Circle Of Life

This isn’t a review of the classic Walt Disney film The Lion King; which by-the-way is excellent. No this is the nostalgic ramblings of someone who forty years ago, at the age of fifteen, travel to the Alps with the intent of climbing the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc!

Allegedly, at the time, my peers and I were potentially the youngest people to try this. But just as noteworthy; is that we all came from the outskirts of London, which is not renowned for its hills, let alone mountains!

group of mountaineers
The numbers dwindled; until a core group of young people were offered the chance to go the Alps and attempt the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. Romford Havering Observer Newspaper August 1978

How it all began

So how does a group of kids, more accustomed to playing in the streets, get to attempt such a feat! Well it’s all thanks to Rick Grice, and the London Borough of Havering (Havering)!

Rick was a keen outdoor pursuit participant, with a contagious love of the great outdoors. If hash-tags were about, back then, the Ordnance Survey’s #getoutside would have been running through his veins! He was infectious; he was also the ‘Advisor of Outdoor Pursuits’ for Havering.

Consequently, two bus trips away from my house, was a disused gravel pit called Stubbards. Not the vast complex that is now Stubbards Adventure Centre; but a few lakes where you could learn to kayak and sail. Havering also ran a minibus to Harrisons Rocks, East Sussex to learn climbing. Unknown to me at the time, but these were the same rocks that were so influential to the legendary mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington!

Throughout the summer, for a small fee, I would spend many days at Stubbards and Harrison Rocks. Soon a merry band of climbers formed, and at the end of summer Rick asked if anyone was interested in doing more climbing. At this point I am not sure if Rick had the alpine expedition planned, but he was keen to provide an opportunity for those interested in more climbing. We travelled to other parts of the UK – Derbyshire, North Wales, Lake District, Cornwall and ultimately Scotland – in the familiar Havering minibus. The numbers dwindled; until a core group of young people were offered the chance to go to the Alps and attempt the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.

Intense training pursued. We travelled to the Highlands of Scotland in winter, and we improved our fitness by running up and down the stairs at the London Borough of Havering offices, before on the 21st July 1978 the expedition set off for the Alps – in two Havering minibuses!

The Alps

We camped in the Chamonix valley; and our first objective was to acclimatise to the altitude and become familiar with ice. We had practiced ice-work in the Highlands of Scotland; but here we had massive glaciers. I understand these glaciers have now receded an astounding amount, since we were on them in the 70s, a result of ‘climate change’! We climbed the Aiguilles (needles), that overlooked the valley, and notch up many classic routes. All in preparation for the instantly recognisable Matterhorn (4,478), our first objective!

We slept on a small ledge, part way up the Hörnli ridge, ready for a sunrise attempt on the summit – in fact we would start in darkness. In summer the snow and ice will melt, on the mountain, which can instigate rock falls. Consequently time is your enemy! 400m from the summit a small team, including me, had run out of time. Rick knew we couldn’t make the summit, in time safely, so we had to turn back. Disappointed at being so close, we made our way back down. Later that same day we heard the news that a ‘handful’ of climbers had died, in a rock fall, on the Matterhorn!

After some rest, and a few more peaks, we focused on Mont Blanc (4,810m); the highest mountain in Europe. We spent the night in the Gouter Hut, ready for another early morning ascent. The hut was not as big, back then, but still extremely popular; as I remember sleeping curled up next to the u-bend under the kitchen sink. The following morning we climbed the Bosses ridge to the summit. Unfortunately no spectacular summit views, because we were in white-out conditions, but triumphant in our success!

Rick Grice

Since that trip to the Alps, I have taken part in many outdoor pursuit activities with Rick, and fallen ‘in love’ with the great outdoors! Time spent in the mountains, rivers, lakes and sea; is time well spent. My family and I love the great outdoors!

plaque
Rick Grice Memorial Climbing Tower. This wall was dedicated to the memory of Rick Grice, late physical education advisor for the Borough of Havering.

Rick died the summer of 1986, I understand attempting to reach two other friends and colleagues who had fallen on a climb in the Alps. There is a memorial climbing wall at Stubbards Activity Centre dedicated to him. I do believe many people have, and will continue to be introduced to outdoor pursuits, thanks to Rick.

Circle of Life

So why ‘Circle of Life’? Presently I am the manager of Tallington Lakes Activities Ltd; a disused gravel pit in Lincolnshire where we introduce people to kayaking, sailing and climbing. We also offer other activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, open water swimming, skiing and snowboarding. And coincidently there are no notable mountains, or hills around us.

I am most-definitely not as competent as Rick, in climbing, mountaineering, kayaking etc; and although passionate about the great outdoors, nowhere near as infectious. But I do manage a team of young people who can show you a new activity; a new activity which, like me, may inspire you to #getoutside!

Matterhorn photograph Wikipedia

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Red Paddle Co ‘Swiss Army Knife Paddleboard’ Review

In the words of Red Paddle Co, the Ride is the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of SUPs, it’s suitable for ‘almost any rider for any purpose’. So having participated in one of Tallington Lakes SUP Taster Sessions, and spent many an hour paddling around the lake on a Ride 10’6”, I thought it time to venture to the sea – to see how versatile the Ride is!

I chose the 10’8” stand-up paddle board, over the 10’6”, because I thought it would be more stable, for me, on the sea. And as for location, I decided upon the North Atlantic Ocean – Sennen. Sennen is on the North Cornish coast (just up from Land’s End) and is a celebrated surf location; so I may have bitten-off-more-than-I-can-chew for my first SUP outing on the sea!

With the car parked, overlooking the fabulous Sennen beach, I unpacked my SUP, grabbed the Titan pump, and proceeded to inflate! Twenty minutes later I was walking on the sand towards the sea – yes they really are that easy to inflate!

red paddle co ride 10'8" package
All this in the Red Paddle Co Ride 10’8″ SUP package; including the world’s best ‘Titan’ pump!

Fortunately the swell (waves) was small, at low tide, so out I paddled beyond the breaking waves – on my knees. Once ‘out back’ I proceeded to stand. As I bobbed between crest and trough, of the waves, I got myself stable and started to paddle. Momentum helped with the balance, but it wasn’t too long before I was in the sea – splash! Totally refreshed and invigorated by the cold sea I was back on my SUP, and began to paddle, looking ahead at the waves and trying to get into a rhythm. I began to feel confident and paddled along the beach – with the wind and against the wind. I was doing OK!

The nylon alloy paddle worked well, but I felt the better shaped glass paddle would have been a better choice. I have used the glass paddle on one of the Red Paddle Co Tours, that visited Tallington Lakes, and felt that paddle gave more propulsion per stroke. And because momentum was fundamental to better balance, for me on the sea, it would be worth the investment!

I returned to shore. The small breaking wave nearly had me off, but I managed to save myself in the shallow water. I may have been out for an hour, but it felt longer. My core, arms and legs felt they had had a workout, so a cream tea was in order!

Over the next few days, in slightly bigger swell, I paddled my stand up paddle board. Confidence grew, and I thoroughly enjoyed paddling to-and-throw on the North Atlantic Ocean. So now it was time to try surfing! Needless to say it was the rider not the SUP that struggle in the breaking waves, the Ride 10’ 8”performed well – however this is where the smaller 10’6” would have been a better choice.

So is the Red Paddle Co Ride the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of SUPs? I think so, however, a river trip needs to be completed to say for sure – I’ll let you know how I get on!

Tallington Lakes Pro Shop has a large selection of Red Paddle Co stand up paddleboards, available in-store or online, with expert advice!

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Ronix Happy Hour Modello Wakeboard Review

After four years of riding the Ronix One Timebomb wakeboard I decided that it was time for a change; and with so many new pro-models hitting the shelves this season it was a tough decision. The reason for grabbing Massi Pifferetti’s new pro model, the Ronix Happy Hour, was simply because the ‘Poolside Blue’ graphics stood out to me. The graphics have a super playful feel, replicating his incredible style and reminding us all that the board was designed by arguably one of the world’s greatest riders; who previously rode the One Timebomb. I was excited to see if he had taken all the great features from the One series that I love, and incorporated them in his new awesome looking board.

ronix happy hour Modello poolside blue wakeboard
The reason for grabbing Massi Pifferetti’s new pro model, the Ronix Happy Hour, was simply because the ‘Poolside Blue’ graphics stood out to me.

The 2018 Happy Hour was no let down and honestly I am taken aback by its performance on the water. I had always believed that the One Timebomb was untouchable! Well done Massi; this wakeboard really does do it all; it has given my wakeboarding a new feel and will definitely make this season a fun one.

The Happy Hour wakeboard costs nearly half the price of the One Timebomb and by no means does this inhibit its performance on the water.

The Happy Hour is the only board with a continuous rocker in the Ronix line of wakeboards. I would like to begin by clearing up the rumors; many people believe that wakeboards with continuous rockers lack ‘snap’ when leaving the wake and so are less ‘poppy.’ I do not believe that this is the case with this board; the take offs are really smooth. The continuous rocker simply allows the rider to take tricks further into the flat water, whilst still allowing for smooth landings. The first thing that I noticed was the speed of the board, due to the clean rocker-line, which enables a consistent release off the top of the wake. This is so helpful as I feel more confident on the approach to the trick because I know exactly what to expect. Having a defined rocker-line and a continuous rocker allows the board to lock in, and stays on its edge on approach to the wake, making going big easy. In conclusion, I believe that the continuous rocker gives the board a more mellow lift off the wake. However, this is definitely made up for by a faster more consistent glide on approach, leading to a more predictable, effortless take off.

The core of the board is ultra-stiff. I believe that this is great, because it allows for a takeoff that always feels the same, and enables the rider to easily point the board into a turn. Not only is this board lightweight, it also has the highest strength to weight ratio that has ever been tested by Ronix.

The more durable construction gives the wakeboard a stiffer ride, which I believe is preferable as it adds to the regularity and feels more stable. The flex rating of the board is 6.5/10 which means that the energy off the wake is closer to the instant end of the spectrum. Thus making jumping as effortless as it can be: and  allowing for maximum pop whilst maintaining its free/fun feeling.

Beginner and advanced riders can ride this board, as I believe that it is perfect for all levels of riding. The board feels awesome on the water! It’s unlike any other wakeboard I have ridden, in that it has an incredibly fast glide speed allowing me to ride for longer periods of time because there is less stress on the body. Having two sets of fins (1.0” fiberglass fins and 0.7” ramp fins) allows for increased versatility and allows the rider to customise their set up. 

This and other wakeboards can be found in-store or online at Tallington Lakes Pro Shop.

Thanks Mitch (UK National Champion 2018)

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SUP Fitness: The Stand-Up Paddleboarding Bug!

How It All Began

My buddy Jane and I have a habit of entering events without really knowing what they entail – and my discovery of stand-up paddle boarding happened in just this way . I messaged Jane and suggested we enter an alternative triathlon (as quite frankly we are both terrible swimmers ) where the swimming was replaced with this activity called SUPing – which looked pretty cool in a ‘surf dude’ way.  Entries done, kit packed we headed off on our girls weekend away mini adventure!

On arrival we quickly realised what this first section of the event entailed – stand up paddle boarding 3km around a Welsh lake in rather a strong wind…we had never even seen a paddle board before …. nothing like a bit of winging it !!!

We set off from the start line on our knees, wondering how the heck we were actually supposed to stand up, let alone steer this wobbly SUP we were on.  A lot of cursing , minor panics about crashing in to the edge and a huge amount of slightly hysterical laughter  –  we braved it – we stood up!

We then braced ourselves ( feet planted !) and cracked on with trying to paddle without propelling ourselves off . 3km later we returned onto dry land…charged up the bank with a huge smile ready to jump on the mountain bikes.

I can’t deny it was a slightly awkward experience to start with, but it was also truly brilliant !! The sense of adventure and excitement from the start was quite unique, we were buddies out together on our paddle boards in the middle of a glorious wavy lake – laughing hysterically at each other , getting equally frustrated at times at our inability to do it, and yet feeling like we were amazing super humans at the same time – simply because we were doing something so unbelievably different , and actually achieving it !

That hour on the paddle board is what got me hooked. I felt totally refreshed yet physically tired after an hour of paddling  – but most of all, I wanted to go again and soon !

female sup fitmess
When you exercise on land you have a nice firm base ( ground !)…..but then transfer those same moves to a wobbly platform, and boy is it new challenge!! 

Fast Forward: This Is Where The Exercise Part Comes In

Paddle boarding is pretty cool – you can simply hire or buy a stand-up paddleboard, and take it for a tootle around a lake or down the river , and almost anybody could do this and get that lovely sense of freedom and escapism the water gives you …….but if that’s a little sedate…. you can of course take it a little further !

SUP Fitness (SUPfit) does just that. We lose the walls and take your workout to the water on the paddle board, giving you an effective full body training session, in a location that gives a sense of space and freedom.

 When you exercise on land you have a nice firm base ( ground !)…..but then transfer those same moves to a wobbly platform, and boy is it new challenge!! 

The exercises improve:
your core strength
your cardio performance 
and tone those legs superbly!

Add that to the back and shoulder muscles required to actually paddle the board, and you leave a session really feeling the benefits.   Plus of course you are outside in the fresh air and sunshine – and simply nothing is better then exercising outdoors for your mental and physical health.

What to the sessions actually involve?

A standard SUPfit session is effectively a circuit training class on the water.  We use cardio exercises to up that heart rate, bodyweight moves to get those joints and muscles working and also add resistance bands to the boards to give us additional strength core workouts.  We mix the sessions up to include sections of stretching and controlled work, with high intensity bursts to keep us on our toes !! 

Workouts can also be tailored – so if you’re a private group wanting to take it a little slower, that’s totally fine, we can strengthen and stretch at sunset and all the benefits can be achieved at your own level.

So if you fancy something a little different, want to keep your workouts fresh and want to work hard and laugh at the same with your friends – why not try the fast growing sport of paddleboarding, and give SUPfit a try ?

If you enjoy it as much as I love teaching it – you will leave the water a stronger, happier and more chilled version of the person that arrived!

Tallington Lakes offer SUP Taster Sessions to introduce you to the basics of stand-up paddleboarding. More information here, or call 01778 381151

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