SUP Challenge : 6-days, 11 lakes by SUP & Bike
By Rachel Towe
Self described as a novice SUPper, Rachel Towe, creates a unique voyage combining a bike trailer and the board to circumnavigate the Lake District paddling the length of 11 iconic lakes. A tale that is not particularly ground breaking in terms of a physical challenge, nor one that breaks records and reaches the outdoor challenge headlines but one that might inspire others to create their own unique adventure out of limiting circumstances and think outside the box.
Firstly…the reason I wanted to share my story on the WWW website…
I hadn’t met (or even heard of) a Wonderful Wild Woman until I went to Rheged Visitor Centre one January evening in early 2020. Only that day, I had been battling with the Lake District weather and attempting to dream of adventures in the spring and summer ahead. The day was dreary and driving up to Penrith on a stormy night felt like the opposite of what my hibernating instincts told me I should be doing that evening. I was, like a lot of others around me, feeling a little depressed.
I was going to the WWW event to support my fabulous friend, Jane Reedy. Jane was giving a talk that evening after surviving (and thriving) the challenge of overcoming horrendous cancer surgery and creating the ‘Pedal to the Peaks’ adventure. Through her adventures, Jane has raised an incredible amount of money for Cancer Care (look her up – you will definitely be inspired too). I went along that evening to feel proud of her and support her, as she indeed told us why she is a Wonderful Wild Woman.
That evening at Rheged was truly inspirational for me. Every one of the WWW that stood up to speak and tell us their story, touched my heart and I came away floating. The vibe in the room was so welcoming and warm and even though I didn’t know the people there, I felt like I belonged. My motivation sparked again. I came home gushing with enthusiasm as I told my family of the stories I had heard.
The next day, I continued to bounce and I reached out to friends to share my enlightenment. I looked at the WWW website, and enjoyed reading some of the marvellous stories on there. I felt compelled to email some of the speakers/founders and thanked them for sharing their story. I thought, ‘I want to be part of this WWW group’ but I realised on reflection that I felt like I already belonged. The philosophy of the group is not to share accounts of remarkable athletes doing un-achievable things. At the heart of WWW, are stories about females overcoming challenges, just getting themselves out there and feeding off the benefits of being in the great outdoors. It’s about their attitude to support each other, to share their love of how renewing the great outdoors can be. It’s non-competitive, warm, fun and definitely something I want to be a part of.
So…I thought…I think I am a WWW too. I am not the arrogant type and often quite a private person about my achievements but I felt that the WWW website isn’t about bragging, it’s about sharing, appreciating and inspiring each other. Therefore, I thought you might enjoy my story of thinking outside the box, of overcoming limitations, and just getting on and being inspired by what our truly magical environment has to offer us.
This is my story of my SUP challenge of Summer 2019…
Floating on top of the water is truly magical and that’s the feeling I first felt when I tried SUPping for the first time. After spending a lot of time in the Lake District mountains running and walking, it felt quite enlightening to now see a whole new perspective, on a landscape, that I thought I knew so well.
But soon I wanted more…what if this vessel of rubber, that you inflate and deflate so easily to enjoy floating on top of the water…what if…it could become the catalyst to take me on a journey, an adventure, a voyage but not just on the water?
I wasn’t into SUPping until a year and a half ago, in fact I hadn’t even stepped on a SUP or engaged in water sports – I don’t like swimming so why should I? But when I was offered a go on a SUP, I was soon captivated. I enjoyed about 4 ‘pootle’ paddle board trips on the lake and then my friend and I concocted a plan to paddle the length of Lake Windermere (10.5 miles). We had very little idea about whether we were able to achieve that or not (what with being novice) and so, with very little experience or training, we gave it a go. It was surprisingly easy and very enjoyable, and that was when a seed was sown…
My background, BP (before paddling), previously I dabbled in fell walking and running, cycle touring, dancing, yoga… none of them at a serious level and being surrounded by a group of friends who were a collection of champions in local, national and even international competitive fell running scenes, any of my own accomplishments felt quite tame and insignificant. In the New Year of 2019, I injured my ankle badly with a ruptured ligament in a running race and was on crutches for a month and feeling sorry for myself. Then flu took me to bed for nearly 2 weeks. A rotten start to the new year but I was determined that it wasn’t going to continue to be a bad year. It was then, in my sick bed, that the real plotting began. Clearly the mountain running challenge I was preparing myself for that summer was now no longer an option, as the ankle recovery was going to take at least 6 months. So I needed a different focus/challenge that didn’t rely on running. I needed to think outside the box and try something new. But I already had! That kookie idea I had had the summer before whilst SUPPING the length of Lake Windermere came back to me, took hold and the journey began.
So what about…SUPPING the length of 12 iconic lakes of the Lake District in a continuous journey travelling between the Lakes on a bike with the SUP in a trailer? And that’s what I did. This summer of 2019, a 6-day journey, me and my SUP and my bike with trailer.
Friends thought the idea was a bit of an unconventional faff and, to be fair, it kind of was but I loved the unique idea of being self-sufficient, carrying all my stuff and journeying between the lakes on bike with the SUP in a trailer.
So in practise this is what it really looked like…each lake would entail 4 stages:
- Cycling with the SUP in a bike trailer (used to transport kids around usually) with my paddle sticking out the back. Arriving at one end of the lake. The SUP (and equipment/clothing needed to SUP) was then left in this location. Say this was the south end of the lake (which it often was due to the wind direction).
- Cycle to the other end of the lake (North) where I would leave my bike.
- Run back to the south end of the lake where my SUP was waiting. I would then inflate my SUP with my pump.
- Finally SUP the length of the lake from south to north. I would then deflate my SUP, roll it up and put it back in the trailer and cycle off to the next lake.
The whole circumnavigation/journey of the 11 lakes took me 6 days. Days varied in terms of how many lakes I did in a day dependent on the distance on the bike between the Lakes and the length of the lake. The longest lake being 10.5 miles long and the shortest 1 mile. Most days were about 10 – 12 hours of continuous movement (shared out between cycling, running and SUPPING) with snacks/food on the go. I stayed in a combination of YHAs and tents accompanied by friends and family for company but other than that I was proudly self-sufficient. I paddled 11 lakes in the end rather than 12. The planned visit to Ennerdale was not an option due to bad weather and difficult access. There were some hairy moments on Buttermere with gale force winds pushing me double my normal speed without having to paddle. I collected lots of other moments and stories on my journey. Most of which wouldn’t interest anyone except me but as with any adventure I learnt quite a bit about myself – character revealing rather than character building (again – no need to bore you with any of those).
The reason why I wanted to share my story is not because I think it is an incredible feat/challenge or story of great courage but I wanted to share how easy it is for someone (such as a novice like myself) to enjoy. I was forced to try something new and I am actually really grateful, that I had the opportunity, to be inspired to create my own adventure. It has reminded me how great it is to have to think outside the box. The enjoyment and liberation you get from planning your own challenge is immense: no one to live up to and no one has journeyed there before. SUPPING has been a very magical addition to my life, given me a new perspective on the world, slowed me down, mellowed me out and been a new friend to enable me to discover a unique voyage. I hope my story inspires other new SUPPERS that they can do the same. Last little thought…I have come to the conclusion that kneeling on the board in gale force winds is not cowardly – it’s downright survival. Can you still say I have SUPPED the 11 lakes? Absolutely damn right I have!
A huge thank you to Rachel for choosing to share her story with us!
We hope it has inspired you to think outside the box and create your own adventure!