My good friend Sam Ross decided on a challenge for this year and invited me along to keep him company. The challenge was to paddle 140km from Bournemouth to Brighton along the South coast of England on inflatable boards. We decided to push for a 3 day paddle.
4 days before we set off Sam told me the wind was in our favour and it would be a 3 day downwind paddle. How wrong he was.
We started at 6.30am on Wednesday 2nd July. Our first hour of the paddle we were pushing against the tidal flow, which made for a slow paddle. Not only were we paddling against tide, we were paddling against wind and swell. This was not in the plan. We paddled 35km into wind before the wind decided to be kind to us and reduce in speed . The next 7km was extremely pleasant, we had no wind and a strong tidal flow with us, we were now averaging 11-12kph.
Unfortunately the wind, once again, turned against us. We were now paddling with a strong crosswind blowing on-shore. This meant the remaining 10km of the first day was all one-sided paddling.
By the end of day one we had completed 52km and the majority of the paddle was difficult.
Day 2 started with a slight cross wind, so more paddling on one side. Luckily the wind strength was only 10-12 knots therefore we could handle the inflatable boards in this cross wind. Unfortunately, the wind speed continued to increase and we were now struggling to stay on course. 25km into day 2 and the wind had increased to 20-22 knots on shore and we had to make an extremely tough decision to stop. We were not making any distance as were having to zig zag along the coast. Our moral was low and we were mentally beating ourselves for having quit.
We took shelter at a friend’s house and spent hours watching the wind speed and praying for it to drop. If we did not get back on the water on day ]2 we would never complete the challenge in 3 days. At 6pm the wind dropped to 15 knots and we decided to go and try to complete the last 12km for the day. Once on the water we were both mentally and physically drained. There was no chatting between us and we both just had a job to do – keep paddling until we had reached the day 2 stopping point. 90 minutes later and we were finished. It was a long hard day and we were thankful it was over.
On day 3 we had to allow for extra time just in case the weather turned against us again. So up at 4.45 am and a 5.30am start. Starting at this time meant we had to paddle for 2.5 hours against the tide and to add insult to injury to enable us to get a slightly better crosswind angle we had to paddle 4km off shore before turning and heading directly to Brighton. Due to our decision to paddle so far off shore this meant we would be unable to get off the board until we got close to Brighton. 6 hours of constant paddling on a cross wind we decided to stop off at Hove Lagoon to see some friends and get some food and fresh hydration.
The welcome Hove Lagoon gave us was amazing and it was good to sit down and eat at a table. We rested for a while before pushing on for the last 4km onto Brighton. When we got back on the water the wind had greatly increased, back up to 20 knots and, once again, cross wind. I would be so happy when this paddle was finished.
We arrived safely in Brighton, albeit, sun burnt, blistered and broken. 140km done – 35km upwind, 7km no wind, 95km cross wind and ONLY 3km downwind.
That was some challenge.