‘Punks, seals and sunken warships’ - The top 5 Paddleboard spots near London

 (London Paddleboarding)
(London Paddleboarding)

With Just Stop Oil warning that most of London will be underwater by 2030 there has never been a better time to get into Stand Up Paddleboarding or SUP for short, as the kids say.

Yes, why risk wild swimming in sewage-infested waters when you can effortlessly glide across the steadily rising surface like some kind of giant, pink, pond-skater with the poise of a seasoned gondolier.

The SUP boom really exploded during lockdown with sun-starved Londoners looking for a way to exercise and explore the capital’s waterways anything really to take their minds of the pubs being closed.

You can even bring your dog on board so you can both survive and even thrive in the backdrop of looming environmental disaster and really get that full I Am Legend experience.

Until that fateful day, here are the top five spots to go paddleboarding within easy reach of the capital so you can get that potentially life-saving practice in.

The fishing boats of Shoeburyness and the 10ft Portofino Paddle Board (Barney Davis)
The fishing boats of Shoeburyness and the 10ft Portofino Paddle Board (Barney Davis)

Shoeburyness

Just a short train ride from Barking, just further up from the mythic casinos, fairgrounds and chippies of Southend, lies the quiet, relaxing shallows of Shoeburyness.

Check the tides because when they are out you have to trudge a mile to get even ankle deep. It does however provide an excellent opportunity to practice in shallow water and get those Insta-perfect sunset shots punctuated by rickety fishing boats.

I was even able to get my huntaway Doom on board for a couple of seconds drawing him in with the finest cold cuts M&S could offer.

Certain Doom: The writer and his Huntaway, 2, head off to the Shoeburyness sunset (Barney Davis)
Certain Doom: The writer and his Huntaway, 2, head off to the Shoeburyness sunset (Barney Davis)

If your skills improve you could even explore the nearby wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, nicknamed the £1 billion timebomb based on the amount of damage it could cause to Sheerness if it were to go off.

The American merchant ship has been embedded in the mouth of the Thames since it sunk in August 1944 before completing her mission of delivering TNT to the front line.

Tours are still running to SUP between the masts jutting out of the water. Disclaimer: Paddle at your on risk and don’t fall in.

A paddleboarder approaches the masts of the SS Richard Montgomery (Tim Bell / Facebook)
A paddleboarder approaches the masts of the SS Richard Montgomery (Tim Bell / Facebook)

Location: Shoeburyness or Sheerness for the SS Richard Montgomery

Cost: Top end race boards can range up to £4,000, so it can be an expensive hobby. A good starting range would be generally in the region of £400, experts say.

For me: £200 for the 10ft Portofino Paddle Board from Trail Outdoor Leisure complete with travel-friendly ruck sack. £20 return train tickets

£8 on 3 M&S Deli selection (two for dog, one for you),

Camden

If you’re not afraid playing the wet-suited fool in front of the punks and Wetherspoon drunks by Camden Lock, then the Grand Union canal is a perfect spot to view London from a different angle.

If you can dodge the trolleys and Lime Bikes poking out of the algae-ridden surface your reward is a free monkey spotting trip through London Zoo before taking a fancy picnic and celeb spotting in nearby Primrose Hill.

Camden Lock (London Paddleboarding)
Camden Lock (London Paddleboarding)

Jen Cordero from Paddleboarding London offers up some sage advice to beginners: “Don’t look down.  Many people when they first get up to standing tend to fix their gaze on their paddle and the water.  Instead, look towards the horizon.

“The further forward you look the easier it is to balance… and don’t be afraid to paddle, just like riding a bike, a board that’s moving is easier to balance on than one that’s still.”

Cost:  Paddleboarding London members are able to bring their own boards to some locations for sessions starting at £10.

Dogs allowed? Yes (with life jackets at St Katharine Docks)

Locations: Hackney, St Katharine Docks and Camden

Kew Bridge

The picturesque stretch of The Thames far from the choppy, brown waters of central London offers a historic and very scenic stretch of river with islands, wildlife and some fabulous riverside pubs to explore.

Even on a typically overcast day, you can still enjoy Kew Gardens’ indoor exhibitions or shelter from the rain under willow trees.

Kew Bridge is one of the most popular spots in London to try paddleboarding with its gentle currents and easy access to Richmond or Putney Bridge. Tours even blast jazz music.

Paul Hyman, founder of Active360, based in Kew says: “The best thing about paddleboarding is getting in touch with a wild part of London while getting some good whole body exercise.”

Location: Unit 5 Kew Bridge Arches Strand on The Green London W4 3NG

Cost: £25 for 90 minutes at Paddington and Brentford lock sites

Yoga classes on the West Reservoir – Stoke Newington

If you master the way of the paddle quickly why not up the stakes with a visit to Lucie Norris, one of the capital’s few paddleboarding Yoga teachers.

Her favourite spot is the West Reservoir a “secret haven” hidden from the frenetic din of Green Lanes and Seven Sisters Road, in north London.

Swimmers regularly boast of the “peacefulness” of the spot surrounded by a nature reserve with the bonus yoga session adding a “meditative” aspect to the already mindful af activity.

Lucie Norris says: “I absolutely love being on the water, and when you get the correct technique you can really glide.

Her advice? “Always bend your knees and soften your toes, don’t let your weight tip forwards and smile.”

Location: West Reservoir Water Sports Centre, Green Lanes, Woodberry Down, London N4 2HA

Cost: £55 a session

Thames Estuary

Seals near London?

From Leigh on Sea you can link up with expert coach SaltwaterSUP’s Jeff Car. He will guide you around Two Tree Island a local nature reserve. Jeff takes paddleboarders along ‘the ray’ to be amongst the seals, hundreds of migrating Siberian geese, curlews, egrets, herons, snipes and avocets to name but a few.

During the summer months the remote island is teaming with rare butterflies including the Essex Skipper. You might even catch a glimpse of a sunbathing adder.

Sunset in Leigh-on-Sea (SaltwaterSUP)
Sunset in Leigh-on-Sea (SaltwaterSUP)

Jeff says of the benefits SUP can bring: “It brings the sense of freedom, fun and well being. Scientific studies have shown that simply being near bodies of water can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, being on or near the ocean is fantastic for your mental health, the sun, Vitamin D and the sense of adventure.”

Location: 111 Chalkwell Esplanade

Southend-on-Sea SS0 8JJ

https://saltwater-sup.co.uk/

Cost: Essex coastal paddleboarding and at Chalkwell Beach is free to launch at the majority of locations. Inland canals and rivers require a waterways license to be able to paddle.

1 hour training sessions start at £27.