June 24, 2021 4 min read
Thanks to three Lockdowns, gyms and workplaces being shut and insatiable boredom, I've spent the last year scavenging Whitley Bay for new Lockdown-friendly hobbies. It all started with long dog walks-turned-hikes and finished with open water swimming (if you're interested, take a look at my Swimming Diaries blog post). But now that we FINALLY see an end in sight, I've been trying out some more out-of-the-box activities.
As you can clearly tell from my extremely conspicuous title, it's paddle boarding.
So, I know there's a few different places to hire paddle boards from but we decided to go with CBK (mostly to do with location rather than anything else). CBK Adventure Toursoffer a range of water sports including guided kayaking tours, coasteering, and surf and paddle board rentals.
We chose the stand-up paddle board two-hour slot for our first hire. The rental costs £15 per board Monday-Friday and £20 per board on weekends and bank holidays. You are required to wear a wetsuit which costs an additional £7.50 if you don't already have your own.
We arrived at CBK's HQ about fifteen minutes prior to our start time so we could change into our wetsuits. Out of the entire experience, I think this was probably the hardest part. CBK have handy little outdoor changing rooms for you to slip out of your normal clothes and into a wetsuit, but they're quite small and the wetsuit requires A LOT of wiggling to get on! Once we'd squeezed, yanked and zipped ourselves in it was time to get a training lesson.
The lesson was only around five minutes of information, but you can pay for proper lessons at CBK and Tynemouth Surf Club. Our instructor ran over some health and safety, showed us how to hold our paddles and explained how we'd be able to stand up on the board.
After our lesson, it was time to make our way down to the bay. It's not a far walk from CBK's HQ down to Cullercoats Bay; however, the boards are heavy and quite awkward to carry so remember to take plenty of stops. If you're anything like me and have very short limbs, you will need to stop at least three times. My arms were far too short to grip the base of the board, making the entire experience twelve times harder.
The tide was out but it was beginning to come in when we arrived at the Bay, so we prepared ourselves for a slightly stronger current. We wandered to the shore and walked into the water to about calf height before crawling onto the boards, perching on our knees.
Our instructor recommended that we began the paddle on our knees to get used to the movement of the waves and the paddle strokes. It's such a strange sensation to describe. Being exposed on open water with only a small board separating you is a weird feeling to comprehend, and when you first hop on the board the waves feel massive beneath you. I was incredibly cautious for fear of falling off- the weather wasn't the best, so I knew I'd be freezing almost straight away if I got wet. I familiarised myself with the paddle and worked out how to move, turn, and stop. Because it's such a novel experience, you tend to forget that paddle boarding is actually a workout, so I was shocked when I started to get hot and sweaty. Nevertheless, it did provide some solace knowing that I wouldn't be too cold when I -inevitably- fell into the North Sea.
After about twenty minutes, I attempted my first stand. Up at CBK HQ our instructor told us to be fearless and jump to standing without hesitation to prevent losing balance. This is much easier said than done. Much, much easier. Like most things in my life, I severely overthought the situation and, instead of jumping, I rose to a shaky squat stance. As the instructor predicted, the board began to wobble, so I slammed back to the safety of my knees.
Meanwhile, my fearless fellow boarder had fell in at least five times.
Another ten minutes passed when I was hit with the sharp realisation that I needed to get a grip. I got onto all fours and prepared to jump to standing, this time succeeding. Elated and grinning from ear-to-ear, I began to cut through the waves with my paddle, picking up speed and balancing with ease.
With every stroke, my confidence grew. I started to manoeuvre the paddle to turn and circle in the water. A nearby paddler looked up at me as I glided past, 'you look like you've got the hang of it'. I swung round to reply to her, forgetting that I was on a floating board in the North Sea. Within seconds I was submerged.
Thanks to my lifejacket, I was pulled back to the surface quicker than I could realise what had happened. I clutched onto the side of my board, hoisting myself back up while trying not to topple off again. I could hear my fellow boarder cackling far behind me as I negotiated a second attempt.
Though my pride (or arrogance) had taken a hit, the experience was still phenomenal. We stayed for about an hour and a half but began to get cold towards the end. We returned to shore and began to make our way back to CBK's HQ to change back into our dry clothes.
The experience was unlike anything I've ever done before. I honestly couldn't recommend it enough, the team at CBK are so helpful and efficient. If you're thinking of trying a new sport this summer but aren't feeling like surfing, paddle boarding is a great low impact alternative that all the family can enjoy.
Disclaimer: We paid to do CBK's Paddle Boarding experience ourselves with our own money. Everything I have said about the experience is my own opinion and has not been influenced by any outside opinions/sponsorships.
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