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1,000 islands SUP boarding in Croatia

Gutsy Girls Croatia Sup Adventure 8

Words: Elaine Farquharson

Photos: gutsygirls.co.uk

The Adriatic Sea contains an archipelago of 1,300 islands the majority of which lie along the Croatian coast, making this area a paddlers paradise for exploration and adventure.

This is the bluest and clearest of the seven seas in the Mediterranean. It connects up to the larger Ionian at the southern Straits of Otranto and has Italy to its west flank and Greece just to its south. These great nations, with their ancient history and mythology, have greatly influenced Croatian seafaring culture. However, it has its own identity and has remained unspoilt and less touristy than its wealthier neighbours. 

The tidal range here is slight only maxing to 50cm height difference. The oceans do not govern the swells and surf but more from the wind. Surf is limited in Croatia compared to its neighbour in Italy, but the west shores can gain some great waves on southerly winds.

The climate here is oceanic and a gentler heat than other Mediterranean countries like Greece. It’s also less humid than other subtropical countries in a similar latitude. The average temperature in summer is around 30 degrees celsius with a water temperature of 24 degrees C. This makes things very pleasant and enjoyable for race training and touring. You actually want to fall off and its a fabulous place to learn all your freestyle tricks and footwork.

The water here behaves more like a vast open water lake. Paddling significantly benefits from the katabatic and anabatic air flows when the temperatures create pressure gradients between land and sea. It’s similar to Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean with its afternoon winds creating some great downwind runs. The bumps are clear and clean without interference from different hydrology or tidal flows, so it’s an ideal place to perfect and develop your open water playing without too much exposure.

Healthy respect

Talking about winds they’re generally very forgiving throughout the summer season, and mostly the sea is in a state of calm. However, this wouldn’t be the case during the winter with the notorious Bora (NE) and Jugo (SE) winds that create vast storms. All the island villagers show a healthy respect for such feats of mother nature. I was fortunate to experience an out of season storm whilst I stayed out on the islands.

During the storm, the visibility is destroyed from heavy rainfall. Just seconds out in it soaks you to the skin like someone has poured a bucket of water over your head. The forked lightning is spectacular and outshines any bonfire night display I have ever watched. It’s great fun to see from the land to a tourist like me, not to be trifled with out on the water that’s for sure. It is a sense of anxiety for the locals as the alarms sound, and everyone battens down the hatches. Luckily it passes quickly and is incredibly rare unless you go in winter multi-day adventuring.

The physical geography is beautiful with inlets and archipelagos of islands to paddle around, rock-hop, and explore. The opportunities for exploration and multi-day adventuring are endless. I think you could spend a lifetime here and still not have explored all the wonderful inlets, rock formations and grottos.

Due to the shorelines being rocky rather than sandy, the water is so clear and the visibility excellent. Snorkelling off the board is a must, and below the board waterline, there are hundreds of shoals of fish and spectacles to see. My favourite was the octopus or the cute black sea urchins that if you’re careful will slowly slither over your hand in the sheltered rocky shorelines.

Other animals to enjoy but be aware of as they will defend themselves if you challenge them are adder snakes in the vegetation, although rare best to be aware if you’re camping along the shorelines or into the more shrub-like areas. Also in the water, they have jellyfish that have a slightly worse sting to our common jelly’s, but I didn’t see any when I was there not even the large barrel jelly’s. Also weaver fish, anemones and those little black urchins can sting you if you happen to stand on one of them. To be honest, we had no problems just a little note to be aware of that’s all. 

I was fortunate to join the fabulous gutsy girls under the ownership of visionary Natalie Poppy as an assistant guide on their holidays for adventurous women. The set up is truly unique as guests are housed in locals accommodation and traditional catering bespoke to the group. Dining at a small locals restaurant just for our party felt like a luxury where I was a guest in their house, it was lovely. 

Amazing and inspiring ladies...

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