Earlier this year Fiona Quinn completed a SUP Britain expedition. Stand Up Paddleboarding from Lands End to John 'O' Groats, to add to her previous cycling and walking adventures.
Fiona was keen to find something to help her train up for SUP Britain and decided the British Canoeing Three Lakes Challenge would be the perfect fit.
'Having walked and cycled the length of Britain last year, a few months ago I did what most normal people would do and figured the obvious next step was to turn it into a triathlon. With 800 miles up the west coast in my sights, there was just one small problem… I’m scared of the sea.
As a child I had a near drowning experience, and as such I’ve never seen the sea as an adventure playground. The idea of being in the sea fills me with dread; my heart races and I can feel panic building inside of me.
After doing a bit of Googling though, I realised that no one had yet attempted to SUP Lands End to John O’Groats. So despite my fear of the sea and a complete lack of knowledge around tides, currents, waves – basically anything sea based, my mind was made up. I figured I could handle being on a board, just so long as I didn’t fall in!
With a support boat and crew I set off from Lands End on 21st April. However, before going I felt it wise to do a little bit of prep to gain some experience in different paddling conditions.
Two weeks before I set off on my SUP Britain expedition, I gathered two friends and we spent 4 days paddleboarding British Canoeing’s Three Lakes Challenge. Starting at Lake Bala in North Wales, the shortest of the three, we were treated to a strong tail wind testing our SUP surfing skills. I was intrigued to find out from a local campsite owner that each year there’s a race on the lake… against a stream train! That sounds like a great reason to go back.
Next up was Windermere in the Lake District. A lake I’ve been to before, it’s set in such a beautiful part of the country. Unfortunately on this occasion the wind was against us and gusting up to 30 mph, which meant there was no way we would be paddling that day. Having to skip a day’s paddling due to the wind was good prep for SUP Britain though. It turned out I would often have to have a week off between paddling sessions, as we waited for the conditions out at sea to be suitable. It’s much safer and more fun to wait it out that try to paddle against it!
So instead of paddling Windermere we had a day off to explore and headed up to Loch Awe in Scotland the following day. The great thing about the Three Lakes Challenge is that you get to see different parts of the country. On the other hand, there’s a lot of driving involved – it was over 800 miles for me, from Bristol to each of the lakes and back.
The most challenging lake, logistics wise and from a paddling perspective, was Loch Awe. Being the longest loch in Britain at 26 miles, we took two days to complete it, which meant lots of ferrying of our two cars back and forth at the start/end of each day. There’s no public transport near the lake, and only one taxi in the whole area so it would be trickier to do solo, without a driver, but definitely not impossible.
Loch Awe turned out to be a great stretch of water to test my skills! The length of the loch combined with a wider exposed section towards the east end threw up a lot of chop and some challenging conditions given I was only used to flat water.
The beautiful islands in the Loch can be great to explore too, just watch out for some shallow sections between them and the shore as the loch bed is rock – fine if you’re in a kayak but the fins on our SUPs were not loving us as they caught on the way through.
All in the Three Lakes Challenge is a wonderful way to explore, test your SUP skills and generally have a fun multiday adventure. It proved great prep for SUP Britain too, so if you’ve got your sights set on a larger expedition I’d definitely recommend giving the Three Lakes a go first.
You can find out more about SUP Britain and my other adventures via social media @FionaLQuinn.'
British Canoeing have a range of Challenge Routes of all different lengths and difficulties. To find your perfect challenge click here.