Saturday, 12 November 2016

The 3 Lakes Challenge, Solo, Un-Supported on a Paddleboard.

The Beginning 

I think my first go was in April 2015 or was it October 2014, either way I was keen to forget it!  It looked so easy and that's what I expected it to be, so i was shocked, when i couldn't stand up for more than a moment.  So I forgot about it.

I love being on the water. At the same time, its good to leave my kayak on the rack once in a while and stretch those legs.  I was looking for something different were I could play, rest and yes stretch those legs. Earlier this April I was inspired by Jack Hewlett as I worked with him on his British Canoeing 3 star sea.  Ive grown up with Jack and its felt a real privilege to have been involved and shared holidays with his parents, Sean and Mandy and brother Charlie.  

Salcombe, South Devon - Jack and Sean

This time we were on holiday down in South Devon and between sessions, he made Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) look so easy.  I gave it ago.  After staying on the board for 50 mins, I was really chuffed and wanted more.  I bought a Paddleboard and over the next few months I started putting some distance in on The Menai Straits, Anglesey and shorter sessions working in the tidal flow of the Swellies.  This challenged my balance, reactions and was alot of fun.

A previous client had done a sea kayaking courses with me, earlier in the year and I was aware of her achievement with the 3 lakes Challenge, unsupported, solo, over 3 days on a Paddleboard and the first to have done this.  This time I had a thought.  A small thought or question really.  Could I do this, the 3 lakes?  What would it be like? Ive only been Paddleboarding for 6ish months, would that be enough?  I’d done proper long sea kayaking days and expeditions, but what would it be like on a Paddleboard?  I allowed the thought to slip to the back of my mind …but i continued to put in time once or twice each week on my paddleboard and on top of a number of days sea kayaking.

I had a block of days off coming up late September and early October, which i had been protecting.  I was keen to go back up to Orkney or sea kayak around Skye, but the weather was really unsettled.  Then I thought what about my Paddleboard?  I felt vulnerable, so I only told two people and as I got closer to the Friday the weather was looking settled for all 3 lakes.  I began to sort out my kit in preparation.

Llyn Tegid (Bala)

I got up at 0530 and checked the forecast.  Not brilliant with a f3/4, blowing down the lake and then dropping.  I’ve tended to stick to a saying my good friend Sean shared with me once.  ‘rub your nose in it and then decide’ - meaning the forecast is only a part of the big picture.  I decide to set off and have look.  I arrived in rain, with the wind blowing down the lake as suspected and it was cold.  Although It did look like I could sneak up the North shore to the far end and if I could manage that I would then use the tail wind for the return journey.

Wondering 'should I stay or should I go ...

I went fairly light with a spare paddle, storm jacket (like a big cape), water in a hydration pack on my back, bum bag with camera, flare and snacks.  I wore my trusty Kokatat salopettes and paddle jacket and set off.  It felt exciting and committing to the decision felt good.  I had decided if after 30 mins I’d got no wear I could let the wind push me back.  I set my self a point on each bay, working towards the next headland and took a pause i each bay.  I was experimenting with a different style of forward paddling I’d seen the night before on UTube and it seemed to be effective as my shoulders were filling good!

Taking a short land break and no rain!

As I reached the far end of the lake the sun came out, i landed had some food and then set of for the middle of the lake, to make the most of the wind on the way back.  2 hr 30 mins later I had landed and Lake Bala was in the bag!  I changed out of paddling clothes, had lunch, a mug of tea and then I was off for the Lakes to stay with my parents for the night.  

Lake Windermere

I was up early and at my start point before light.  I had more kit this time, with a change of clothes for the other end, a lighter paddle jacket, my paddleboard kit bag, to transport the board back on the steam boat and more food!

As I set off there was a gentle breeze against me, i only hoped that's what it remained, gentle.  I soon found my rhythm as I moved along the East shore.  As approached Bowness on Windermere I watched the car ferry cross and hung back, deciding which side to cross to.  I decided to stay on the East side and worked my way through the moored Yatchs and then crossed over to the West side, via the Northern point of Belle Isle.  It was great seeing the various hills and peaks wakening up and beginning to show them selves as the day enfolded.

I watched the steam ferry heading for the top of the lake and I squinted into the distance.   This was my end point and I could just make it out.  A few yachts were out and that breeze I was pleased to say had dropped right off and a glassy glaze had been left behind on the surface of the water.  

Ambleside and time to pack it all away for the steam ferry ride back

4hr 12mins and I paddled into a bustling Ambleside, pleased with my time.  I quickly looked at my watch and I had 20 minutes to catch the steam boat back or, get the one after at 1300.  I went for the later as it allowed me to change my clothes, pack my Paddleboard and have a big mug of tea and a baked potato, with salad beans and cheese.

The drive North and a brief pause to soak up a super sunset

Loch Awe

I had now paddled 18 miles, near enough 30km and I was wondering how the 40 km of Loch Awe would go. It was clear that I was moving at an average of 4.5 km per hour so with breaks the best I could do was around 10 hours.  As I drove North i had phoned ahead to stay at the Toran Bay Hostel, as the winds had an Easterly then SE component I was planning to paddle South to North.  

This also meant I was right by the water edges, so up at 0530 again and paddling away at first light gave me 12 hours of daylight.  The only new bit of kit I had added was a hooped bivi bag.  If needed my intention was to put my change of clothes on, sleep on top of my board (on the land!!) and have the bivi bag to keep me dry.  I had enough snacks, but I choose to leave the stove, sleeping mat and bag behind.  I wanted the thought of a bad nights sleep to spur me on.  Plus I had spoken to the owner of the hostel and we had arranged for a small fee a pick up time and i don't like letting people down or being late!

I had also thought differently about my clothing and with such a good forecast, decided to wear sandals, thermal leggings my Kokatat pac light water proof trousers and a short sleeve thermal top with a hooded long sleave thermal top.  I had got two hot the previous two days.   The hydration bag had worked really well on lake Windermere and I had another 1lt container of water on the board. 

The start with the drifting mist  ... 
I left the jetty and it was the first time my internal dialogue was active and negative with self doubt.  The mist was reeling in and I soon realised it was actually fog.  It felt like I was really paddling into the unknown, it was cold and there was a dampness to the air.  I had around 100-150 mt visibility and a very gentle breeze and swell towards me.  All I could do was keep the shore in sight and as soon as I saw a brief headland, I would set a course for this.  

Lunch on land and the sunshine is out!
3 hours later the sunshine began to show its self and bit by bit the fog was burnt off.  Yay, as I felt the sun on my back and then a change in the breeze.  I headed away from the shore and for headlands further away, now with a breeze on my back.  Time for some lunch and a break on land.  I allowed my self 20 minutes, knowing this now had to fuel me for the half of the journey.  I had been slower than expected, as the fog had made me keep much closer to the shore, so I had some time to make up.  I wasn't going to bevy out!!   

Down to my short sleeved t shirt ...

I headed off more in the centre of the Loch and towards the Black Islands, with the breese just to the right of me. My shoulders were feeling sore now but I could see the NE end of the Loch in sight, and this spurred me on.  It was a beautiful afternoon and the mountains and the water looked stunning.   I was very pleased to be out there on the water.  

What a magical end to a SUPer day :)

I paddled towards the bridge in magic light and super silky surface.  9hr 40 mins was my time and I was really chuffed.  I changed and deflated my board, packing it all away and carried it to the car park.  I was staying a 2nd night in Toran Bay hostel, and once back went straight for a shower to get that hot water on my well exercised shoulders!

43 paddling miles, solo, unsupported, in 3 days and the 2nd person on a Paddleboard with a total time of 16hr 22mins.

The end, for now ....

Further articles that Roger wrote, can be read below and a short film he also created of the magic conditions he had:

SUP Connect


Short film on YouTube

The 3 lakes Challenge information can be found here

Update - Roger is excited to share, is that since the 3 Lakes Challenge he has received sponsorship from Andy of McConks Padleboards and he looks forward to paddling the 10.6 for local playing and the 12.8 explorer for future adventures.  

Roger is more than happy for previous clients and friends to try and see if Paddleboarding may open up adventures for other's too, as he now has three different paddleboards.