Award-winning paddleboarder Jo Moseley has written a book about the people and places she has met on her board.

Standup paddleboarding was one of the fastest growing sports during lockdown. Now record breaking paddleboarder Jo Moseley has written a book about the beautiful people and places she has come across paddleboarding in Great Britain during the last year. Catherine Scott meets her.
Jo Moseley on Ullswater
Picture Ruth KirkJo Moseley on Ullswater
Picture Ruth Kirk
Jo Moseley on Ullswater Picture Ruth Kirk

Jo Moseley remembers vividly the first time she went out on a paddleboard.

“I was in the Lake District on September 24, 2016. From the moment I stood up and looked across Derwent Water, I knew that this was going to be something special.” Jo was 51 years old.

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Since then she has never looked back as her love for paddleboarding has grown and grown.

Sunrise over Runswick Bay
Picture Charlotte GrahamSunrise over Runswick Bay
Picture Charlotte Graham
Sunrise over Runswick Bay Picture Charlotte Graham

“In the years since, SUP has helped me navigate life with greater hope through grief, loss, anxiety, a difficult menopause, flying solo with my sons and being an empty nester,” she says.

In 2019 she became the first woman to SUP (Stand-up Paddleboard) coast-to-coast across northern England and this week her first book, Stand-up Paddleboarding in Great Britain: Beautiful Places to paddleboard in England, Scotland and Wales was published. It features 31 rivers, lakes, lochs, harbours, beaches, canals and coasts that Jo has spent months researching and trying out.

But this is much more than just a guide for those hooked on the latest craze sweeping the nation.

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“I really wanted it to be a reflection of the wonderful paddleboarding community and the beautiful people I have met along the way,” says mum of two Jo, who has made an award-winning film about her journey and also has a podcast. “I couldn’t write a book without telling the stories of some of the amazing people I met and the beautiful communities that helped me – it would have been half a story otherwise. I wanted to spark people’s curiosity to discover new destinations and also to find adventure on their own doorstep waterways that they may have overlooked in the past- but above all doing it safely, ideally with other people, and doing your research first.”

Oscar leading the way
Picture: Dan CarterOscar leading the way
Picture: Dan Carter
Oscar leading the way Picture: Dan Carter

Jo came up with the idea for her book during lockdown when she was unable to get out on her board.

“I love to paddleboard in Runswick Bay where my dad lives but that’s a two-hour drive and we weren’t allowed to travel and even though my dad was in my bubble he really didn’t want to see anyone – he’s 89,” says Jo.

“There is a reservoir near me but I wasn’t allowed on there. But elsewhere stand-up paddleboarding was really taking off and there had been reports of some nasty accidents and so I said to my son that I really wanted to write a book about stand-up paddleboarding.”

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She’d pitched a few ideas in the past to publishers which were greeted positively but with no deal. Then she pitched her latest idea to Vertebrate Publishing in Sheffield and they loved it.

Paddling in Runswick Bay
Picture Jo MoseleyPaddling in Runswick Bay
Picture Jo Moseley
Paddling in Runswick Bay Picture Jo Moseley

““But it didn’t feel right to go out and talk to people until I’d had my first vaccination, so I spent a lot of lockdown with a massive map of Great Britain plotting places that I thought might be good spots for paddleboarding. I also didn’t want to tread on anyone’s toes who had already written about places to paddleboard, although there really aren’t many books out there.”

She also used social media to see the places people recommended and made contact with people, many of them paddleboarding instructors, about the best places to go, and the best places to leave alone.

“There were some places that had been overrun with tourists when the staycation boom hit,” says Jo. “And they pleaded for me not to include them in the book as they just couldn’t cope with any more visitors.”

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With her map worked out come May 2021 Jo ventured back out onto the water and started her tour of England, Scotland and Wales – she hopes Ireland will form another book in the future.

Porthpean, Cornwall
Picture Steph BarnicoatPorthpean, Cornwall
Picture Steph Barnicoat
Porthpean, Cornwall Picture Steph Barnicoat

“It was amazing to be back out there but it was challenging,” she admits. “People were still a bit nervous and also finding places to stay was a challenge, particularly in Devon and Cornwall where I just couldn’t find a B&B or hotel room.”

But she asked around the local WI where she’d given a talk and someone offered her a bed.

“People were so generous.”

Also at one point her car gave out.

“The garage said there was no way it would make it to Cornwall as I needed a new clutch so I ended up having to hire a car and then tried to drive it down the narrow roads in Cornwall. At one point there was a car coming the other way and I just burst into tears. But when I told the driver what I was doing he was fantastic and just reversed to allow me through.”

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She also wanted to include public transport in the book and so took the train and then a bus to do the Nottingham section of the book.

“You do get some funny looks taking your paddleboard onto the train but I wanted to show people that it is possible.”

There was also the challenge of the different Covid restrictions in different parts of the UK.

“Scotland and Wales were different to us here in England and so it just made it more complicated also the rules kept changing.”

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Jo reckons it took her a total of seven or eight weeks to stand-up paddleboard all the places recommended in her book. She also took many of the photographs.

“Some of the photographs, particularly those in Runswick Bay, are taken by Charlotte Graham and that was a challenge as Charlotte wanted to capture the sunrise so it meant being on the board at 4.30am. But her photographs are amazing. Many of the others I took myself on on my iPhone but I still haven’t found a waterproof case that is any good, so when I saw a shot I wanted to take I’d have to stop, take the phone out of its case and take the photograph and then put it back in this case and start paddling again.”

In the Yorkshire section and Runswick Bay, Jo included part of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

“Along with the Lake District the Yorkshire places were the only places I had actually been to on my board before, all the others I did just for the book - and every single one I visited is in the book and they were all amazing.”

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She was also keen to include details about the area, places to stay, park and eat but also to press home the safety message.

”I am a great supporter of using an instructor or going out with someone who knows the area and who really knows their stuff. But also the weather is vital. You cannot stand-up paddleboard in the wind.

“When we were in Dorset there were 60kmh winds and we just had to reschedule. It is all about the preparation.”

Jo also wanted to incorporate her passion for the environment in the book, especially two charities close to her heart: The Wave Project and 2MinuteBeachClean..

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She took the opportunity to litter pick along the way to raise awareness of pollution on our inland waterways, another thing she is passionate about.

“I have picked litter ever since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, mainly on beaches but there is also a big problem on our canals.

“I don’t want to preach to people, but it is such an important subject that I couldn’t leave it out.”

She is in the process of writing a second book, 1001 Paddleboarding Tips and has other areas she wants to explore.

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And although she loved researching and writing the books she says she does want to just go out on Runswick Bay or the Lake District and have fun.

Jo also wants to inspire people of a certain that it is never too late to embrace new things.

“My motto is we are never too old to do something wild and it’s never too late to make a difference.”

Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Great Britain by Jo Mosely is published by Vertebrate Publishing £20