It was a miserable, wet, dark October morning…

… as Giles, Neil, Ant & Mick set off from their homes towards the Yacht Club in Littlehampton. This was the agreed meeting point and the end destination of our paddle that day.

Ant & Mick were first to arrive, closely followed by Giles who jumped out of his car and into the back of Ants camper for a chat with the two of them. With the rain lashing down outside in the strong wind, the level of enthusiasm was lower than a swamp gators belly.

Just then, Neil showed up. He openly admitted that had he seen the forecast, he’d have probably pulled the plug, but as we were there now he asked us all what we thought. In the ten mins or so we sat in the car park deliberating, the rain eased and we all agreed we’d head up to the starting point in Amberley, get a good breakfast in us and decide once there. Leaving Giles car behind at Littlehampton we car shared up to our launch site in Amberley.

The car park was empty when we got there and the tea rooms/restaurant was still closed, but the rain had stopped and the skies were starting to look brighter. We decided there and then it was a “go”. As we inflated the boards Giles realised he’d been a muppet and left his paddle back in his car.

On the way into the car park however, we’d noticed a hut where they clearly hired out kayaks and SUP’s so he went in search of a friendly face to see if he could borrow one. He was in luck, “Ben” the young man working there was really helpful though did point out that for insurance purposes we would need to be careful where we launched.

By the time the boards were inflated the restaurant had opened so we headed in for a full English. Three standard, one vegan, with lattes all round except “posh Giles” who had his tea served in a nice bone china tea pot. During the chat over breakfast Neil revealed that at a corporate event he’d attended in the week he’d had an interesting conversation with a herpetologist who specialised in ophiology (the scientific study of snakes). With a mischievous grin and a slight tone of mild terror in his voice Neil told us “he really opened my eyes to some of the dangers we’re going to face out in Peru”.

After a second round of coffees post breakfast, it wasn’t long before we were kitted up and ready to head out onto the river. Ben, the water sports instructor at the Riverside in Amberley kindly pointed us towards a safe launch site and into the water we went. The tide had turned around 15mins before we went in so the flow was with us, though sadly on some of the more open stretches it was clear that the wind wasn’t.

The countryside in this area is stunning, there were a number of birds of prey soaring in the skies and numerous swans and ducks along the way. The initial stretch was sheltered with hills and trees to the right of the river. The left hand side was more flat with reeds along the waters edge. The river meanders with the fastest flowing parts of the water changing sides. The team on occasion spread out.

The weather got better in no time at all with blue skies and bright sunshine now radiating down on us. After an hour or so, Arundel Castle came in to sight. This was our planned half way stop so for a while (after paddling solidly for an hour or more into the wind) it lifts the spirits.  To the uninitiated this part of the river can be quite deceiving… one minute you feel like you’ve almost reached the castle and the next, the river steers you around in a massive horseshoe taking you in the opposite direction before coming back into the heart of Arundel itself.

When we reached the halfway stage we pulled over, onto a small jetty for a quick refreshment break and a short rest. We’d clocked up around 10km or so by this time. Neil was well prepared and his bag of many snacks was most welcome.

After a short stop we were on our way again. Some of the water on the bends through Arundel really does flow fast. As we paddled along it was noticeable that the setup we had for our leashes was different. Some were wearing it round their leg (like a surfer would) whilst others had it attached to the back of a waist strap, much higher up and away from the board. This may seem quite trivial but is actually a really important safety detail for anyone who is planning to paddle on a fast flowing river that may have underwater obstructions where your leash could get snagged. There’s a few useful videos around that explain the problem, here’s one we’ve found;

SUP leash entrapment

The second half of the journey towards Littlehampton was much more open than the first though the headwind we were paddling into had thankfully eased a little.

By the time we reached our destination at the Yacht club, the journey had taken us between 3 to 4 hours. We’d clocked up over 20km, which sounded like a lot and the blisters on Ants “office hands” were testament to the effort we’d put in. As it said in the title for this update, this really was a taste of what’s to come as when we get to Peru, we’ll be doing this distance (and some), but not just on one day… it’ll be each and  every day for 10 or 11 consecutive days.

Each time we go out, we learn a little more – about each other, what we’re doing, and the size of the task ahead. It all helps in the preparation.

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