Two day SUP skills course

You would think when the weather is cooler, water temperatures are dropping and the clocks are changing, the end of October is not a good time for doing a 2 day course on paddleboarding.

However, during the summer months the instructors are busy, the lochs are flooded with tourists and there’s limited parking and the canals are very busy with tour boats and private vessels. At busy times Sunday’s location has regular Loch Ness monster hunting trips from there, as you can access Loch Ness from the canal. So actually end of October isn’t as crazy as it seems.

Both days had a similar format with people arriving around 8am, some time for setting up and registration, 4 x 90 minute sessions with 30 min breaks between, and then finishing at 5pm. So these were long days.

The Highland SUP Skills course was run by Explore Highland. We were split into 4 groups of 4 – 6 people and rotated around the different 90 min sessions.

Saturday 30th October – Location: Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin (about 65 minutes south west of where I live). Pronounced BEYN VEE-AN. I’d link to the wikipedia page but it’s in Scottish Gaelic so suspect you also won’t understand it. The forestry site have spelt it wrong, its hoin not hain!

  1. Forward Paddling Skills, I am definitely paddling in more of a straight line after this session. We also had a go on a mega SUP with 5 of us on together!
  2. SUP Kit, Safety and Rescue Skills, my friend Steph was the brave one jumping in to be rescued. I’m going to start carrying a spare leash with me as this has lots of ways of using it to help you climb back on or be towed.
  3. SUP Yoga, this was after lunch so I struggled with some positions, but enjoyed some lying in reverse corpse pose.
  4. Standing and Moving Confidence, I managed to move to the front and back of the board and even a couple of small jumps without falling in.

Sunday 31st October – Location: Dochgarroch Locks on the Caledonian Canal (about 35 mins south of my home)

  1. The Money Shot, tips on taking photos on water and waterproof cameras. This session was land based and we had a good laugh all wrapped up cosy in our coats and warm clothes taking photos of each other and the other groups.
  2. SUP River Skills, we paddled up the canal to where a weir flows from the canal to the River Ness. We carried our boat along the shore of the weir and then got on our boards where there was slack water (? Ok I can’t 100% remember but basically a none moving bit). We then practiced paddling towards the weir, then moving into faster flowing river water and out again. I didn’t like it and river paddling is not for me. Our instructor was talking about the river being like a motorway with the slow and fast lanes…using that analogy I liked the hard shoulder or layby 🤣.
  3. Planning Your Paddle, back on land and wrapped up after lunch we looked at tides, tidal flows, planning resources for paddling at sea or on sea lochs to calculate optimum times to go out and when not to. I can’t see me going out on the sea unless it was an organised trip with support. I have some experienced friends with sea kayaks so they have offered to go along with Steph and I if we venture one day from Nigg Ferry to Cromarty. I’m in no rush to move off just paddling on lochs for now though.
  4. Journeying Skills and Tips, this was for bigger trips than I’m likely to do and I was cold and wet and with the clocks changing and it getting dark and raining I was really losing interest at this point. We were paddling on the canal and I was more interested in snooping in the various boats moored along the canal. There was one from Texas USA! I keep meaning to look up if they have a coast…it was a small wooden boat so I’m impressed if that really made it across. I got the basics of what I need for now.

I managed not to fall in all weekend which was great. Over my 5mm wetsuit I wore my gore-tex walking over-trousers and my smallest gore-tex coat and that worked great for keeping me mostly dry. My wetsuit was only really wet from my knees down so I managed to stay pretty warm on Saturday. On Sunday it was only 6⁰C (43⁰F) and overcast and drizzly rain so it was harder to stay warm but I took my snow boots to wear for the out of water sessions so my feet could warm up but by the end of Sunday my feet were cold and my hands were cold, despite the 5mm neoprene gloves and boots. So I was ready for a hot shower and relax on Sunday evening.

On the Saturday we had a professional photographer called Angus Mackie who took photos throughout the day including some with his drone. He can be found at https://www.scotland360.co.uk/

Copyright Angus Mackie, Scotland 360⁰

He was also the tutor for the Money Shot sessions on Sunday. His website is worth a look at for his gallery of amazing photos.

See the two people bottom middle, I’m the one on the white and blue board behind the turquoise one.

We also had a volunteer with each group and we mostly had Claire, who runs the SUP Inverness Facebook group, she got some brilliant photos but I’m not comfortable sharing hers as I’m not advertising her service. She happens to be a professional photographer as well but I don’t know her details.

A great weekend overall and I’m sure my skills and confidence have grown and I know my limits and area of interest, so you won’t find me on rivers or the sea anytime soon. Lochs and quiet canals are much more my thing.

6 comments

  1. This looks like a fantastic time! Much better to have the extra space without the summer tourists to practice too, even if the trade-off is a bit colder weather. (The water temperatures in the lochs stays pretty cool year-round doesn’t it?) LOL – Texans are the bane of our existance here in New Mexico. They come here for tourism and the sights when it’s too hot to be in Texas, which is a lot of the year. Texas does, in fact, have a LOT of coastline but I’d wager whoever’s boat it was had it shipped across and didn’t sail it themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, what a wonderful course and how brave you are at this time of year. What a lovely way to experience autumn, meet new people with shared interest and learn your new found recreation. You won’t remember the cold & wet in years to come, only the fun and skills. Thanks for sharing it all. (PS: I was worried when I saw another course that people were killed in the new, somewhere in Scotland on a river, yes probably best to stay off those) xo

    Like

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