This weekend many stand up paddleboarders will be given the opportunity to paddle through the heart of London, past many of the iconic sights as they participate in two of London’s biggest SUP events… The London Crossing and the Big Ben Challenge. Event organiser Paul Hyman from the London based SUP school Active360 tells us all about the events, the logistics for participants and how you can get involved on and off the water. Places still available in this years Big Ben Challenge, so if you’re paddling fit and up for a challenge it’ not too late to get involved!
On Sunday 23rd Sept Active360 are running two big events in London with Tideway partnering and sponsoring – the engineering company constructing the Tideway Tunnel – a giant super-sewer running beneath the Thames which will make the Thames (already a relatively clean urban river) consistently cleaner.
“These 2 events are very special to the UK and will soon hold their place on the international SUP scene.”
The Big Ben Challenge route from Putney to Big Ben starts at the same point as the famous Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race, passing iconic buildings such as Battersea Power Station, the Houses of Parliament and of course Big Ben. It’s a relatively quiet stretch of river with fewer big boats sharing the space in comparison with the London Crossing route to beyond Tower Bridge, which is a more complicated and even more stunning!
The London Crossing takes in all of the landmarks of the Challenge plus St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, The London Eye and many others. The events are running at the same time as Tideway’s Foreshore Festival – a festival organised by Tideway who are also the sponsors of the race/challenge. The festival will be held at Putney Embankment with the aim of celebrating the fabulous environment of the Tidal Thames. Four-time world champion and three-time Olympic champion rower Andrew Triggs-Hodge is leading on the event. Andrew is currently employed by Tideway to lead the creation of a legacy for the tunnel which will be greatly increased sports participation on the Tidal Thames. The river is already well used by rowers with many clubs located there and there are at least 12 canoe / kayak clubs and bases on the 160 km tidal section. However, the potential for more sport and recreational use is huge. SUP has been taking place there since before 2011 and has grown substantially in recent years.
Description of the two events
The London Crossing (a race open to just 30 experienced SUP racers) will be the first time a SUP race has gone right through central London, taking the competitors on an iconic 15.5km stretch of the Thames, starting in Putney, passing under many London bridges including the majestic Tower Bridge and soon after finishing in Shadwell. The racers selected are very experienced as the Thames has some strong currents and high river traffic. There is an up to 14 ft class, a 12.6 ft inflatable class and a tandem class.
The Big Ben Challenge is the second SUP event of the day open to 200 experienced and confident paddlers. The challenge is a 20 km paddle from Putney Embankment where the famous Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race starts, to the Big Ben and back to Putney. The challenge is open to skilled paddlers who want to experience an exhilarating paddle on the Thames. It’s not a race but a serious challenge heading downriver with the flow of the river and ebb tide assisting then back upriver against a weak current. The Thames barrier is closed for the day which makes the event safer but much tougher as participants are denied the help of a normal flood tide which might have assisted on the home run.
Participation in the Challenge
For the Big Ben Challenge you will have previous sound SUP experience (not just on sheltered lakes and beaches) and will have had enough training before the event so that you can paddle 20 km in variable conditions. There is a potential for a strong head wind (the prevailing winds here are South westerly) and for a distance you will paddle against a gentle current. The paddle should take you under four hours to complete. You will need a buoyancy aid but these can be provided by Active360 if you don’t have one. A quick release waist leash is highly recommended and you will not be permitted to wear an ankle leash as they can be dangerous in strong currents on the tidal Thames in central London.
Great event like this cannot happen without the help of volunteers on and off the water. We still have places for volunteers for jobs including providing info, managing registration, marshalling and helping out at baggage points. If you are interested in helping email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Travel to Putney
Both SUP events start from Putney Embankment, London SW15. To minimise the negative impact of this event on the environment, we encourage paddlers to car share or consider public transport where possible. Putney Embankment can be reached by the underground or mainline railway to Putney with fast connection to central London. Paddlers can offload their boards on the embankment. Parking is limited in the surrounding area and you may have to walk a good 15 minutes to get back to the Foreshore.
For the London Crossing race the finish is at Shadwell Basin; paddlers’ boards will be brought back by a trailer; there is a special Thames Clipper open exclusively to racers and their friends/family offering a ride back at a special discounted rate: https://booking.thamesclippers.com/thames-clippers-tickets/foreshore-festival-shuttle-service.html
We have negotiated a great deal with the nearby London Wetlands Centre so participants can park there for £10 from 8.00 am until 5.30pm (sorry, it’s only available to the participants of the London Crossing race if they have a friend who can park for them). The parking ticket allows a friend or a family member to visit the Wetlands Centre which is a great experience in itself.
Everyone who completes the Big Ben Challenge will be entered into a prize draw with some great prizes; these include: Aquapac drybags, engraved event steel water bottles, wetsuits and more to be announced soon.
This whole event is a celebration of the Thames and we are all committed to protecting the river from plastic pollution so please bring refillable water bottles (taps available on riverside) and reusable coffee cups (hot drinks will be on sale). Tideway are very committed to cleaner Thames and will have a strict code for food and beverage sale. No balloons and leaflets will be given out.
To register for the Big Ben Challenge go to Webscorer https://www.webscorer.com/register?raceid=129223
The entry fee is £65.
The London Crossing registration is full for this year, although there may be a few last minute places if anyone pulls out through injury etc.
For more information about both events click here.