The Wokingham Paper

Paddles up! Enjoy a socially distanced time on the water

If you’ve ventured to the River Thames for your daily dose of exercise in the last few weeks, the chances are you’ll have a seen a growing numbers of paddleboarders on the water.

While walking and running along the Thames path has kept many of us sane during the lockdown, paddleboarding has emerged as one of the most popular sporting activities since restrictions have eased, largely because of the ease at which it complies with social distancing.

Since mid-May, when the government announced it was loosening restrictions and allowing people to take part in sports and leisure activities that follow social distancing guidelines, people have been flocking to the river in record numbers.

Go With the Flo, a Winnersh-based company which offers one-to-one and group sessions along the Thames between Reading and Wargrave, says they’re experiencing an uptake not just in people booking sessions, but also in actual board sales too.

They said that by the middle of this month, they had taken more board sales than the whole of last summer, while session bookings were also way up on this time last year.

“Paddleboarding is perfect for social distancing,” explained Go With The Flo founder Nick Judd.

“It’s easy to follow the restrictions before you get in the water, while on it the length of the boards themselves means that the activity lends itself perfectly to the two-metre rule.

“The only issue has been avoiding the larger numbers of people out on the river either on paddleboards or kayaks and canoes, and seeing people using equipment incorrectly, which can be dangerous, but it’s clear that the sport of paddleboarding is enjoying a new-found popularity.”

Paddleboarding is a relatively new sport to many in this country despite its 16th century Hawaiian roots.

Paddlers choose from either a hard or inflatable board – the latter are called isups, which can be folded easily and conveniently packed into the car – and use a paddle to propel themselves forward.

Nick says it helps with core strength and agility, is a perfect full-body workout, and great for mental health.

“People who try it for the first time with us are surprised at the mental clarity it provides,” continued Nick.

“It helps when the weather’s nice, and we’re blessed with a lot of picturesque spots along the river, from West Berkshire to Marlow, but whatever the weather, it’s a great digital detox and an escape from life’s stresses and strains.

“Most people trying it out take it slow as they get used to balancing on the water, but for may who return for more it can become more of a strenuous activity.

“That’s the beauty, you can go at your own pace, so it’s suited to all ages and abilities.”

To find out more about paddleboarding, visit www.gowith-theflo.co.uk

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