It’s far away from the images of translucent turquoise waters of a tropical paradise, where perfectly bronzed holiday-makers engage in one of the fastest growing water sports. Where it’s ample to be dressed in the tiniest of floral printed swimwear. My scenery today is unquestionably free from the picturesque palm trees and spotless powder soft white beaches I see advertised on luxury travel websites. This is the River Thames in mid-September. It’s cold. It’s cloudy. The weather forecast predicts the typical autumn conditions. Drizzle evolving into rain. Despite the less than ideal conditions, I cannot wait to get across the muddy river bank and onto my board for a few hours of stand-up paddling.
I have nurtured my relationship with SUP on the Thames for the past year. With great care, like those green-fingered people, who are forever itching to sink their fingers into the soil. I carried the SUP seeds with me to London. Surely a keen flat-water paddler from Finland would automatically love paddling on the Thames, too? Apparently not. Just proves how little I know about gardening.
I’ve since understood that for seeds to germinate, they need to encounter a favourable set of environmental conditions. In London, the temperature and light were all right. I therefore reasoned it must be the water. Yes, the Thames as a body of water scared me. As simple as that. Rationally, I knew that you could paddleboard it. The Thames was certainly navigable. I had seen people paddling there. It was all psychological. As much as those clear tropical waters soothed and relaxed me, this fast flowing tidal river, heavy with both leisure and commercial traffic, bridges, moorings and sandbanks, made me nervous and tense.
What was a girl to do to sow the SUP seeds? Go shopping, of course. A board of my own would make it easier to achieve the most important aspect of stand-up paddling. Getting on the water. With my inflatable SUP board rolled into a backpack, I kept watering the seeds. A fine mist of Thames SUP combined with consistent splatters of other paddle locations. There was paddling on the scary Thames, paddling on some breath-taking British coastal spots, paddling on the tolerable Thames, paddling in fabulous San Diego, paddling on glassy Finnish lakes. I tend to overwater. But this time, I managed to avoid damping-off and excessive moisture for my seeds. The combination must have been just right. Because hey presto, there it was. A strong desire, persistent itching. To paddle on the Thames.
Next step in my hardening process, night paddling on the Thames. My SUP buddy said: “Night SUP – it’s dark & adventurous”. Sounds like something I’d enjoy.