Paddling around Christchurch Harbour and the Loop

A big thanks to Barry Short from BaySUP for the guided tour of  Christchurch harbour!

The place to launch from is Mayors Mead car park which can be found at BH23 1HU off of Wick Lane.   Parking here gives you a grassy area to lay your boards down, but you do have to pay for parking all year round and the attendant will be hot on your tail.   Also once you are finished there is a cracking hotel that will allow you to pop in to grab a coffee or beer.  It is a 30 second walk from the car park.

Anyway to the paddle and map.   Launching from the quayside is super safe.  The only thing to do as always with any tidal area is to consider the state of tide and your ability to paddle against it if necessary.

Paddling around Christchurch Harbour and the Loop

We left in perfect sunshine and the water was glassy flat.  The tide was slack, and we meandered out towards the main basin with nothing to speak of other than the stunning views.

You can see at point 2 a very large sand bank that is visible at all states of tide.  The bar makes for a good stop off point if you need to take a moment for any reason.    To be honest this basin of water is pretty safe so not a lot can happen to you in here, but it is tidal so know your limits.

We continued to paddle and landed on a grassy area at point 3 which made for a nice place to lad and chat with the other paddlers, some of which were out for the first time.

The board I decided to use was the Jimmy Lewis Blade II which is a flat water race and touring board, being superfast and stable so covering ground even against tide is easy.

Paddling back was against a tiny headwind and a now falling tide, so a bit more effort needed, but with all basins and tidal rivers you can find ways of getting out of the main tidal flow. Heading over to point 4 was a good way of finding slack water whilst the mid-channel was moving against us.

I was out front with Rik who is the importer for Mistral SUP into the UK and the was riding the 12’6 race board.

Point 5 got really turbulant.  Don’t know if it was the depth of the water, but this is a strong current running here so dig deep and paddle hard if the tide is against you, it doesn’t last long but will try and push your board sideways if you are not paddling straight into the currant.

Rik and I decided to do THE LOOP which is a riverway that runs through the town of Christchurch and back again.  Point 6 shows the corner that had a super turbulant current running and you are crossing it so again dig deep and try to paddle into the currant a bit.  We headed over to the side where the houses are as the flow is less here.

What Rik hadn’t mentioned was the river was very heavily flooded and as we begin THE LOOP the flow of water increased massively, and so I buried my paddle deep in the water and pushed on.  You don’t often see eddies in the water we generally paddle on, but a lot of signs of turbulance were apparent and the first test came when I got to the first bridge.  Rik had said you paddle under it, but in this case it was only passable by kneeling down to cope with the speed of the water as well as the lack of height available under the bridge.

Coming out the other side I had to stay kneeling as the current got even stronger again as it forced its way around the corners.  A few ducks cam e into view and virtually planing as they tried to paddle for the shores.

Usually as you turn around the top of the loop you can stand up in just a couple of feet of water, but today it was more like 3-4 ft and surging, so I kept paddling hard.  What was more tricky here was keeping the board straight as the water wanted to keep pushing me into the overhanging trees.

As you turn to face home you now join the main flow from the parent river, and with that much water running this was a fast ride back.  I came to the bridge again and the water was pumping up due to the debris that had gathered around the footings of the bridge….  Now drop to knees and paddle hard to keep straight as the water tried spinning me around.   Now I’m out the other side I stand up and go again.

No sign of Rik or Chris who had joined us on the Starboard Coastrunner.  Must be my immense paddling skills and power that put me so far ahead or that  Rik is so much taller than me, he struggled to get under the bridges.

Point 9 and the water tries to drag me back out across the junction, so keep close to shore, and you’ll be fine here.   Even though we are now fighting the flow it isn’t yet at full strength so getting back was fine, but I was sweating my ass off as I had my 5/3 wetsuit on and hadn’t yet taken a dip.

Back to the car park all dry, well exercised and super happy.

The harbour is a stunning place to paddle if you’re ever in Dorset, but if you’re down in West Sussex and looking for something, why not try Chichester Harbour or the Canal.  We run waterports lessons at both venues, including paddle board lessonswindsurfing lessons and wing foil lessons.


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