I wanted to make the best SUP experience imaginable, the sort of thing that I would go for if I saw it on offer somewhere. Thus, I created Atlantic Expeditions.The aim is to get you to places around the Cornish coastline that very few people will ever see, on proper kit designed for the task, and to equip you with skills and knowledge that will stay with you forever and serve you well in future adventures.
What are Atlantic Expeditions?
One or two day SUP adventures for people who want to learn to paddle properly, and to understand the ocean and elements better. We're going way beyond industry standard intro / taster sessions here.
The sport of SUP has developed beyond where we thought it would go when it first came around - centres are established on many lake shores, swimming pools are hosting SUP polo and SUP yoga sessions, people are cramming themselves onto megaSUPs, and the inflatable round-nose paddle board has dominated the market and represents what most people think of when they picture a typical SUP experience.
These adaptations to SUP in urban environments are great for getting people into the water but somewhere in these experiences the SUP board has become less like a board, and more like a floating mat or raft. I'm keen to show you that the true roots and essence of stand up paddle boarding is in the wild, ocean breeze in your face, sea birds soaring and calling overhead, white water surging over dark granite rocks, wide blue horizons and green hills sloping down to the sea, an element of risk and self reliance and of course a very nice warm drink in a hidden-away local cafe afterwards.
Where do we go?
Right from our base at Surf Sanctuary on Newquay's Towan Headland we have walking access to the superb Gazzle area. This is an ideal training ground and several stunning paddle routes are available from there. Despite it's fame, Newquay's coastline is seldom explored once you're off the beach and it hides many fascinating coves and caves and much history and smuggler's tales.
If our 'patch' is too rough and windy, we are blessed with options around Veryan Bay, Gerrans Bay, the Falmouth area and further down on the Lizard. Each area offers something different from the coastal scenery, the colour of the sand and sea, local architecture (and cafes), even the drive over. There really is too much choice for a paddler in Cornwall, but it's a good problem to have.
Using real touring boards and kit
Hard shell boards are what everyone (except white water paddlers) would be using if they could only store and transport them. Because our Surf Sanctuary base is right on the water's edge, it's easy for us to use and store hard boards. Long, sleek, smooth and glidey 12'6 and 14' touring boards to be exact. If you haven't paddled a dedicated hard shell touring board, the best way I can describe it is this: the 10' rounded inflatable SUP is like a shopper bike, and the 12'6 or 14' tourer is like a beautiful steel framed touring bike. You could go out for a 6 hour mini-expedition on either, but you'd only want to do it again on one of them!
Touring boards glide and conserve your energy. They cut through wind and chop rather than buckling and wobbling over it, the simple act of moving forward on one feels wonderful. They go further, faster, and are more seaworthy. They also look good resting on the sand as you take a well earned breather, gazing out to the far horizon. You're connected to your touring board with a proper coil SUP leash which reduces drag and doesn't catch weed, unlike surf leashes.
You need to power your sleek touring board and for that we're using carbon shaft / nlyon blade Red Paddle Co touring paddles. These paddles are light but tough and have a clever adjustable shaft to suit your height. On deck, you'll have an Overboard waterproof SUP bag inside which you can stash snacks, a towel, and even clothes. You can keep your phone safe on your person with our Overboard dry cases.
Wetsuits and buoyancy aids are supplied as standard.
Places that you can't get to any other way
We're fortunate in Cornwall. Unless it's so windy that it'd be dangerous to try and carry a board, we can paddle safely on the sea, any day of the year. There is always a sheltered stretch of coastline that offers a fascinating loop or point-to-point SUP journey, and this is without even considering the huge Carrick Roads river system or the stunning Helford Passage.
If you've ever walked a section of the Cornish Coast Path you'll know that it takes you to some very out of the way places that not everyone will see. Now if you paddle the seas along the same stretch you'll see, and be right in the middle of, places that very, very few people will ever see. Many coves, beaches and lagoons are really only accessible by water - but that doesn't mean you can easily swim to them! You need a proper sea worthy craft, support and rescue systems and a reliable passage plan - and that's what we provide.
You can expect to a lot of wildlife. Sea birds such as herring gulls will be everywhere, and maybe kittawakes, choughs, oyster catchers and even peregrine falcons soaring up against towering cliffs. Seals are common, dolphins are not unexpected and depending on the season you may also spot a sunfish or even a basking shark. Unlike motorised boats SUP boards are silent and unobtrusive and you become a part of nature, rather than just spectating it from a deck.
An investment in yourself
Atlantic Expeditions are not a passive experience where you come through the other side with no real change. After your course, you will be far better equipped to predict and 'read' ocean conditions. You'll understand about tides, currents, wind patterns, swell, route planning, contingencies and staying safe whilst in situations of increased risk.
Your balance and coordination will improve after just one day; the sea is the best proprioceptive trainer there is and your skills will develop far past where they would if you spent a whole day in an enclosed environment. You will learn how to paddle into, across, and down wind, with and against currents, and how to pilot your board in tight areas. These are skills that will stay with you and set you up for a lifetime of paddle boarding adventures wherever you wish to go next.
There is probably no finer way to fill your lungs with fresh air, get your vitamin D dose and to get the blood pumping around your system. Every muscle and artery from your finger tips to your toes will be awakened, and your body will thank you for it!
Who can come along on Atlantic Expeditions?
Due to the size of the boards and duration of the sessions, the minimum age is 16 years old. There is quite a lot of theory to absorb too, so if you're looking for a family experience with younger children just let us know and we can offer a more suitable experience to you.
In terms of physical readiness, you certainly don't need to be an athlete but should be able to satisfy the PARQ here: www.surfsanctuary.co.uk/welcome/ . The main thing you need is a willingness to get stuck in and have a bit of an adventure! Don't worry about falling in, being slow, etc...your adventure is run at your pace. Before they've tried it, some people have concerns about deep water, cold, being swept away and so on but by methodically building your skills, knowledge and technique you will find that these thoughts quickly melt away as you become immersed in the environment.
We take up to three people per guide, with a maximum of six participants between two guides on the water at one time.
What about safety?
Safety and comfort is paramount, and it is our thorough safety process that begins before we even get on the water (and of course all the time we're on it!) that facilitates us being able to take you on a coastal paddle.
We check, check, and check again all aspects of weather and tide before planning a route. All routes have been reccy'd from three perspectives: on foot, on water, and under water (yes, I have freedived all the locations we paddle). This combination allows us to build the most thorough risk assessment taking into account access and emergency exit points, sea state and currents according to expected conditions, duration of the paddle, an understanding of bathymetry and topogpraphy throughout the tidal range, and more interestingly, all the fantastic features that we will see! This has not been a quick process as you can imagine, but it does mean we know our routes inside out.
As your guides, we carry marine VHF radio (licensed, and with operator's certificate), mobile phone, compass and local charts, first aid kit, tow and throw lines and a few other items which we never expect to use, but just in case. We are trained lifeguards and regularly practise SUP assist and rescue techniques.
Years of paddling, surfing and wind sports has given me a very good appreciation of what is needed to maintain a safe passage via SUP on the water. I use a dynamic risk assessment which allows plenty of freedom but keeps a robust safety margin should things not proceed as planned.
How much does it cost and how do I book?
One day (good)
One person £160
Two people £130 each
Three people £120 each
Two days (better)
One person £260
Two people £230 each
Three people £195 each
To book, email me email@example.com or call on 07540 155123. Have a couple of dates that suit you and we'll schedule you in. Unless we're beset by a huge storm your session will be going ahead.
As always, please get in touch with any questions or requests for info regarding your specific needs and we'll help you out. Cheers! Dom.