After an extended paddling holiday on Majorca and with a week to kill before the start of the European SUP Racing Tour (presented by NSP!) in France, I decided to accept a small, walk-on role in the theatrical extravaganza that was Jamie Mitchell’s UK Tour.
(aka The Adventures of Boss Man and The Captain: Team Apple Cider Edition)
Organised by the ever-industrious Steve West and his wife Mandy, we were set for a week of racing, clinics and movie screenings in London and along the South-West Coast. That part of the trip was great, but it was the random adventures on the side and all the new faces that really made the week.
The fun started with the Battle of the Thames race on Saturday. With very little idea of what to expect from the English racing scene, we were amazed to see 107 paddlers on the starting line, the sort of number that would make race organisers even in the SUP hot-spot of Australia a little envious.
No doubt Captain Mitcho attracted a few extra people to the Thames (they certainly weren’t there for the weather ;-) but either way it was very cool to see that Stand Up Paddling in England is alive and well.
Paddling up and down the river was good fun, even if I did hit the wall about 8 miles in. The Captain followed the script and took the line honours, though I was really impressed with the top local finishers as well. Names like Ryan James, Ollie Shilston, Pete Holliday, Paul Simmons, Mark Slater and up-and-coming Irish lad Pete Kosinski will no doubt be appearing on plenty more podiums in the future.
Saturday night it was down to Bournemouth, where Ryan and Pete took us out for one of the best meals I’ve ever had. We literally ate an entire pig (highlight: the brains, liver and cheeks) and also discovered the joys of scrumpy, all of which more than made up for the 10 miles of energy burned earlier in the day.
Sunday was full of clinics down the road in Poole, where JM offered a poetry recital by the fireplace and we all generally wondered how on earth this could only be two weeks away from Summer…
The clinics all went really well and the paddlers seemed pretty stoked to be hearing from the Champ in person. I’ve heard it a couple of times before, but even I was engrossed by Jamie’s stories of secret race tactics, adventurous channel crossings and crazy training sessions.
Monday it was Falmouth, an awesome part of the country with a beautiful coastline and oldschool village feel about the town. Thanks to the guys at WeSUP for organising the day and hosting an super fun/chaotic little race at the end of the day. Still can’t feel my toes! We got to see the sights that evening and managed to get our fill of apple cider for the fourth day in a row.
Yesterday we hit up Exmouth (yeah, we were doing the “mouth” tour), which is another cool little town in the South-West. The local Beach Rescue Club had gone all out to make the 10x World Champ feel like just that, with a bunch of eager juniors learning the intricacies of prone (Jamie Mitchell going back to his roots!) and stand up paddling, before filling the local theatre (which has been around longer than Australia) for a screening of JM’s Decade of Dominance.
Again, there was to be more apple cider on offer that night…
Today we hit the road back to Heathrow for our flight to Nice. This weekend it’s the big SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime (for me at least; the Captain has to go and sit in a VIP tent at the Monaco Grand Prix, poor guy), where we’ll meet up with a who’s who of the SUP racing world to travel around Germany, France and Spain for the European SUP Racing Tour.
But for now we get to reflect on an unexpected journey that turned into a classic.
The Tour of England wouldn’t have happened without Steve and Mandy West, who, apart from organising everything, also acted as chauffers for Jamie and myself all week. They managed to get us to the next destination on time, every time, even if we didn’t always wake up when (or where…) we were supposed to.
Big thanks to Adam, Pete, Steve and the Hoppins’ for letting us crash and generally looking after us on the road as well.
And cheers to all the local paddlers that came out and filled the trip with their stoke and smiles. There’s a growing, super enthusiastic paddling scene in this part of the world for sure.
It was an epic week. See you next time England!