Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton's ill-fated North Yorkshire paddle boarding adventures

Our weekly column from The Yorkshire Vet.

Paddle boarders enjoying themselves in Roker. Picture: Kevin Brady.
Paddle boarders enjoying themselves in Roker. Picture: Kevin Brady.

Last weekend’s action had been months in the making. Our enthusiastic and like-minded friend Lucy had hatched a plan for a river adventure. It was a toned-down version of plan A which we had all dreamt up at the end of a drunken dinner party and, as such, would never have worked.

That one involved an expeditionary force of two stand-up paddleboards leaving Thirsk, navigating Cod Beck, meeting the Swale and eventually arriving at Spurn Point at the mouth of the Humber.

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It would surely have been an epic adventure but, in the sober light of day, we realised it was not quite the great idea we had first thought. Detailed analysis of my stand-up paddleboard speed and (lack of) skills during a previous aquatic escapade on the River Tees revealed that this adventure would take several days.

The watered-down and much more realistic version that we settled upon involved a fleet of kayaks and SUPs paddling from the lovely little village of Beningborough, through York to Naburn beyond. It was a 20-kilometre trek, all down-stream. As we inflated our craft and assembled the flotilla, we all felt as if we were part of a Swallows and Amazons story.

We set off shortly after noon, with emergency bananas, water and suncream. Once we’d got used to our craft, it quickly became clear that progress would be slow. Although, at the start of the journey there were no riverside paths nor people, it was evident we were travelling at approximately walking pace. However, unlike a walk along the river, there was the added excitement inherent in the ever present risk of falling in.

The kayakers, Anne and Archie included, seemed to fair best. The paddle boarders – Jack and I – coped, but one of us (by which I mean me) struggled with unpredictable wash from the occasional motorised boats. Several times I found myself wobbling precariously and dropping to my knees for security. It was pointed out that my board had a noticeable sag in the centre.

Either I hadn’t pumped it up enough, or I was too heavy for the board. At one terrible moment, right in the centre of York, as we passed the Museum Gardens and in front of all the al fresco drinkers relaxing at the riverside bars, I capsized. Luckily, it was near the bank and shallow enough for me to stand up and easily remount my board.

There was another minor crisis when one of the double kayaks appeared to be losing air. The sides seemed floppy, its pace dropped and it started to take on water. An emergency stop to bail out and some vigorous pumping solved the problem, at least for a while.

Despite hiccups, our flotilla made steady progress, but it was hot and we were starting to flag – not because of the pace but because we’d been paddling for hours. Then, like a mirage in the desert, we spotted something in the distance. “Is that a floating ice cream van, moored on the bank of the river?” we asked ourselves. Surely we were hallucinating and short of energy (bananas having been consumed).

But it was real. An ice cream-van-boat was moored on the far bank and we paddled furiously across the stream, brandishing the stashed – and luckily now waterproof – ten pound notes.

The ice cream-van-boat had two windows. We sidled up to the window to port that opened onto the river. Tubs of ice-cream and lollies boosted our energy reserves and saved the day. It had truly been an excellent adventure. Next time a trip to Spurn Point?