Winter in the UK is a great time for the downwind SUP aficionado. With the chances of gales and swell more common during the off season; paddlers who love chasing bumps and rolling along coasts will be salivating at the prospect of the next few months.
If you’re thinking of getting stuck into some serious downwind action, or you’re a hardened coastal runner searching for new routes, then check out this selection of downwind runs in the UK.
Saunton to Westwood Ho! (Devon)
Saunton is noted among the surfing fraternity as being a great spot for some hotdoggin’ (longboard) action. Of late it’s also been a magnet for SUP shredders due to the friendly (er) nature of the waves – Saunton is actually a great location for those into downwinding as well.
During any strong northerly blow it’s super fun to spoon out next to the cliffs at the northern end of the beach before hanging a left and punting all the way to Wesdtwood Ho!
If you’re far enough out, with a decent breeze, you’ll get some awesome rollers to hang on. The only hazards are passing the mouth of the estuary that separates the two beaches. The tidal flow in and out of the entrance is quite strong – and getting out in big swells is tricky.
Hayling to Bracklesham (Hants/West Sussex)
The south coast, UK, is a breezy place – particularly east of the Isle of White. The South Downs and its ‘squeeze’ effect caused by Britin’s green and pleasant land being in such close proximity to France ensures a regular blow. On its day it doesn’t do too badly for swell either.
Spooning out from the western tip of Hayling Island; the downwind gun run to Bracklesham Bay, is a pretty quick route but super fun none the less. If it’s blowing dogs off chains then the bumps out a sea will usually be significant – even more so at high tide. Riding rolllers along this part of UK can be extremely fulfilling.
There’s a bit of current to watch out for around the Chichester Harbour mouth area, and a few sand banks that kick up some heavy chop/surf, but other than it’s an intermediate friendly route – providing adequate precautions are taken.
Trecco to Rest Bay (Wales)
Porthcawl, South Wales, is synonymous with surfing and a number of beaches in the town of throw out decent conditions with a solid swell.
For the downwind enthusiast; southerly winds will hamper (initially) getting off the beach, but once out in open water it’s a right hand turn giving you have a whole coast to boot along. The run to Rest Bay is a short one and perfect for those getting into downwinders, while more experienced paddlers can choose to continue on. It’s even possible to chuff along right into Swansea Bay – if the surf is firing then there should be some large lumps to surf.
Inner Hebrides (Scotland)
The Inner Hebrides is a beautiful place to visit and has an exhaustive amount of downwind routes to choose from depending on your ability, weather conditions and preferences. Paddling inter islands or between bays can be super fun but not for the inexperienced.
There’s some huge mileage you can cover in the area of the UK but adequate measure need to be in place before starting out on your journey. Skill levels need to seriously questioned as well as it’s all too easy to getting into a fix without relevant experience and knowledge.
Branksome Chine to Milford on Sea (Dorset)
If there’s a strong westerly blowing then Bournemouth is always good for some downwind action. The large horseshoe bay in Dorset attracts a relatively big crowd who usually start off around the Branksome area on the east facing shore. From here it’s a fast run towards Milford on Sea, catching swells and runners in the process.
Although it’s not an overly long route, during the middle part of the trek you’re actually quite a way out and therefore if something goes wrong it’s tricky getting back to shore. Plan well, prepare as much as you can and let people know your plans – the coast guard in particular.
Downwinding can some of the most fun you can have on a SUP and autumn, winter and spring in the UK can dish up superb conditions. However, it’s not an act that should be taken lightly and much can go wrong. Take the necessary precautions, know your limitations, paddle in a group, be sensible and all should be fine.
Remember – you don’t have to go out in the strongest of winds, biggest of swells and cover the biggest distances to enjoy downwind paddling. Shorter inshore routes can be just as rewarding. Build yourself up to more challenging conditions over time and you’ll enjoy many sessions catching runners and rollers.