Water sports are a bit like marmite. You either love them, or you hate them. And if you love them, they become all-consuming. Fondness for sailing turns quickly to a love of the sea. Appreciation of the tranquility of paddle boarding can quickly turn to a desire to dive in, and a lifetime yearning for wild swimming develops. Before you know it, you’re researching water sports holidays and buying kit to see you through the next season of getting out on the water.
Sailing holidays are perhaps the ultimate water sports getaway. With a yacht charter you’re free to explore the area and dive into the sea when you please. As an experienced sailor, you can hire a boat independently. If your sailing skills aren’t quite up to that, there are lots of other options from skippered journeys to luxury yachts.
Even on a budget, sailing holidays are more accessible than they sound. Many people spend a weeks or months crewing a yacht that the owner wants to sail from A to B. It’s an economical way to travel and see a part of the world you might not otherwise be able to afford to explore.
Alternatively, you can book a space on a sailing trip. I did this as a 20-something solo traveller in Australia. Exploring the Whitsunday Islands from a gorgeous sailing boat full of total strangers was a surprisingly awesome experience. There’s nothing quite like being on the only boat to put down anchor on a tiny island whose only inhabitants are wallabies.
As a child, I never would have dreamed there could be such a thing as a swimming holiday. These days though, I can’t think of much I’d rather do. As an experienced wild swimmer, a swimming holiday could be done on an absolute shoestring. These days, there are even devices available that will carry your rucksack, so you can tow it behind you while you swim. They keep it waterproof so your belongings stay dry. This would allow you to either hike and swim, or exclusively swim as long as you plan how far you’ll swim and where you’ll stay each day.
If towing your worldly belongings behind you on a raft sounds a bit too much like hard work, there are companies that do all the hard work for you. There are various swimming holidays in the UK and around the world. From a day’s swim off the coast of Scotland to a week guided swimming around the Galapagos Islands, there are plenty of adventures on offer.
Kayaking is a great way to get really close to the water without being in it. I’ve seen an abundance of wildlife from a kayak. Kingfishers, heron, swans and a mink in the river. Seals in the sea and I know others who have got up close to dolphins and even whales. Before having the children, my husband and I bought a sea kayak. Then, we bought a dingy to tow behind it with the dogs in it. Then, we bought life jackets for the dogs.
If this all sounds like a bit too much effort, kayaking holidays are a great alternative. They’re available all over the world and everything is arranged for you. You also get the added bonus of local knowledge. We had an incident in the past where hiring a kayak led to a rather frightening encounter between us, fierce waves, rocks and curious seals. So if I was going to do any serious kayaking again, I’d want it to be on a guided holiday.
There’s no sense of achievement quite like the one you get when you stand on a surfboard for the first time. Paddling out into the waves, head to toe in neoprene. Fighting to get beyond a big wave whilst avoiding getting clobbered by the board. Then waiting until the perfect wave comes long at the perfect time. Lying on the board, starting to paddle and waiting for that wave to catch you. And that’s the easy part. Learning to stand up is really, really difficult. It takes strength, balance and most of all practice. So, if you’re hoping to get into surfing it’s well worth having some proper lessons.
I took a day’s lesson in New Zealand, but since then I’ve done it so infrequently that I’m still an absolute beginner. To get into it properly, I’d love to take a longer surfing holiday. Go back to basics and learn to catch the wave, stand up and plant my feet firmly on the board. Then stay there, however hard the wave tries to throw me off. Surfing holidays are available around the world for both beginners and experienced surfers.
When I had a stand up paddle boarding lesson last year, I was immediately hooked. Aside from actually being in the water, there’s no better stress relief than paddle boarding. It’s an incredibly relaxing sport. There’s no rush to get anywhere. Paddling slowly along the river, focusing on your balance is a mindful way to pass the time. Not much else matters and if you do get distracted by whatever is going on in the world, the chances are you’ll end up getting wet.
It wasn’t long before we bought our own paddle board and we’re now at a point where we’re considering investing in a second one. Both girls are really good at it and we regularly take our board to a local lake or river for a paddle. SUPs are great for touring as well though. All your stuff can be stored on the front of the board under some elastic that is attached to it. You get access to lakes and rivers that are ideal for going from A to B and a lot of companies are starting to offer SUP tours of some gorgeous destinations.
One of the things I love about wild swimming is that you really don’t need much equipment. However, this doesn’t stop me from wanting to buy things. I love the Selkie Swim website, who design clothing and equipment especially for open water swimmers. In fact, I’m hoping my husband reads this because I’d very much like a Selkie voucher for Christmas.
Another tip from me if you’re doing a water sports holiday with children is to have a look at Konfidence. Their swim jackets come in tiny sizes and they’re much better than a life jacket if children actually want to get in for a swim. Both of my girls have a Konfidence swim jacket to wear on the SUP. This means that when they decide to get into the water, they can swim easily without their movement being restricted.