SUP Mums…..The benefits of a family open water safety session.
written by Evelyn, Linda and Lynne
Following lockdown and the consequent increase in screen time for kids, as a group of Mums, we were delighted to discover a sport that enabled us as families to be out in nature spending quality time together away from mobile devices. Stand up paddle boarding ticked all the boxes and slowly but surely a number of our circle of Mum friends decided to give it a go.
Some of us sourced boards straight away, others hired boards at first & what we learned is that this is probably the most important area to ask for trained help. In the sea of online SUP shops a novice is taking a gamble that what they choose is going to be suitable for their weight, height & planned activities. We didn't realise the importance of finding our perfect match & that this was especially important for our kids who need shorter & slightly narrower boards for comfort but crucially, to enable them to self rescue in all circumstances - like prone surf paddling if they drop their paddle! As a result there have been some changes made to the boards bought & used but with the help of the team at Glasgow Paddleboarders Co we're all now riding some great kit that is safe, bags of fun & that we all have faith in.
Glasgow Paddleboarders Co beginner sessions helped confirm it as a new favourite family hobby for all of us and saw the adults and kids grow quickly in confidence & skill. This introduction supplied us with invaluable advice about the best equipment to invest in and ensured we could all self rescue. Our respective families were raring to go!
We have since had the pleasure of a variety of SUP-ing; Mums only sunset paddles, family canal & small Loch adventures and Glasgow Paddlerboarder adult social paddles to name but a few. It was during one of these adult social paddles that a few of us Mums experienced not only to sheer beauty of large lochs but also the challenge of unexpected and often changeable conditions. We had set off round one of Loch Lomond’s many islands (Inchcailoch) in calm waters, admiring the setting sun to turn the corner and be faced with 16mph gusts of wind. This saw us hunkered down at the front of our boards putting our newly learnt paddling techniques to the test. We have never been more glad to be surrounded by qualified instructors and experienced paddlers.
This experience got us Mums reassessing plans to enthusiastically hit Loch Lomond with the kids in tow. Rather than be deterred though, we got to thinking about tapping into all that Glasgow Paddleboarders Co knowledge and expertise. On contacting Ally and the team, we discussed our desire for a Loch Lomond session for our whole group of Mums and kids. What they delivered was both a thoroughly enjoyable family day out but more importantly an invaluable lesson in open water safety on a large loch.
The session was booked well in advance and we all eagerly weather watched on the run up to the selected date. After several days of high winds and rain to our delight we woke to the sun splitting the skies and excitedly made our way up to the loch for what we thought would be a leisurely family session with Rab. From the bonnie banks we were met with the familiar scenic Loch Lomond views but on the shore. Rab gathered us together & our lesson began. He encouraged us to read our environment.
What was happening around us?
How were the tethered boats in the bay behaving?
What colour was the water?
How did all of these things change the further out onto the open loch we looked?
We learned the importance of weather & wind surveillance & of having a plan but knowing when to change it. Rab recommended a couple of great weather apps which we've now used a number of times when deciding where to visit & when.
Once actually out on the loch we once again quickly realised how deceptive and changeable conditions can be on a large open body of water. Just a few hundred yards off shore the waves became enough to lap over and significantly rock the boards. Our maternal instincts sharpened but we knew these were exactly the conditions we needed to learn open water safety.
We were reassured that Rab was constantly risk assessing & was there to help us do exactly what we signed up for and that was to safely and confidently manage changeable conditions and enjoy a family day SUP-ing on the loch. In this 2 hour session Rab taught us the importance of equipment, preparation, planning (and adapting plans where needed) as well as skills & techniques to see us safely navigate some of loch Lomond’s beautiful bays with the kids (quite literally) in tow. Rab pitched the session in a calm and fun way for the kids all the while ensuring us Mums were fully informed about planning and conducting future loch adventures. It’s safe to say the kids had a ball……after all Rab’s kit bag did contain chocolate brownies and Capri sun’s to aid refuelling!
One of the things that Rab said that stuck in our minds was “don’t push beyond everyone’s capabilities”, “if you're using tow leashes make sure it’s intended and not in an emergency situation”. Advice that will stay in the forefront of our minds for future trips.
On reflection, the canal provides adults and kids with a safe starting point and a regular playground to enjoy but days out on open water, in particular large bodies of water such as Loch Lomond, are not to be taken lightly. For all you SUP-ing families we cannot stress enough the benefit we have felt from an open water safety session to ensure we can enjoy our new found hobby for many years to come.