Spending time out on the water is such a wonderful way to take a step back from everyday life. And unless you’re battling with the chaos of ocean waves or whitewater rapids, then it’s almost impossible not to feel relaxed and totally de-stressed when floating your way through the day. I usually favour high-energy activities but a recent canoeing trip reminded me of how much more of the world you see travelling at snail’s pace. It’s a chance to get much closer to nature than when you’re on foot or bicycle. And you see places from a totally different perspective.
So when I got the chance to go stand up paddle boarding (SUP) with Gylly Adventures on the gorgeous and tranquil waters of the Helford River in Cornwall this summer, I jumped at the chance (but in a reflective and low energy kind of way!). Another opportunity for some cruisy exploration of unknown territory.
I’ve done paddle boarding before and know that it can actually be pretty hard work if you are working against the wind or the tides. Or if you are simply struggling to get balanced on the board – that takes hard work in itself! But once you’ve got into the swing of things, paddle boarding offers a unique opportunity to access areas of the coast or the river with ease, and the elevated position of standing (instead of sitting like in a canoe or kayak), means that you get to see even more of the area you are exploring.
My previous experience of paddle boarding ended in gladiator style challenges on the boards, duels and racing. Hilarious fun, but it was mainly because our paddling arms had become so fatigued that we couldn’t go any further. So embarking upon a 3 hour paddle boarding session with Gylly Adventures made me a little anxious that it might just be a bit of a slog.
Paddle boarding and more
And then I remembered that Gylly don’t just offer how to balance, how to paddle and how to get from A to B style sessions. They offer a WHOLE lot more, if you want it. Of course their main aim is to get people enjoying time on the water in an active way, and if you come away from a session with some mad paddling skills then all the better. But for those looking for a little more out of exploratory paddle boarding, Gylly Adventures have you covered.
A paddle boarding adventure
I love going on adventures. Large adventures, new ones, scary ones, and most often miniature ones. And a mini afternoon adventure was exactly what I got with Gylly Adventures, not just a lesson in paddle boarding.
On meeting Andy, who runs the company, and Jen one of his assistants, I was immediately having fun. Upbeat, chatty and super friendly (but not in a try-hard way that some instructors manage to get oh-so wrong!). There was zero faff over gear (big thumbs up) – we just got ready and trotted down the road to our awaiting SUPs on Durgan beach.
Out on the water
After a quick briefing on the basics of paddling, we set off from the tiny beach tucked neatly into the tree-lined coast, and wiggled (and wobbled) our way through the rocks. It wasn’t long before I’d totally forgotten about the stress of the previous few days and was totally focussed on my new surroundings, feigning something like balanced confidence. And with a few tips and pointers from Andy as we journeyed deeper into the river mouth, I was actually feeling very at home on my floating friend.
The conditions on the river were perfect. Barely a breath of wind and super calm waters meant that we were able to cover lots of ground, or water! And at about 3.5km in, we pulled up onto a deserted beach for a ‘snack’.
Now in my opinion, all the best microadventures revolve around great food (or drink), making this one, without a doubt, THE best microadventure I’ve ever been on. As if paddle boarding in the most idyllic setting to beach up for a picnic wasn’t enough, we only went and picked some fresh mussels, lit a fire and cooked them! I felt like a child from an Enid Blyton story. All that was missing was lashings of ginger beer and Timmy the dog. (Although I’m pretty sure Gylly Adventures would arrange that if you asked them nicely!).
The mussels were incredible. Fresher, bigger and more tasty than any moules frites from a restaurant menu by a nautical mile. The garlic and lemon sauce that Andy whipped up was the perfect compliment, and as we chatted the afternoon away I realised the importance of having more than just paddle boarding to fill the afternoon. The rest and nourishment was hugely welcome, but more than that, the added element of a real and unstaged wilderness experience fitted into the day so seamlessly and appropriately that it just made me want to get out and do more paddle boarding. More paddle boarding means more mircoadventures. And with my newly learned mussel foraging and cooking skills, more microadventures means more delicious feasts along the way. Famous Five, here I come!
What really sets Gylly apart from other adventure companies that I have encountered, is their willingness, or rather desire, to create an experience that it largely customer led. It makes no sense to run separate sessions for each small group that make a booking – from a business point of view, that is. But they are so aware of the impact that pushing together groups of differing age or ability can have on the experience, that they would much rather run more sessions than they need to. That way, every adventurer gets the experience that is best suited to them.
And of course it’s not just paddle boarding tours that Gylly excel at. They also offer a load of other land and water-based activities:
- Coasteering – on the North Cornwall coast and near Falmouth
- Kayaking – on the Helford River and at Gylly beach, Falmouth
- Bushcraft and wild camping – on the Helford River
- Surfing – on the North Cornwall coast
- Archery – near Falmouth
- Rock climbing – near Saint Austell or Helston
And if you’re not up for a fully guided adventure experience, then you can always head to Gylly beach where you can hire SUPs, kayaks, bodyboards, surfboards, snorkels and wetsuits. Once you’ve got the basics, a tour of the less easy to access areas will be all the more enjoyable.
So if you are heading down to the South West for your next holiday then getting out paddle boarding in Cornwall is an excellent way to explore the same old places but from a new and fresh angle.And with a team that is as dedicated to your adventure as the crew at Gylly, it’s hard to imagine a better way to explore.
Gylly Adventures run tours right through the autumn, so for more information on a bespoke Cornish adventure, check out their website.