Blog #32 – So here it is…

Merry Christmas! And everybody really has been having fun this last month as we’ve properly got ourselves into the spirit – first with a few festive drinks in early December, then the Christmassy 3rd round of our EASI winter race series last Saturday, followed by an excellent Xmas Sunday Service SUP Club through Chelmsford city centre on Sunday, rounded off with another social night in Old Leigh on Wednesday…

There was no getting away from it – last Saturday was cold. And windy. Resulting in sub-zero temperatures after windchill. Yet it was forecast to be a dry morning as the worst of the weather wasn’t due to blow through until mid-afternoon and the third round of our EASI (East Anglian SUP Initiative) winter race series, hosted by Frangipani at Chigboro Fisheries in Heybridge on Saturday, had attracted 26 entries (including an 8-strong SUPsect team). So with credit to Anni and her crew, it was game on! The venue being a relatively small lake, this month’s course was always going to be quite a technical one, but it was pretty straightforward: five laps of the lake plus one ‘super-lap’ including an extra loop around the small island for just over 5km in all. With so many entries, the start was broken down into three waves at 2-minute intervals: first the 14’s, then 12’6″s, then 12’6×28+ iSUPs and all-rounders. 11.20am saw the first race start as the 14-foot men and women went off – at the front of the pack, local boy Dan (Frangipani, yet certainly no stranger to us at SUPsect) took an early lead but was soon overhauled by Kelvin (Suffolk) and Martin (Norfolk Outdoor) who gradually pulled out a small advantage. They finished Kelvin 1st, Martin 2nd just 13 seconds behind, and Dan 3rd, 1 minute 29 back. In the 14′ women’s, Sam (Barefoot) took the honours with a very strong paddle fresh back from injury yet just 2:49 behind Kelvin, then Frangipani Anni finished a few minutes later in 2nd, with Wilma (Suffolk) 3rd. The second wave to start was the biggest fleet – atypically, an exclusively male, 9-strong 12’6″ fleet! Dunc (SUPsect) went hard off the startline on his Red Paddle Elite to build an early lead and opted straight into the super-lap (getting it out of the way first seemed the favourite tactic on the day). By the second lap, Dunc caught Ian (SUPsect) who was looking strong and fast as he embarked on his super-lap, but alas ‘E’ must have been pushing a little too hard on a cold day as he had to stop a couple of laps later to recover from a stitch – although he did go on to finish once that had passed. Finally, Dunc was stoked to finish 1st 12’6″, third fastest overall and just under a minute behind Kelvin (14′), Step-back Stu (SUPsect) took another strong 2nd place, just a tenth of a second ahead of Mike (Frangipani) in 3rd … although apparently Stu didn’t even know he’d finished as he went on to complete an extra lap! Andy (SUPsect) had a great paddle to finish under a minute later and take 4th, with Paul (SUPsect) 5th and Ian (SUPsect) 7th. Last to start were the 12’6″ x 28″+ iSUPs and all-rounders. Steve (Barefoot) was back and in fine form on his N1sco to break 40 minutes and claim 1st iSUP, but Al (SUPsect) really wasn’t far behind in 2nd, with Nick (SUPsect) taking another impressive 3rd. The women’s iSUP was won by Mary (Frangipani) with Anna (SUPer Whale) 2nd and Victoire (Frangipani) 3rd. Meanwhile Mark (SUPsect) put in an amazing paddle on his Red Paddle 10’7″ Ride to clean up in the all-round fleet, finishing faster than several raceboards! Find full results here.

Next on the winter race scene, Bray‘s Frostbite series continues with race 3 on Sunday 13th January (unfortunately their 2nd race was cancelled due to bad weather) more @BrayLakeSUP on Facebook. Then the following Sunday 20th, the next EASI race is scheduled for Hunstanton with Barefoot. What’s EASI? SUPsect have got together with East Anglia’s other big SUP clubs to form the East Anglian SUP Initiative and run our own regional winter race series. We’ll be hosting the fifth and final event in February 2019 and each paddler’s best three results of the five monthly races will count towards an overall ranking – more on the EASI Facebook page. Dates and provisional venues for the remainder of the series are:
EASI 4 – Sunday 20th January 2019, Hunstanton, hosted by Barefoot
EASI 5 – Saturday 23rd February, Hullbridge, hosted by SUPsect

But back to last weekend, and we had a lot of fun on Sunday as SUP Club convened a special Christmas Sunday Service. After the success of our Halloween night paddle, a return to Chelmsford was an easy decision, so we met at the Baddow Road car-park on Sunday lunchtime. In beautiful December weather, Santas, elves and various special Xmas jumpers gathered ready to launch. We paddled up the Chelmer to the Riverside Centre and back, then up the Can past the cricket ground and Central Park and back. It’s always fun ducking under the bridges through the city, but this time 21 of us spent the whole 7k being videoed and photographed on cameraphones by shoppers and passers-by and waving back at children and families. After, we headed round the corner to the Fox & Raven in Chelmer Village for beers and a great festive feed. One not-so-jolly aspect of the paddle was seeing the amount of litter in what is otherwise now a relatively clean waterway. A few of us picked some rubbish up on the way – but we’re planning a more organised litter-pick Womble paddle early next year. Stay tuned to @SUPsect on Facebook for more on that.

And that wasn’t the extent of our Christmas exploits this year as we got out for a couple of Festive Supping Clubs too – the first in early December at the Broker, and then the second last Wednesday 19th was a pub crawl through Old Leigh, from the Mayflower via Ye Olde Smack and The Peterboat to The Crooked Billet, then a dozen of us crawled up the hill for some cheeky late cocktails at the Black Cat! Great seeing everyone again to wrap up a fantastic year of SUP.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and we’ll see you again for another cracking SUP season in 2019…

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