The Paddle Boarding Essentials

Paddlesports aficionado Clare Rutter’s SUP essentials shakedown

Feature type Spotlight

Read time 6 mins

Published Jun 27, 2022

Author Clare Rutter

Photographer Luke Paulley

Clare Rutter Micro adventurer and explorer Clare is a kayak and SUP instructor and guide. She is also a writer, public speaker and passionate advocate for positive mental health, the environment and community volunteering. A traumatic brain injury survivor, Clare was the 2020/21 #ShePaddles Ambassador for Canoe Wales.

Amidst a battle with mental health, Clare Rutter found stand-up paddle boarding. A means to improving her health and reconnecting with the physicality of outdoor activities that she lost due to a traumatic brain injury, the transformative effects of paddling were greater than she ever imagined allowing her to recuperate both physically and mentally on her terms and at her own pace.

Now, Clare works as a SUP and kayak instructor and guide, endeavouring to share the benefits of paddle sports with others in the waterways of her home in South Wales. An advocate for the environment and water safety, Clare underpins her instructional work with an emphasis on equipment, etiquette, preparation and education.

Here, Clare shares with BASE her essential Shakedown, tips on how to be SUP savvy, and what it takes to enjoy a safe and happy paddle.

After my injury, it felt like I’d no longer be able to do all the amazing outdoor activities that I loved so much or be able to enjoy the world in which I still had so much to discover and explore. That was really difficult to process, and unfortunately I found myself slipping into a state of very poor mental health, with the feeling that there was nothing much left for me. Over time though, I realised what was happening and I refused to give in. I switched my attitude to one where I focussed on what I COULD do, rather than what I couldn’t. That’s when SUP came in.

SUP gave me the opportunity to have and enjoy better physical health and enabled me to still discover and explore our beautiful world, at my pace. Because paddle boarding is so versatile and adaptable, it means I can adjust my position easily from kneeling, sitting, hanging my legs off the sides through to standing depending on how I feel. The fact that I COULD still do what I originally thought I couldn’t gave me a huge sense of accomplishment and an ongoing boost to my mental health that had plummeted so badly following injury. Now, you’ll rarely see me without a grin plastered on my face!

Brain injury could have been the end of me, but it was actually the beginning, and now I help others discover their own benefits from SUP as an instructor

SUP gave me hope, a purpose and renewed fitness which led me to where I am now, together with great friends and family and medical support. Brain injury could have been the end of me, but it was actually the beginning, and now I help others discover their own benefits from paddling as an instructor.

SUP can be enjoyed by anyone and it’s great that so many people around the world are discovering the rewards for themselves like I did. It’s not to be taken lightly though, it’s an activity that obviously comes with a degree of risk, so it’s really important that we respect the water, get the right training and understand our own abilities in relation to the weather and water conditions so we can be as safe as possible for an enjoyable paddle.

Whether out with clients as an instructor or when I’m paddling recreationally in my own time, I always go prepared – you just never know when you may need to rely on it for yourself and others. We never plan to fail, but things can go wrong fast, from breaking a paddle to being knocked unconscious. If the conditions don’t line up, make a careful judgement. It’s always better to go home and play safe another day.

Here’s my essential SUP gear Shakedown and tips for a great, safe day on the water. Happy paddling!

WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED FOR SUP?

Safety gear

Palm Equipment Nevis & Peyto Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or Buoyancy aid (BA). Various styles are available for touring, racing, white water etc.

Quick release waist belt (HF), highly recommended for moving or flowing water.

Lifesystems Waterproof First Aid Kit. I also carry a knife, a whistle, group shelter and survival bag.

Communication

Phone & Aquapac waterproof pouch and a radio. I have an ICOM IC-M94DE VHF Marine Transceiver; a VHF hand-portable radio with integrated AIS (Automatic Identification System) receiver which displays vessel traffic information, DSC (Digital Selective Calling) and GPS. This requires a VHF Operator Certificate and OFCOM Portable Radio Licence.

Repairs

Pump and repair kit including emergency putty and duct tape for punctures, and cable ties can come in super handy for many things.

 

Food and drink

Sufficient amounts for your planned journey plus an emergency stash, just in case.

Clothing

Appropriate clothing for weather, water conditions and water temperature – these can vary drastically, be prepared for anything.

My go-to items depending on conditions are Palm Atom dry trousers, Peak UK Adventure Single cagoule, GUL shortie wetsuit, neoprene leggings, shorts, socks, and gloves (I prefer the Palm High 10 glove), Karrimor sandal-type water shoes, Palm Gradient water sports boots, Cressi floating sunglasses and of course – layers! A good fleece hoodie, waterproof hat or baseball cap to keep the sun off.

Lotions and potions

Suncream – Factor 50 in strong sun and a generic hand sanitiser.

Other

Northcore dry bag to keep the water out where needed.

How do you prepare for a SUP trip?

Plan ahead

Check your training is up-to-date. In some places you need permission to paddle and may require a Waterways Licence or permits. Have laminated maps, any books you may need, and leave a paddle plan with a trusted person. You can use apps and websites to check ahead the weather and water conditions, including:

 

Training

If you’re new to paddling, taking on a new challenge or looking to up-skill, there are a number of training courses available via British Canoeing that can help you feel safe and confident on the water. Short courses including Paddle Safer Training and Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning, as well as various e-learning modules are available on the British Canoeing Awarding Body website.

Through her role as a public speaker, Clare gives talks candidly about the effects of her life changing brain injury and how she forged a new path back into the outdoors post-injury through volunteering, relearning and re-entering the outdoor activities workforce. Clare was also the 2020-2021 British Canoeing #ShePaddles Ambassador for Canoe Wales, challenging perceptions of women in the outdoors, and championing LGBTQ+ participation in paddlesports.

A short film about Clare’s SUP journey is in the making, slated for release on the BASE YouTube channel in the coming weeks. You can subscribe here.

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