How to plan your own sup tour: Part 2

Bluefin SUP tour 2

Dan Wynn is no stranger to adventure. He’s logged hundreds of miles in difficult, remote locales on his standup paddleboard and knows first hand how to plan a SUP tour. In this 2 part series Dan will take us through his process for preparing and executing a long distance paddling trip. In his first post, Dan shared his recipe for training success and gave us valuable insight into how much paddling you can expect in a single day. In post 2 Dan gives us practical tips on provisions, budgeting, route planning and more!

Dan Wynn sitting on his standup paddleboard on SUP tour in Italy

Dan Wynn on his first attempt to circumnavigate Sicily by SUP in November 2018.

Source – Dan Wynn

A few weeks ago I attempted to circumnavigate Sicily by inflatable stand-up paddleboard (iSUP). Over the course of 31 days I paddled 440 miles before a broken hand made continuing impossible, approximately 160 miles from completing my journey. This trip was my hardest yet and taught me many lessons about long-distance touring.

ROUTE PLANNING

  • Always stay close to the shore as it is effectively your lifeline.
  • Always give way to ships and other craft.
  • Identify multiple landing sites to allow for variable weather

To build a route I used mapping software (Google Earth) in conjunction with physical maps (topographical and roads – roads are your source of help if the worst happens). Overlaying the data from different sources gives you the most reliable impression of the terrain. I also used a Garmin inReach Satellite Messenger to record my exact location. Technology gives you a certain level of confidence but your first port of call should always be map, compass and local knowledge.

Dan Wynn paddling Bluefin SUP in stormy weather

Be mentally prepared to paddle through all kinds of weather when touring for a long haul. 

Source – Dan Wynn

Tricky bits 

The most dangerous part of paddle boarding is arguably when you haul-out, as this is when wave action can cause the most damage to yourself and your equipment. At times in Sicily I lost a strapped-on bag because the white-water was so strong. Luckily for me I managed to recover them after every incident as they floated off into the Mediterranean.   

“The most dangerous part of paddle boarding is arguably when you haul-out”

  • A lot of consideration should be given to locating safe and suitable haul-out spots. Harbours and ports are safe havens but bear in mind there will be boat traffic, and you may have to pay a fee (depending on the generosity of the harbour officials).
  • Identify areas of coastline that are rocky and typified by sea cliffs as these will have few landing sites; in these areas your maximum distance paddled/day is determined by the locale of landing sites.
  • Set multiple destinations for each day allowing for adverse weather and your own limits. This way you know that there always will be a place to land before sunset.
  • Never paddle into the dark. Landing in new terrain is difficult anyway but landing in the dark is borderline suicidal.
Bluefin Paddleboard loaded with dry bags in Italy

Protect your gear with decent dry bags and paddle worry-free.

Source – Dan Wynn

ESSENTIAL GEAR

There is a lot more I could include in this gear list but this is what I would deem safety critical.

  • A satellite messenger (I used Garmin InReach+ and it was brilliant)
  • VHF radio
  • Personal Flotation Device
  • Leash (don’t let your board float away, it’s your lifeline!)
  • Spare fins
  • Repair kit
  • GoPro (for capturing those epic sunsets!)
  • Local Maps
  • A non-smartphone for emergencies (Nokia 3310 is perfect – I have yet to destroy one)
bluefin sup loaded with gear on beach-in-sicily.

Bluefin Sprint loaded with enough gear to keep Dan going for a month.

Source – Dan Wynn

Choosing a standup paddleboard

Base your board around your abilities. For me in Sicily, speed was a priority as I was conducting the trip during my annual leave. I had to get back for work so was operating to a tight timescale. Speed comes at a cost which is often balance and agility.

  • Faster boards tend to be thinner and therefore less stable.
  • The bigger central fin makes it difficult to turn – a factor only made worse in windy conditions.

Remember large boards allow you to carry more, but they weigh more and are less agile. You will have to land it and then safely remove it from the water with all your gear. All said the Sprint was the right choice for my trip, it paddled 440 miles in 24 days.  I was extremely happy with it and doing it again I would opt for the same SUP.

SUPPLies

Food

This is of such huge importance. Each day you will burn a massive amount of calories, approximately 1000-2000/day. You must replace that food otherwise your body will fail you. Make a note of supermarkets and towns where it is possible to resupply, and factor that into your route consideration.

The temptation can be to paddle as far as possible in one day, but that is a fruitless gesture if you don’t have food/water for the next day. High calorie, low-weight food is brilliant – I opted for dried, dehydrated food packs from Expedition Foods. They fill you up and are very tasty!

Having dinner in a tent on the coast of sicily.

Save money on SUP tours by making your own food. Plot your provisioning stops strategically.

Source – Dan Wynn

Water

The other consideration is water for drinking and cooking. I approach my trips with a strong ethical standpoint to minimise my impact on the environment. I avoid single-use plastics as much as possible, and one way is to use an outdoor water micro-filter combined with chlorine tablets. These handheld pumps make dirty river water drinkable ensuring you minimise your ecological footprint. On average I drank 3L/day carrying up to 6L with me, so every other day I had to pump more water.

bluefin SUP and tent - camping in sicily

Invest in a good tent and you’ll always have a safe, dry place to sleep on your adventures.

Source – Dan Wynn

HOW TO SAVE MONEY

The best way is to take a tent with you and camp. My best piece of advice, don’t cut costs on your sleeping system in order to save money or space. Good sleep is essential to maintaining your drive and energy over a long distance adventure.

I prefer lightweight tents to hammocks or bivvies as they offer more snug shelter; an important factor if you anticipate long weather delays. Obviously bivvies save space but being trapped outside for 3 days in a thunderstorm while the heavens open above you is not a good idea.

As much as possible, salvage and reuse old equipment. On my first trip to Langkawi I used an ex-rental board bought for cheap at the end of the season. Another handy tip, recycling old ghost netting and lobster pots can be an excellent way to strap your luggage securely to the board – and is environmentally friendly!

SAFETY & the IMPORTANCE OF PLAN B

“The best laid plans go to waste” – heed those words. This doesn’t devalue the need to produce a Plan A & B as this will make you more prepared, confident and aware of potential issues.  Always expect the unexpected. You have to be adaptable to conditions, both environmental and personal. Expect equipment malfunctions and face it as another challenge, another issue to be fixed using your now amazing bodging skills!  

My single biggest piece of advice is this; do not rely on others for help. You individually are responsible for your safety, not your friends or the emergency services, it’s you. The best way to achieve this is to stay close to the shore. The most likely source of injury on SUP trips is bad weather, but this rarely appears magically in the space of 5 minutes. You will see warnings before it arrives (e.g. clouds gathering, wind building strength), so heed the warnings and get to shore. Eventually the weather will calm and you will get your opportunity.

If you have not gathered by now I will make my last point as clear as possible – the battle on any long distance SUP trip is won or lost in the mind. Whatever you will physically or mentally suffer, I assure you it’s worth it. The experience will be totally unique and yours to remember. Your confidence will grow exponentially and if you’re like me, your ambition and desire only broaden. Set out with the right attitude and go have fun. Happy paddling!

A BIG BLUEFIN THANK YOU

Dan Wynn has taken himself on some pretty gnarly SUP tours. Recently he took a Bluefin Sprint 2/3 of the way around Sicily till he was rudely interrupted by a broken hand. Don’t worry about Dan, he’s on the mend and will be back to paddling in no time!

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