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Blue Chip SUPer Club - The First SUP Club to paddle through London - 2010

I-SUP Board Brands


OK, this is going to be a long one because it deserves it, so get yourself a cup of coffee and I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as we did paddling it.

The SUPer Club:
The Blue Chip SUPer Club has been paddling around the Thames Valley for over two years now and we have been posting our adventures since May 2009. We have a hard core group of paddlers that have literally been through (our around) the mill with us. Over the last year we have often talked about paddling “The Big One”, right through the middle of London on the Thames. So early in the year I started to lay the plans into action.

Choosing the right day:
In the Spring we started our reconnaissance drives up to London to asses and find the right entry and exit points along with the right tidal conditions and it soon became apparent that timing was going to be everything. We had to coincide in daylight time (with a good margin) the correct tide, the correct phase of the moon (to get the right water level at our exit point) and to be on a Sunday so all could make it. After all these variants were taken into account, Sunday 16th of August was the day.

Preparation:
The Thames can be beautiful and also deadly, let us not forget the people jump in the Thames to kill themselves, no weight required, the eddies and whirlpools will take you down no problem so I sounded out the Port Of London Harbour Masters office to find out what was what and a week before the start I also contacted the River Police and emailed them our schedule and asked them to let us know if we needed to be aware of anything that would pose an unacceptable danger. I spoke to the River Police by phone and they thought that I have covered all reasonable bases including the paddlers wearing buoyancy aids and having leashes and safety ropes.

The Team:
Seven paddlers made up the paddling team, and we also had 3 photographers and spotters on mountain bikes plus 3 cover boats each with two on boards plus a flat bed crew cab truck (from our friends at the National Grid) and driver to transport and collect the boards and paddlers at the end. That made a team of 17 people, 7 boards, 3 mountain bikes, 3 boats and a truck and a London Taxi.

The Schedule:
We would start our 8 mile paddle from Putney Bridge at 12:30 and 2-3 hours later reach Tower Bridge at about 1 hour before low water which should give us relatively flat surface conditions in the pool of London and in particular the Tower Bridge area without us having to trek through mud to get to our exit point at Alderman’s Stairs on the north bank adjacent to St. Katharine Docks.

The Paddle:
After much planning and preparation the day arrived. Conditions were great with blue skies and a light tail wind. Everything was in place:

07:00: I checked my email and one of the safety boats had engine trouble and had to pull out (Pool of London was not the place for a boat to be with a dodgy engine) so we were now down to two cover boats but that was fine. 08:00 The two cover boats made there way through Teddington lock on their way to the rendezvous at Putney Bridge. 09:00 Kevin (one of the photographers) started his drive up to London with his bike on board where he would park his vehicle and cycle back to Putney for the start, this would give us another vehicle to get us back to our cars that will be left at Putney.

09:30 Tom arrives at Blue Chip with the truck to pick up the boards and the other two bikes
10:00
We set off for the starting point at Putney.
10:30
We arrive at the Starting point to find Jason and Paul there ready and waiting but the river is still flowing upstream at this time

11:00 Like clockwork, the river now starts to flow down stream towards London
11:15 The two cover boats arrive and moor up. The final paddlers arrive.

and donning our buoyancy aids and SUPer Club T shirts, the camera crew got ready and Kevin moved up onto the bridge.


We made our way onto the water to test the current and the crowds started to gather on the bridge.
We played around on the water up stream of the bridge to the crowds delight.

On the stroke of 12:30; we where off on our epic voyage, we were going to SUP a journey where no SUPers
had journeyed before. The crowds on the bridge gave us a cheer as we passed under the bridge and got our
first taste of the tidal Thames. To our surprise the current and the tail wind were moving us at about 6 mph
which is about twice the speed I had planned for. That meant the camera crew on their bike would have a
job keeping up with us.

We were literally flying past Wandsworth Park and closing in on Wandsworth



Riverside Quarter Pier.


We soon came up on Wandsworth Bridge

and just after that we beached on the South side to regroup and give the camera crews time to catch up

We kicked off again and soon passed Lots Road Power Station on our left

followed by the house boats

and just around the corner was Battersea Bridge

Then Albert Bridge

right behind it with Battersea park and the pagoda on our right.

We stopped here to regroup again and let the cameras catch up. Also we needed to slow down not to be
too early. By now the land marks were coming at us one after the other and as we came under Chelsea
bridge we had Battersea power station on our right

Andrew and Jason couldn’t resist catching the wash of every boat that passed much to the amusement
of the passengers

and we could just see the MI6 building around the corner on the right just past Vauxhall Bridge.
Then a very slick Police RIB closed in on us from down stream and came along side one of the cover boats,
stayed for about 5 minutes and then carried on up stream. Mary in the boat said that they wished us well
and we should stick to the South Bank and watch out for the pleasure boats and their wake.
We decided to stop at the beach near the MI6 building to see if we could get some drinks on the
Albert Embankment when the big Yellow Duck came thundering down the ramp and came to an
abrupt halt when he saw us,

I think he thought we were some kind of invaders.

Then the Duck drove into the Thames and tootled off. It was so low in the water we all commented that
it wouldn’t take much wake to sink it. We walked up the shingle bank to the road and were abruptly
sent back with a flea in our ear by an official with a badge on his jumper telling us that duck ramp was
private property owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and we had no right there, we explained that we were
not on the ramp but on the shingle but he was having none of it and was reading the riot act as we went
back down the shingle,

he was still going into one as we went out of sight. I expect he is still going on, and on, and on…



So we paddled off past Millbank on our left

we could now see in the distance all the landmarks that London is famous for across the horizon.
Next was Lambeth Bridge with the Houses of Parliament clearly in our sights now with the
London Eye beyond.

Now we all needed a rest and to kill some time, so we beached at Festival Pier and had a well deserved
rest and some refreshment. The cover boats also stopped and we all enjoyed this respite. After about ten
minutes the camera crew caught up with us and we had a short debrief, At this time we had made such
good progress that we needed to wait at the Festival Pier for an hour to make the tide correct at our final
exit point.

then Jason and Andrew decided that this was a photo opportunity too good to miss.


After our break, The camera crew then set of and we were under strict instructions not to leave until
they were at their next location and ready for us. Then we got the call from them and we paddled off again

Next we passed the National Theatre on our right

along with ITV HQ, Kent house in the background

Kings Reach Tower.

As we were coming up to the OXO tower we could see in the distance a very fast boat coming towards
us and I mean VERY FAST with a huge wake following it then we made out the “blues and twos”
Yes we were being pulled over by the fuzz. As they approached us they killed the “blues and twos”
and cruised past and turned around before pulling along side one of our cover boats.

Apparently we had inadvertently passed under a closed arch on one of the bridges in our haste to save
our lives from being tossed off our boards by the wake of the pleasure boats. Apparently, this life preserving
action was not acceptable but on tis occasion was overlooked. We were asked not to get in the way of
other craft and to keep to the right at all times so we duly took our rollicking and carried on


passing under the two Blackfriars Bridges passing Tait Modern

and under the Millenium (wobbly) Bridge

and then passing Shakespeare's Globe theatre. Then on under Southwark Bridge and
Cannon Street Railway Bridge


and then past the Golden Hind on our right.

Now we were passing HMS Belfast

And then on past the London Assembly building

Then we could see our exit point


We landed on the south bank just under Tower Bridge where we re-grouped and made ready for the final
push over to the North Bank where our final exit point was. now it was all a matter of timing to avoid all of
the fast moving pleasure boats.

We picked our moment and we were off on the final streatch

before we new it, we were approaching the finish point

Some kayakers stopped to watch us as they had never seen SUP before

Once we were all ashore, we loaded up for the lift back

Well that is our SUPing the Thames through London story. Just to say that we SUPers had the best of the day and it would not have been possible without the help of our back up team who just kept going and made things work for us:
 Cover Boat 1: Dian and George McKenna
 Cover Boat 2: Mary and Hil Graham
 Mountain Bike cameras and spotters: Angie, Ellie and Kevin
 Truck driver: Tom
 Paddlers: Gordon, Julian, Rob, Paul, Jay, Andrew and Myself

 Plus thanks to the London River Police for caring about our welfare The Port Of London Authority for giving their advice. and a really big thank you to the thousands of people who waved and cheered us on from the bridges, shore and the pleasure boats, it was really good to see you all.

 Anyone thinking of doing a similar paddle, here are some useful contacts:
 London River Police:        020 7275 4431
 Port Of London Authority: 01474 562200
 Blue Chip SUPer Club       020 8715 0040