Paddleboarding is having a moment! We’ve jumped on the bandwagon and invested in one for lazy summer days at the beach. However, it had me wondering how safe and easy it was, could we just hop-on and know what to do? So when we saw the opportunity to have a family taster session right on our doorstep at St Mary’s Island, Chatham we booked up.
I have driven oven Basin 2 numerous times to St Mary’s Island, but never stopped to notice the WaterSports Centre below.
A little bit of St Mary’s Island history for you:
The development of large steam powered iron warships led to the large-scale expansion of the Dockyard in the 1860s. This expansion took place around St Mary’s Island to the north of the original dockyard and involved the creation of three large basins and more dry docks. Originally un-reclaimed marshland, the Island had to be drained and built up by eight feet before construction work could begin. Convicts from the local prison were used as labourers. By 1875, over 110 million bricks had been produced in the brickfields created on the Island. That this expansion took place on a greenfield site aided the survival of the remarkable collection of 18th and 19th century industrial, administrative and domestic buildings which now form The Historic Dockyard. In other Royal Dockyards, original 18th century structures had to be demolished to make way for the new buildings required by the ‘steam navy’. Chatham Maritime Trust – website
St Mary’s Island is now predominantly a residential area with doctors surgery, primary school and community centre.
The Watersports Centre has a new home and crew room offering a vast range of aquatic activities including kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, raft-building and sailing.
On arrival we were given a full introduction, safety briefing and life-jackets. (Useful tip- take water shoes if you have them).
All the equipment is provided and is in excellent condition. We were guided on how to enter the water safely without falling off or getting wet, which surprisingly we managed!
How do people make paddleboarding look so easy and cool was the first question that sprung to mind? How is yoga on paddleboards even a thing and how do people casually float along with their doggy friends onboard?
The first challenge of being able to balance and stand up took all our core strength and concentration, the key to success being, ‘to look ahead and not down’. Once this technique was reasonable mastered, it was time to move on to actually paddling the board in our desired direction. This is when it became more difficult and the use of upper body strength became apparent. The instructors were fab and were constantly watching the group, shouting clear instructions from the safety of their canoe. Although a warm morning, there was a strong breeze where I found my board drifting towards the opposite end of the basin. The instructors remained patient and when realising my strength was waning, they clipped my board to their canoe for a leisurely lift back to the boardwalk. Brilliant I could sit back and relax for a few short minutes.
We were offered a quick go on the kayaks, which although I found slightly easier, I preferred the paddleboards. I managed to remain dry until the very last moment and I fell in. The water felt surprising warm, it wasn’t as freezing as it looked or I was expecting. There are basic changing rooms provided and I quickly changed in to my dry clothes (Useful tip – take spare dry clothes and underwear). The Crew Room is host to a cute coffee shop, where you can stop for a freshly made barrista style coffee and cake. Of course we needed the full experience.
If you’re looking for summer holiday activities that the whole family can enjoy, I can totally recommend. Call Matt Small on 07538 964335 or visit https://www.cmtrust.co.uk/play/water-sports/ for further information.