Updated: Jan 4, 2021
Paddleboarding during a world pandemic has been interesting to say the least. For one trying to buy a paddleboard has been an issue because everyone wants one, but because of travel limitations we've had to make sure we stay within Government boundaries to be able to do so without breaking guidance or law. Essentially people have had to think on their feet and find places that maybe wouldn't have been paddling places before, paddling places now.
The Forth and Clyde Canal splits Scotland in two. It starts in Bowling in the west and meanders all the way to the capital city with a fork at the Falkirk Wheel taking you either up to the Union Canal which leads to the centre of Edinburgh, or allows you to pass through more locks into The Firth of Forth.
In the centre of Glasgow, Applecross Wharf houses the home of Scottish Canals. It has also been a fantastic launch point for many peer paddles and has opened up the canal as an exciting and fun place to spend time boarding. If you park on Applecross Street, there is a pontoon across the bridge that you can launch from. At that point you can head west, which leads past Firhill Stadium, the home of Patrick Thistle football Club and leads past Maryhill and up to Stockingfield Junction. Stockingfield Junction is at the beginning of an exciting news project that will connect the communities of Ruchill, Gilshochill and Maryhill. The video below shows the plans Scottish Canals have for the area which is very exciting. Can't wait to paddle underneath this.
At this point you have a decision to head west to Maryhill Locks or East up towards Bishopbriggs. If you head west, there are five large pools to walk past before getting back in to head towards Kelvindale. Heading east means you can travel for 10+ miles without a lock. IDEAL.
On peer paddles we normally paddle from Applecross Wharf to the bridge at Ruchill Street. There and back is around 2 hours at a leisurely pace. It's at Applecross Wharf where I first took Fíona, a Glaswegian adult learned Gaelic speaker, out for a paddleboard lesson and since then she has become a regular at Glasgow Paddleboarders meet ups. Check out her personal blog post below around how her paddle journey began.
Who's to say you're not a paddleboarder?
As inevitable as forgetting to take the pin out before inflating your board, there are times when fate brings us a firestorm of pain. Like many of you, the challenges of COVID simply played a loud, discordant tune over the beat of existing struggles in my life. As I emerge from two difficult, wretched years, paddle in hand, and bobble hat firmly pulled down over my ears, it’s an interesting time to reflect on how paddle boarding with Ally, and the Glasgow paddleboarding community, has helped me through. Carl Jung famously busied himself with alchemy, as well as psychological analysis, and brought the alchemical concept of the nigredo, meaning putrefaction or decomposition, into psychology, as a metaphor for the dark night of the soul. In recent years, intertwining strands of love, grief and loss, deep to the bone, have brought me my nigredo, dissolving my understanding of who I was, and what I was worth. And so, with Autumn tightening its grip in the-year-of-COVID, I took a paddle boarding lesson; if I didn’t know who I was, then who was to say that I wasn't a paddle boarder?
As it turns out, I am. Sure, paddle boarding is a safe, socially distanced, non-competitive activity that gets you outdoors, with all the endorphin-laced delights that that brings, but it has come to mean more to me than that. From a place of hurt, and mistrust, it has reminded me of the joy of human connection; we paddle together, we chat, we look out for one another, we delight in the camaraderie of mutual endeavour and experience. From a place of despair, it has reminded me of the beauty of the universal constants; pausing mid-stroke to let the otter pass, or so as not to disturb the sheet glass surface of the water, perfectly reflecting a full daytime, winter moon. But most of all, paddling has brought me quietude. It isn’t about measuring out your self-worth in Strava miles, or beating yourself in some never-ending race for self-approval, or the tone of your Instagram filter. It’s the warmth of the sun on your back. It’s the tinkling sound the water makes as it gently rocks the ice sheets in your wake. It’s the eddies and waves slowly rocking you back to life and reminding you that your self-worth is innate. Throw away your fitbit. Let your phone sink to the bottom. Come for a paddle.
Fíona Ní Maonaigh Heatlie