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Digital Subscriptions > Outdoor Swimmer > September 2018 > TRIED & TESTED1




Outdoor Swimming has adventure at its heart. This month we explore a range of kit to support you on independent swim journeys large and small. From SUPs, to tow floats, brew kits, wetsuits and all the stuff you need to warm up post swim – even thermal boxer shorts!

Big thanks to Simon and friends, Jonny, Joanne and team for putting the gear through its paces. Alice Gartland

Paddle boarding and outdoor swimming are brilliant partners. The ideal SUP for open water safety needs to be stable, manoeuvrable, reasonably fast (kayaks are usually faster) and, ideally, able to withstand heavy loading in case a person needs to be rescued or towed to safety. The same criteria apply if you wanted to use an SUP to support a solo swimmer in the water for a long-distance or adventure swim. In this case, you might also want to make sure your board is capable of carrying some additional kit (spare clothes, picnic etc.).

There are now SUPs for all sorts of different purposes but for swimmer support and recreational use, a touring or general-purpose board will probably be the best option. New SUPs are appearing on the market all the time. When buying, it might therefore be easier to look for specific features rather than an exact model.

Finally, the boards we tried were inflatables. These are great to pack away and transport.

What to look for in an SUP

Size. In the SUP world, size matters, but bigger is not always better. Bigger boards tend to be more stable and can carry larger loads, but they are heavier to lug around and can be less manoeuvrable. Long, narrow boards are faster; short, wide ones are more stable; and thicker ones are more buoyant but heavier.

Max.payload / rider weight. This is related to both the size and the width of the board. SUPs are more stable when they ride high in the water. Unless you are very skilled, for a comfortable paddling experience we’d recommend a board with a max.rider weight of at least 20 to 30% more than your body weight. If a board is ever going to be used in a rescue situation or to carry lots of luggage, then you would want even more spare capacity.

Weight. Weight is worth considering if you plan to carry your board any significant distance. A heavier board is also more awkward to lift in and out of the water, obviously.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

A growing number of endurance athletes are swimming for good rather than glory. Perhaps the most prominent of these is Lewis Pugh, UN Patron of the Oceans. We were privileged to join him on a leg of his Long Swim of the length of the English Channel, which he is undertaking to raise awareness of the plastic in our oceans. Elsewhere in the magazine we bust some more technique myths, visit the Galapagos Islands and the Peak District, test the latest outdoor gear for swimming adventures and meet the writers of best-selling book The Salt Path.