Photos: David F.
One cold January, I plucked up the courage to go on a guided 22 km stand up paddle. Leaving on the river Conwy from Llanwrst and eventually joining the estuary and finishing off opposite Conwy castle. My first long distance paddle by the way and it’s the first of many!
The drive up wasn’t the best, we’d left late, it was pouring down, moody skies and we nearly ran out of petrol mid-drive. We eventually arrived to see our instructor friend Adam who was by now saturated, waiting for us lot… The life of an instructor eh?!
Tip: bring change for the public loo here.
After the ‘big faff’ i.e. driving to the start location, getting changed, sorting our boats out, we set sale – not literally – from Pon Fawr, a narrow three-arched stone bridge built in 1636 (where we’d had a bit of a standoff with an impatient driver who tried to make a van with a trailer reverse on to the main road so she could have right of way).
The small bits of rushing water took us under the bridge without much effort, and my board began to ground out a little since it was quite shallow. I’m quickly learning that paddle boarding fins snag easily on rocks so I have to adjust my weight further up the board to prevent them snapping! As we lazily traveled down the River Conwy, in a mixture of canoes, kayaks and my board, I let my cares drift away and any anxiousness I had about being in deep water.
Time for the snow – of course, it was January. It silently fell into the water. It stayed with us a while as we passed snow and mist-covered hills. The scenery was fantastic, the water like glass and the current gently carried us. So far so good, I hadn’t gone in. Even when my little sister rammed her kayak into me!
I didn’t decide to stand up for much of the journey, bar maybe 4 or 5 km thanks the two canoeists wedged beside me to help me up. It was cold and even colder in the river, despite having a dry and wetsuit on, wet boots, waterproof socks, and neoprene gloves everything was tingling with brrrr!
After a brief stop to have some lunch (HELLO PRINGLES) and a non mandatory face plant in the mud (don’t ask) we set off in even more calm waters to pass ancient woodlands and historic monuments. The water began to get a little murkier and it smelt of salt. We had joined the estuary. The banks were lined with bulrushes which usually indicates deep water and the flocks of Canadian geese danced in the grey sky, forming a pattern of the letter V.
The estuary widened here and it continued to get wider as the view of Conwy castle came into view. Now for the more challenging parts – paddling on the right currents and trying not to get in the way of boats and other things that seemed to be coming at me like a scene out of Jaws!
I paddled a bit like a maniac underneath Conwy bridge at the mandatory request of Adam who was doing an excellent job of keeping us all safe as well as having fun. Still the current was fast, as we made our way over to the sandy banks. The sun was just beginning to set and the fiery red nestled behind blackening hills and the castle looked magnificent lit up in the distance.
It was a fantastic day. I’m so glad I got to do it in the winter to see the changing landscapes and nature. I’m certainly going to do it again in the summer and hopefully this time, I’ll get the hang of using my Go Pro and remember to wipe the water spray off the screen…Face palm!
If you fancy embarking on this journey in the summer head on over to the events page.