Paddling Can Take You So Many Places…

by ben-morton
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
I consider myself to be a very fortunate person. At a very young age I developed a passion for paddlesports and a growing desire to teach. Over the years, my career as a paddlesport instructor has introduced me to some of my closest friends, and has allowed me to travel the world teaching, and pursuing my own personal adventures.
Ben Morton
by Ben Morton

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Nine years ago I met an amazing couple from London during a hiking trip in New Zealand. The friendship that formed between us on a rainy multi-day canoe trip, is what led to an amazing trip to the U.K. last September.

I set off on my own to New Zealand roughly nine years ago, with no concrete plans other than I wanted to see as much of the country as possible over the course of three months. I had an absolutely amazing time hiking around some of New Zealand’s stunning National Parks and wildlands, but it was on a multi-day canoe trip on the Whanganui River that I met Robin and Liz.

Part of what makes our meeting so special, in my opinion, is that I - a seasoned ACA whitewater canoe instructor, had to plead with the local outfitter to rent me a canoe for this trip; they weren’t used to solo canoeists. While Robin and Liz, who had never paddled a canoe before, were given very minimal instruction and sent on their merry way. It was only by chance that we launched on the same day.

As we set off downstream, I initially kept to myself and just gave Robin and Liz space. But as we progressed through some easy class I-II rapids, I began to notice they were struggling to control their canoe. I began to casually talk with them as we floated downstream, and they were extremely open to any advice or insight that would enable them to be more comfortable paddling through the rapids. This is how the friendship began. What started as casual talk about canoeing, led to deciding to travel together for a week after the canoe trip, and eventually led to meeting throughout the U.S. in later years to catch up.

Since I met Robin and Liz nine years ago, they have both encouraged me to come over and visit them in the U.K. My intentions were always to make this trip, but years slip by with work and other travel opportunities. However, it was during March of 2015 that I began exchanging a few emails with Robin and Liz about the potential for a fall trip to the U.K. They immediately went to work looking into a travel progression that would enable me to explore places via paddling. After a few weeks of exchanging emails I “pulled the trigger” and purchased my plane ticket to London. I realized that traveling with an inflatable SUP was going to be the easiest and most appealing water craft for me to use during my visit.

Exploring the UK by SUP
Exploring the UK by SUP


As my trip approached I began considering my packing list for paddling. What is the least amount of gear I need to pack to ensure I that I’m comfortable and safe, but not have to pay for additional or overweight luggage? When it came down to it, the packing became rather easy. I’ve listed the essentials for my trip.

  • Boardworks 12’6” inflatable Raven SUP (w/ leash)
  • Werner Nitro 3pc. Paddle
  • Kokatat Gore-Tex Meridian Dry Suit
  • Kokatat Orbit Tour PFD
  • Watershed Ocoee Dry Bag

Arriving in London I immediately began paddling, but not on my SUP. Robin and Liz took me over to the Lee Valley Whitewater Center and I was able to kayak on the 2012 Olympic Slalom Course. This of course, was a lot of fun and very entertaining, but I was excited to get out of the London Metro area and see other parts of the U.K. Over the three weeks I was in the U.K., we visited the southern coast, Bristol, the Lake District, Cambridge, Wales, and we even made a quick trip to Bruges, Belgium. Robin and Liz were amazing hosts and took off on their own cycling adventures as I explored lakes, canals, and rivers on my paddleboard.

Bruges, Belgium
Exploring Bruges, Belgium


I realized a few things as I paddled through historic towns and around the stunning lakes in the U.K. and Belgium.

Exploring these places via SUP offered a very interesting and unique perspective of the architecture and landscape.

With so many waterways, and the ease and comfort of paddleboarding, I couldn’t help but wonder why I wasn’t seeing more SUPs. It turns out that many of these areas had seen very few, if any, paddleboarders.

Lastly, I found that traveling with an inflatable paddleboard offered so many amazing opportunities to explore areas that one wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

River Wye, Wales
River Wye, Wales

At the end of my trip in the U.K., I couldn’t help but reflect on how crazy it was that it had all started on a multi-day canoe trip on the North Island of New Zealand. The memory is a reminder to me of how paddling has brought amazing friends into my life and led to so many fantastic adventures and opportunities to travel.

Exploring these places via SUP offered a very interesting and unique perspective of the architecture and landscape.

River Avon / Ullswater Lake
Tags:    aca ben morton kokatat sup