By Fiona Quinn
LMFF speaker and adventurer Fiona Quinn shares her TOP 3 favourite London paddleboarding spots for fun days out in the city.
Given I've stand-up paddleboarded (SUP) 800 miles from Land's End to John O'Groats (LEJOG), you might think that I have a love for hardcore training, detailed nutrition plans, and having the most ultra-efficient kit.
However, that couldn't be further from reality. As detailed in my new book, Ignore the Fear, it's not the usual stuff that draws me to adventure. I'm not a racer. I'd rather pootle along at my own pace, stopping off for cake along the way.
I didn't train for the adventure either, paddling just three times on the sea before I left Land's End so that I didn't chicken out – I'm scared of the sea! And when it comes to kit, I opted for an inflatable rather than the more efficient hard board, because it meant I could easily take it on mini-inland adventures before and after SUP LEJOG.
I'd throw my board in the back of the car, take it on a train, or even haul it onto my back to find little spots in and around the city to go paddling. During my time living in London, I discovered some gems for getting out on the water and soaking up the sun no matter what time of year. Here are my TOP 3 SUP spots in the capital.
Teddington Lock to Hampton Court
A lovely 10-mile out and back with no portages, this stretch of the Thames is non-tidal with some grand houses and quirky houseboats to nose into as you paddle along. Stop for lunch at Hart's Boat Yard or bring a picnic and pull up on the grassy bank just before Hampton Court. If driving, you'll likely have more parking options in Ham - or, if you're getting the train, paddle in the opposite direction starting at Hampton Court train station.
Limehouse Olympic Loop
With plenty of useful details provided by British Canoeing, this is a brilliant way to explore London's oldest canal and see the Olympic site from a different perspective. An easy 6.5-mile loop, hop into the Limehouse basin and paddle off in search of some Victorian and modern engineering. Reward yourself with some cake halfway around by seeking out The Milk Float, a bar and café in a barge situated slightly further along the canal towards Hackney Wick station.
The Tidal Thames
For something a bit more challenging, hop onto the tidal section of the Thames. Obviously a busy river with a strong tidal flow, this isn't one to be tackled alone - unless you have a qualification from the Port of London Authority allowing you to do so. Instead, join a session with Active360 leaving from Kew Bridge. You'll get instant paddle buddies, they'll have worked out the tide times, and will get you to and from a pub stop, paddling under some of London's well-known bridges. Just remember to wear shoes that you don't mind getting covered in smelly mud – the banks of the Thames are not clean!
Book: Ignore the Fear, £10.99, available from www.fionalquinn.com