A SUP Adventure Along The River Thames
Paddleboarder, Mirko Buzzelli recently completed a 210km paddleboarding journey from Lechlade on Thames to Putney Bridge. A six day journey battling against headwinds from the highest navigable point of the Thames to as far as you can get in London without special permission.
Mirko,why did you do it? A multi day paddling trip had been on my wish list for a long time but, for one reason or another, it never materialized...Having found myself with lots of free time and unable to travel, it was really a no brainer. It also helped me that I have a few friends that have done it before so I could get some tips from them and organize it in a very short time.
As you did this in the middle of the covid pandemic, what would you say to anybody who is finding lockdown difficult?
Spending all your day indoors is definitely not good for physical and mental health
All our routines have changed, try to make sure you get some exercise every day. I would definitely suggest outdoor activities as opposed to going to a gym (running, cycling, paddling can still be done in winter). Compared to my friends and family in Italy, I was actually still quite lucky to be able to go for a run even during the full lockdown and that definitely made a big difference for me
What was your highlight?
The first night of wild camping. You naturally feel always a bit anxious before starting an adventure but, having had a really good day of paddling and having found a pretty good spot for camping without too many troubles, made me really confident that I was going to have a good trip.
And the low point?
Probably the afternoon of day 2, mainly because I had a strong headwind for most of the day....mentally I was expecting a really easy day (it was the shortest in terms of distance) so I wasn't really ready for a fight! Paddling with headwind is not much fun on a SUP, as you are basically a big human sail and, no matter how hard you paddle, you are not really moving forward!
Did you fall in?
Luckily no, although being August and one of the hottest weeks of the summer, it wouldn't have been a problem!
What is wild camping like along the Thames?
Wild camping on the Thames is super easy as it is very rural and some places can only be accessed from water. I did 2 nights of wild camping, 2 nights in campsites and one night in a hotel (having reached Reading at around 9pm, I didn't really feel like looking for a camping spot). If you don't want to wild camp, that's also fine as there are a few campsites along the river; some of them are located by the locks and run by the Environment Agency (they were closed last summer but hopefully they will operate again in 2021).
What did you eat?
I was self sufficient in terms of food as there aren't many pubs along the river and definitely no shops to buy food. This summer was also particularly bad as a few more places were still shut because of covid.
My diet was pretty boring and made of peanut butter on flat bread for breakfast, rice and tuna for lunch and pasta for dinner.
Where the Thames becomes a tidal river, how did you find it beyond Teddington lock?
On my last day I started from Staines and I knew the tide would have turned around 2pm so my target was to get to Teddington Lock by Noon and finish with the tide pushing me....Let's say that I underestimated the distance i had to cover so I got to Richmond a few hours late, right when the tide turned! I could only paddle a couple of km against it and I could feel it getting stronger and stronger....luckily I knew there was an exit point by Kew Bridge so I got out of the river and waited a few hours until the tides turned again to complete the journey.
What was your favorite bit of kit and why?
A waist leash is definitely an essential piece of kit when you are on a big tidal river like the Thames.
There were a few scary accidents on the Thames last summer just because people went paddling without the right kit (and also lots of new paddlers being on the water with no experience).
How can somebody get into paddleboarding?
Everybody went crazy for paddleboarding last summer! I would definitely recommend a couple of lessons to begin with to learn the basics of technique and safety.
Then you can join your local SUP club or simply look on Facebook; The Yes Tribe Paddlers (a group of which i am also part) for example organize free events quite regularly; in general, there are loads of SUP groups on Facebook that organize regular meetups and are also a very good source of information on routes.
Bon Voyage Mirko!