and if the Spring Bank Holiday was anything to go by, beaches from Bournemouth to Brighton, Blackpool to Barry Island will be packed with sunbathers and sandcastle builders. That's great, but what about the novelty factor? That feeling of something new and exciting that you get from far-flung lands and exotic cultures...
Okay, it's not exactly riding an elephant through the Indian jungle, but we're backing water sports to be the big thing this summer. Conjuring images of surfing a 30ft wave or clinging to life while kayaking down a waterfall? That's what we initially thought, but it turns out it's much easier to dip your toes in the world of water sports. Forget your skill level, age, and experience; when it comes to water sports, there’s truly something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a new way to get some fresh air and enjoy nature, or want to take it to the extreme and learn all the tricks and flips. So, what are you waiting for? Let's dive head-first into your new summer adventure!
Paddleboarding: the perfect place to start
The exhilarating feeling of gliding through a crystal-clear tunnel of water, the wind blowing in your hair and dolphins jumping through the waves next to you - okay, maybe not unless you live in a cheesy Australian TV soap, but you get the picture. Paddleboarding is very much the first step on that journey. Paddle, check. Board, check. Wetsuit (or swim shorts/swimsuit), check. There's not much more to it!
With a stand-up paddleboard you can take baby steps to grow your confidence. First, try sitting on the board and paddling along, then prop yourself up on your knees, and before you know it, you're on your feet! Then you can consider looking at paddleboard accessories to improve your experience on the water.
Picture the scene: it's a glorious summer day on a calm-water beach, the waves gently lapping at your feet, and you head out onto the water to relax with your paddleboard. Whether you're slowly working your way along the coast or dangling your legs in the water to cool off while catching up with your mates, you really can’t go wrong with a paddleboard to hand - think of it as the must-have staple of the season! (If you're planning to use a local river or canal, you need to get an annual licence - British Canoeing has a helpful guide here).
Need a crash course into the basics? Check out the handy tutorial below!
And an added bonus for beginners, many paddleboards are inflatable but rugged, with a plastic underside that prevents cuts, scrapes, and punctures. Likewise, many come with everything you’ll need to look after it, like the board, paddle, pump, pressure valve, accessories, and travel bag. This portability makes them perfect for jumping in the car at short notice (unlike massive surfboards!) and having some fun in the sun. This fully-loaded paddleboard set would be a great place to start!
Bodyboarding: fun without the faff
You want the thrill of riding a wave, but you just know you're going to spend all day falling off, so you just don't bother. That's where bodyboarding helpfully steps in! Like paddleboarding, you don't need much to get going - simply grab your board (wetsuit optional but certainly advised in the brisk British waters!) and take to the seas!
There really isn’t much to it; you lay on the board and steer with your weight as you ride and glide through the waves! Unlike surfing, you can experience the thrill within minutes of heading into the water for the first time - who doesn't want all the fun without any of the practice? Of course, there's more to it if you want to go to the next level, and with a few years’ experience under your belt, you could be riding the waves in style like this bodyboarding pro below.
It’s like queuing for your first water slide of the summer. The anticipation, maybe a slight hint of fear that makes it all the more exciting - that’s heading down to the beach with your bodyboard tucked under your arm. Then you take the plunge and the adrenaline overwhelms you - that’s bodyboarding. It’s not just an activity - it’s a feeling - and a sure-fire way to up the ante of your summer staycation!
Of course, there's nothing stopping you diving in at the deep end. We’d suggest getting some lessons at least the first time, but you can still grab a surfboard and head down to Newquay for a long weekend (but be aware of covid restrictions - make sure you check before you travel). There's a reason it's such an iconic image: there aren’t many more idyllic situations than sitting on your board while the sun beams down overhead, waiting for the next big wave to come in. Then you get to your feet and get the feeling of freedom, excitement, and adrenaline washing over you while you glide on the water.
There are also the hours of fun you can have leading up to that point, often spent falling ungraciously off the surfboards. Why not turn it into a challenge? Turn that fall into the best swan dive you can, loser buys the ice creams back on the beach!
We're gonna need a bigger boat... or perhaps an inflatable one!
Water sports doesn't just mean squeezing into a wetsuit and strapping yourself to a board; boats like kayaks and canoes offer a great alternative for those who don't want to spend most of their time falling into the water. If you don't know the difference, don't worry: you're not alone! If you're in a kayak, you're seated and you’ll use a double-bladed paddle; in a canoe, you're kneeling and you’ll need a single-bladed paddle.
Kayaking can be a blood-pumping, adrenaline-filled, wind-in-your-hair thrill ride, or it can be about enjoying nature, relaxing on the water, and basking in the sun on a casual trip down the river. It's unlikely you'll be taking on the white-water trails like those below, but there are some great centres located around the UK that offer a lot of fun, if that’s what you’re looking for.
However, wherever you're getting on the water, it's still a great way to enjoy a staycation this year and spice up your daily exercise - let's be honest, after a year of not being allowed to do anything other than go walking, we're all getting sick of it! Like paddleboarding, you’ll need a licence to use rivers in the UK.
Don't worry if you haven't got the massive roof rack or huge trailer to transport your newly purchased kayak to the coast, joining the queue of trundling caravans on the M25 as you do. Inflatable kayaks are a great alternative that you can pack in the boot and blow up when you get to the seaside! If you’ve never been kayaking before, an inflatable model is a fabulous choice for first-timers. Many come with absolutely everything you need to get the wet ‘n wild fun started, including the kayak itself, paddles, and pumps, and some even boast extra stability features and a durable underside to avoid the sinking feeling of getting a puncture.
Time to make a splash!
You've taken the first step; you've dipped your toes in the water and we've put the wind in your metaphorical sails. Now it's time to get some new water sports equipment - perhaps a new life jacket! Whether you’re bodyboarding by the beach, or peacefully paddleboarding along the river on a gloriously sunny afternoon.
Looking for a summer sport you can get involved in on dry land? After watching eight hours of Olympics and Euro 2021 action, you're going to want to get outside and give it a go yourself, so we've looked at what you’re going to need in this handy blog. Or, if you’re less of a sports fan and more of a gamer, check out our guide to the best beach games here. From timeless classics to new and exciting activities, there’s a whole bunch of fun to be had this sunny season!
So, what are you waiting for? A summer of fun, sun, and action awaits!