How to Stand Up Paddleboard & Hike

Stand Up Paddleboarding, or SUP has taken off in the UK and is growing in popularity. But there is a new breed out there taking it to literal new heights. Kris Roach is our guest and gives us his advice on how to Stand Up Paddleboard & Hike.

Nothing beats paddling in the mountains to be able to experience a real sense of escaping the crowds. Heading off with an inflatable SUP truly is an awesome way to get out adventuring.

What is Stand Up Paddleboarding & Hike?

Stand up Paddleboarding & Hike, SUP Hike for short, also known as Mountain SUPing is escaping to the mountains to off the grid lakes. It’s an amazing way to take on a micro adventure and challenge yourself on your hike. When everyone else is unwrapping their ham sandwich or opening their thermal flask I’m pumping up my Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard (ISUP) to 18PSI. Don’t get me wrong an espresso and energy bars are always packed too!

SUP Hike

Why Stand Up Paddleboard & Hike?

Escaping to the mountains in the UK with a SUP is incredible. What better way to take in the views of the mountains? My First Mountain SUP was at Llyn Y Fan Fawr in early February, insane views of snow-capped mountains and icey waters. This is where the inspiration for mountain SUPing started for me.

SUP Hike

Next was Cwm Llwch beneath Pen y Fan as this is a mountain I hike weekly. I’ve always taken in the view from Corn Du and wondered what is it like to paddle. There really isn’t a guide to mountain SUPing in the UK so I began to look at the highest mountains, and lakes associated with them.

My next adventure was naturally going to be Snowdon as the highest summit in Wales, but after discovering the hight of Llyn Cau (Cadair Idris) a stop on route, it was a must. I’m so glad I did too, this is one of my favourite SUP Hikes so far.

After the highest peak in Wales it was on to the rest of the UK, Lake district next, initially Scafell was my goal but then Helvellyn caught my attention with the Summit being 30M less and The Red Tarn being one of the highest lakes.

Ben Nevis was my final challenge in my mountain SUP goal. Physically the hardest, but also incredible. Hiked through Sun, Snow, and Fog, during June.

How fit do I need to be, and what abilities do I need to SUP Hike?

It’s another layer to your work out in the mountains. I’d recommend that your are already a confident hiker and you do a recce of your route first before attempting it with a paddle board. There is an element of upper body strength, my fitness/strength has doubled since mountain SUPing. Paddling on the lakes gives you a heightened sense of being in nature. The Jobe Duna 11.6 SUP weighs 11.5k and for me after packing additional kit it weighs approx 15k, It’s one of the lightest out there, so a great choice for the mountains.

Due to the size of the bag my advice is to be confident with your hiking ability, even though it’s relatively light, when you think you’re carrying an 11.6 ft paddle board you can easily be taken off balance due to its size. Swirral Edge on Helvelyn challenged me the most, especially ascending back after paddling The RedTarn lake. Energy levels were low and thick fog had engulfed the mountain.

Scrambling back up I went too far right of the “path” and it felt more like bouldering than a scramble, without my paddle board I could of easily made my way up but my decisions had to factor in the weight difference of the bag that could pull me back if I made a wrong move. Great experience and everyone should try it.

How do I plan my own SUP Hike?

Always plan for all weathers, I use Met Office app and the OS app to have a rough guide on timings and how to prep kit. As many of you who regularly hike will already know, the weather can change quickly.

Don’t drink the night before either, I learnt the hard way on my last Mountain SUP in Scotland taking on Ben Nevis. The weather was amazing and I was camping in Fort William which had epic views of the mountain, so do you blame me enjoying it with friends a couple of beers? A hangover, 20 degree heat plus hiking with a paddle board set me up to a difficult start. I drank 4 bottles of water in the first 45 mins. I laugh now but I don’t recommend it ha!

On all my big mountain SUP’s I’ve had company. Yes I’ve paddled solo but I’d recommend to enjoy it with a friend, which also adds a layer of safety if something was to happen. If it’s a new location for you, hike it first before attempting it by SUP. I like to SUP bare foot but I will say the rocks can be razor sharp, factor this in to your kit, neoprene socks are my preference if I do need to wear any.

What Equipment do I need for a SUP Hike?

Clothing – I utilise the three layer system as it’s a work out carrying your board.

  • Base layer. Tee, leggings. The leggings dry fast even after wading into the lake (Under Armour)
  • Softshell cargo shorts- pockets make it easy to have access to essentials (Musto softshell)
  • Softshell, fastwicking and waterresisitent great for the accent (Oniell softshell)
  • Boots (Helly Hansen Boots)
  • Puffer jacket – Summit and decent (Rab Nebula Puffer Jacket)
  • Goretex jacket (Musto pac lite)
  • Stove top (Bialetti)
  • Camera (Gopro hero 4)
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Inflatable SUP (Jobe Duna 11.6 2018)
  • Map
  • Compass
  • SmartPhone
  • OS Map – app/website
  • Met Office – app/website
  • Water and food
  • Wetsuit optional (Winter)
  • Neoprene socks
  • Micro fibre towel

When I paddled Llyn Y fan Fawr I did pack 7m wetsuit and boots as the lake was part frozen but on all my other Mountain SUPs I’ve maintained a ”dry spell”, but always pack additional clothing just in case. Thermal base layer and winter puffer just in case you do need to warm up fast if you fall in, as you don’t want to put yourself in the situation of being wet and cold when you may have an hour plus hike back.

You don’t want to put yourself or others at risk, nobody wants avoidable calls to mountain rescue. My JOBE bag doubles as a dry bag so clothes and kit stays dry. My stove top has to be my favourite bit of kit, after a hike to the lake fresh espresso is an amazing pick me up!

Top Tips for your SUP Hike

This is the most important part, plan which pub you’re going to end up in! Last orders for food and what local ale they have on draught.

Some SUP Hike adventures to get you started

The below are all the mountain lakes I’ve achieved, some harder than others but all amazing!

Wales
Llyn y fan Fawr (The Black Mountains) paddled at 605m
Llyn Cwm Llwch (Pen-Y-Fan, Brecon Beacons) paddled at 569m
Llyn Cau (Cadair Idris, Snowdonia) paddled at 350m
Llyn Glaslyn (Snowdon, Snowdonia) after Summiting Snowdon paddled at 600m and summited

England
Red Tarn (Helvelyn, Lake District) paddled at 718m and summited

Scotland
Half way lake (Ben Nevis, Cairngorms) paddled at 570m and summited

SUP Hike

Share your SUP Hike adventures

Big thanks to Kris for sharing his insights. You can catch up with his SUP Hike adventures and more via his insta account.

Been out on a SUP Hike of your own? Do share your adventures with us via our social channels by usuing #MudandRoutes, or why not carry on the discussion with like minded adventurers on our brand new SUP forum?

Tryfan Williams

I’m a Welshman born and raised in the shadow of Snowdonia, and you could say the Mountains are in my blood with a name like Tryfan! I would class myself as a relative newcomer to the outdoor pursuits arena, and so my articles will be my attempt to chronicle my adventures, hopefully learning as I go and giving those that are in a similar boat an insight / forum to share and learn.

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