Chichester Canal paddle boarding is the perfect activity for a complete novice and is my new favourite thing to do in the local area! You don’t need to be super fit and it’s great for all the family. I’d wanted to try paddle boarding for a few years but never got around to it. It turned out that some girlfriends were keen to give it a go too, so we got in touch with the local experts at TJ Board Hire and booked a session.
If you’d like to try paddle boarding then a canal is an ideal place to start. It won’t have waves like the sea, or be tidal like some rivers. It’s not too wide so is easy to get to the edge if you need to, and the Chichester canal isn’t busy with water craft. Read all about our adventure below!
Chichester Canal Paddle Boarding
TJ run paddle board tuition, group trips and provide board hire at various locations around Chichester, Bognor Regis and Pulborough, which are all picturesque locations in West Sussex. We chose a three hour session leaving from a (free) car park in Hunston, which incorporated tuition for everything we needed to know and a three mile round trip to Chichester. It included how to get in and out of the water, how to sit, kneel and stand, and how to paddle. Although we didn’t need to put it into action, we also learned how to get back on the board if we fell off!
Tony was extremely skilled at explaining everything in simple terms for complete beginners. He was assisted by Gemma who helped us into the water one by one, and we practised various strokes to go forwards and turn around in big and small circles. We learned what to do when one of the cruise boats approached and how to retrieve a dropped paddle. Clue; they float so wouldn’t go far, but again we didn’t have to put any emergency drills into action!
Once we were all confident on our knees we started moving up the canal towards Chichester. When we had gained enough speed we carefully (in a very ungainly fashion) moved into a standing position. Bums out, knees bent, hearts in our mouths – but we managed it and were upright, yay! I initially felt as wobbly as I do when ice skating, but at least it was warmer and would have been a softer landing had the worst happened. The water in the canal is apparantly quite clean, but I didn’t want to test out how cold or murky it was. After a few minutes of paddling my confidence grew and I could relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
We were so lucky with the weather as it was a warm and sunny day. TJ have all the equipment you need including wetsuits, shoes, dry bags, life jackets and even sunglasses straps to stop you losing them if they fall off.
The boards themselves are inflatable, but extremely strong. They have bungees which you can use to carry anything you need to bring along. Valuables should be kept in a dry bag, and you could even take along a picnic if you go for a solo trip.
It took us around an hour to travel the 1.5 miles into Chichester basin, where we exited the water and had a well earned break. It’s amazing how numb your feet get from standing in the same position, and your legs are tense from balancing even though it doesn’t feel like hard work at the time. I’m sure it works your core really well too, as well as doing wonders for bingo wings!
There’s a cafe serving drinks, snacks, ice creams and delicious homemade cakes. The carrot cake was particularly popular and I would highly recommend it! There’s also a pub if you fancy something stronger.
Once we were fully refreshed we got back on the boards and paddled back. The wind had picked up but wasn’t too strong and we headed under the A27 and back to the most tranquil part of the canal. If the wind does get too strong then you simply walk along the path and tow the boards until you reach a more sheltered section.
We saw so many birds, ducks, swans and other creatures. There were enormous, beautiful dragonflies and a huge heron at the top of a tree!
Tony took photos and video on his GoPro which he posted on the Facebook page later that evening. Unusually for me I didn’t take any photos! My sister had a dry phone case which she used to get some lovely shots, with the rest of the photos here provided by Tony.
We all absolutely loved our experience of Chichester Canal paddle boarding and can’t wait to do it again. The guided tour from Pulborough sounds slightly more adventurous and a step up from the stillness of the canal. Maybe, eventually, we will try it out in the sea! Don’t just take my word for it though, you can read the TJ Board Hire TripAdvisor reviews here and see what others say.
To find out more about TJ Board Hire you can visit their website and Facebook page. As well as providing all the equipment you’ll need, they offer boards and kayaks for hire too, and once you have proved yourself to be competent on one of the introductory lessons then you can go solo.
Paddle boarding goodies
If you’d like to try paddle boarding yourself, and don’t live locally to have a lesson with TJ, then here are some of the essentials and accessories you will need. Click on the images below to find out more about them on Amazon.
The main thing you need is a decent paddle board! This suggestion is highly rated and inflatable, so only takes around ten minutes to blow up and is extremely portable and great for storing in small spaces.
A buoyancy aid like this is a sensible precaution for adults and essential for children.
A dry bag is essential for all your valuables. This neat bag comes with a waterproof phone case too so that you can take photos like my sister did, without the phone getting soggy. I bought one of these when we took the Maid Of The Mist tour at Niagara Falls (read about it here!) – it was more like a monsoon than a mist and the case was brilliant at taking photos whilst keeping the phone bone dry.
Although you can go barefoot on the paddle board, beach shoes like this are good for keeping a good grip and are much nicer if you fall off! Chichester Canal has a muddy, squelchy bottom and I’d rather not have my bare feet sinking into the soft mud and weeds!
If you’d like to read about other fun and interesting things to do in West Sussex then you will probably enjoy these posts :-
- Chichester Festival Of Flowers
- Things To Do In Bognor Regis
- Bognor and Chichester Aerial Photos
- Best Bognor Instagram Spots
If you’re planning on visiting the local area to try out Chichester Canal paddle boarding then get the best deals for hotels using the Booking.com link below!
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