Dive in! The best watersports to try locally this summer
When the heat’s on, it’s time to hit the water. Keen to take the plunge and try something new? Here’s some of the county’s best hobbies to dive straight into…
The Big Blue can be more than just a holiday fling. From windsurfing and wakeboarding to SUP yoga and wild swimming, these watery Essex hot spots are the ideal place to keep your cool this summer.
Swimming in Brightlingsea Lido
Brightlingsea Lido, which dates back to the 30s and is now open daily until September, makes an excellent place to head when temperatures soar. Sitting right by the seafront, there’s a large pool and a smaller one for tots. While you’re there, the town’s jetty is one of the top crabbing spots in the county (you can buy crabbing lines and buckets in the high street).
Kitesurfing in Southend-on-Sea
The Shoeburyness-based Essex Kitesurf School has trailblazed a path for this high-octane sport in local waters. Combining strength, skill, and a serious dose of Dutch courage, this adrenaline-packed day out isn’t exactly one for the faint hearted, but if you can harness the kite, you’ll fly like the wind. Specialising in beginner–advanced classes, you can learn the ropes on a one-day course with the school on East Beach. A Beginner’s Course starts on dry land with training kites before advancing to water., to ensure you master the manoeuvres and help you nail the ride of your life.
Stand-up paddeboarding in Chelmsford
Tour the urban waterways of Chelmsford and learn to SUP like a pro with a helping hand from SUPsect, which runs two-hour beginner paddleboard lessons at its school in Paper Mill Lock. Beginning with the basics in a sheltered stretch of the River Chelmer, you’ll soon be standing on your own two feet (so to speak) while you power paddle through ribbons of blue. Caught the bug? Join SUPsect’s free SUP Club, which meets every Wednesday evening for a slow cruise through Chelmsford’s waterways or further afield in Thorpe Bay, Chalkwell or Hullbridge. Times and locations vary, so if you need to hire gear, get in touch early.
Wild river swimming in Dedham
Take the plunge and enjoy a picturesque dip in Constable Country this summer with the Dedham River Swimmers. Hosting regular Sunday morning sessions at 8am, the friendly group meet up at Mill Lane car park (CO7 6DH) and wild-water newbies/nervous returners are more than welcome to join: in fact, their motto is to (front)crawl at the pace of the slowest swimmer, so you can slip into the River Stour without worry and enjoy the world from water level. (It goes without saying that a tea flask for when you emerge is practically mandatory.) See the group’s Facebook page for further details.
Whitewater rafting in Lee Valley
Pent up energy? Try your hand at racing the River Lee rapids and raft your way through Lee Valley’s White Water Centre on the Essex/Herts border. Olympic-standard Rafting Unleashed sessions are on the menu and we can’t think of a better way to beat the heatwave than a rough and tumble down the river right now! The drops will get your heart pounding and your belly laugh roaring – which is £50 well spent in our book.
Wakeboarding in St Osyth
Take to the wake at Curve Water Sports – the number one wakeboarding centre in Essex. Serving up one-to-one wakeboarding lessons for beginners, plus advanced clinics for improvers and pro sessions for the, well, pros, this is the place to be if you want to learn to glide right into your best life. Set across the calm waters of Mill Dam Lake in sunny St Osyth, if you fancy something a bit less adrenalin-fuelled there’s also the onsite Aqua Park for a spot of inflatable fun. Think Wipe Out in a wetsuit…
Kayaking in Harlow
With access to miles of tranquil waterways, Essex Outdoors – run by Essex County Council – has a specialist centre in Harlow that’s ideal for families wanting to get to grips with the basics before setting off on their own adventure upstream. Offering one- to four-day courses, you’ll master the art of paddling in a sheltered stretch of water and take full command of the canoe/kayak before carving up the current like a pro.
Jet skiing in Upminster
Always wanted to whizz through the waves on an adrenaline-packed day out with your mates? Look no further than Stubbers Adventure Centre. Located on Ockendon Road, Upminster, this all-action activity park is perfect for dare devils who want to feel the wind in their hair and the waves on their back. Get kitted out, receive a demo from your expert instructor, take the controls and get ready for the ride of your life! Jet ski sessions here come with a series of course and slalom options, so you can get your kicks for the full 30-90 minutes. Also recommended: Stubbers delivers the full menu for freshwater souls and if jet skiing doesn’t get your blood pumping, the centre’s take on powerboating, raft building, kata kanu, bell boating, plus inflatable sofa and banana boat rides are sure to float your (ahem) boat. Now, that’s what we call an immersive experience…
Windsurfing in Mersea Island
Learn to run with the wind and the waves with a little/lot of help (I know which category I fall into) from Mersea Island Watersports. With a focus on bespoke, one-to-one tuition, this acclaimed school offers tuition that plays to your strengths and helps you to become not only more proficient on the water – but more confident, too. Lessons take place in a secluded bay and a support boat on-hand to ensure you feel completely comfortable. After a one-hour private lesson, you’ll have picked up the basics and have gotten a real feel for the sport. If you love it, you can graduate to the two-hour, more advanced private sessions and blast around the estuary while you work on your technique. Sold? Us too!
Sailing in Burnham-on-Crouch
Although there are plenty of places you can set sail along the Essex coastline – from Brightlingsea and Manningtree to Harwich and Maldon – the Crouch Sailing School in Burnham-on-Crouch, east Essex, offers some great RYA-registered courses for those looking to brush up on their nautical skills on the river. Its two-day Start Yachting course is particularly popular with would-be yachties looking to learn the ropes and makes for an exciting weekend on the waves. Anchor’s away!
SUP yoga sessions (various locations)
Limber up, ladies: it’s time to stretch your balance skills to the max with a spot of stand-up paddleboard yoga. If you haven’t tried it before, here’s the deal: this is literally swapping your mat for a board and running through the usual sun salutations while (almost) walking on water. Sounds easy, right? Tranquil, even. Think again. This balance buster will engage your core like never before and an unexpected dip after your downward dog is spun as a refreshing bonus rather than failure. WetnDry SUP offers lessons in various locations including a glassy fresh water lake in Bowers Gifford – a pretty farm location perfect for the occasional sunrise and sunset sessions. Namaste.
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