Here’s a quick blog about one of my early SUP trips in Oxford last year.

I try to go paddle boarding in Oxford as regularly as possible. The Thames runs through Oxfordshire, so its the best place locally for me to go paddle boarding.

For my first outing I drove to Wolvercote, just North of Oxford City, and found a car park right next to a small tributary of the river. The perfect place to set off for a solo voyage! First though I had to get my gear ready, and that meant a pre-SUP warm up.

When choosing a board I opted for a Red Paddle Co. Inflatable board. Now when I say inflatable, don’t think it’s like a big Lilo! The technology in these inflatable boards is fantastic. Once pumped up to between 15 and 20 psi, it is as solid as a rock, but still really light and easy to carry. I opted for a 12′ 6″ Explorer board. Once pumped up I realised just how big 12′ 6″ is!

The preparation of the board takes about 15 minutes and is the perfect warm up. All I needed now was to squeeze myself into a full length wetsuit (I was expecting to fall in!) and get going. Worth noting now that I was taking no chances with cold feet and was wearing 5mm wetsuit boots too!

Sliding the board into the shallow water I hopped onto the centre of the centre of the deck on my knees, and made my first few paddle strokes. Within a few feet I was in clear water with plenty of room around me so decided to try standing up….. Success! It seemed easier than I thought it would be, thankfully. And so I was off.

Just around the corner and I joined the main flow of the Thames, right next to where a large weir churns the water out past the Trout pub in Wolvercote. It’s a pub I’ve been to many times, but this was a totally new view! And at 10.00am on a Sunday morning I was the only one there to enjoy the view.

The Trout Pub in Wolvercote

From here I decided to paddle down stream through Port Meadow. This is a popular place with dog walkers, runners and people out for a stroll. And there were quite a few people out enjoying the winter sunshine on this beautiful crisp morning. Strangely there were no other people cruising down the river on huge inflatable surfboards!!!

The only company I had on the actual river were a few coxless 4’s out training from the local rowing clubs. It was really idyllic slowly paddling along the river, with just the occasional rowers passing me. The only other movement on the river was the graceful glide of swans as they eyed me up whilst passing, and the odd fish jumping out of the water. I was tempted to tell the fishermen on the banks, but didn’t want to spoil their day!

A unique view of Port Meadow from the middle of the river

I paddled all the way through Port Meadow, as far as Binsey where I stopped for a short rest and a drink of water. From here I turned around and paddled up stream, which wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It took a bit more effort, but with a steady paddle stroke I seemed to glide smoothly along at a nice gentle pace. I paddled as far as Godstow lock, where I decided to head further up river to explore.

Getting out and carrying my board around the lock seemed easy enough, and was welcomed by my toes that had got rather numb standing still for so long. Walking past the lock I stopped and spoke to a couple that were out for a walk and were interested in what on earth I was doing! I explained what paddle boarding was all about and they agreed it was a fine way to enjoy the river on such a beautiful morning!

I had the river to myself, blissful!

Up river from the lock it became very quickly quiet, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by nothing but fields and the river. I could have been anywhere. It was just me, my board, the sound of my paddle gently moving through the water, and a few ducks swimming by. I was all by myself and it felt magical! Such tranquillity and peace sometimes seems hard to find in our hectic lives now, but this was truly wonderful.

I paddled for another 40 minutes or so, until I reached another lock. I figured it was time to turn around and head for home, and the down stream paddle on this stretch of the river seemed effortless. Again I had the river to myself and it was beautiful.

I paddled for just over 3 hours that day, and at the end I felt utterly relaxed. I’d had the best part of the day with bright sunshine and clean fresh air, and best of all I didn’t fall in once! As a maiden voyage for my paddle board, who I named Ella (The Explorer) I was pretty pleased, and eager to plan another trip soon.

Cheers, Andrew.