Where to get your water sports fix this summer
Nothing beats that first sun-kissed wash of water hitting your toes, but the Big Blue is more than just a holiday fling. From windsurfing and wakeboarding to SUP yoga and wild swimming, these Essex waterways are making a splash in the world of fitness, too
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…
Kitesurfing in Southend-on-Sea
Since launching in 2002, 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, which costs £130 and includes all equipment. Keen to progress? Up your hours and plump for the two-day Beginner’s Course (£250) instead, which starts on dry land with training kites before advancing to water. This teaching technique will ensure you master the manoeuvres before you attempt to launch and land in the Big Blue – and help you nail the ride of your life. See Essex Kitesurf School for details on how to book.
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 as boards are limited right now. See SUPsect for details.
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 9am – and various other time slots throughout the week – 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. The Olympic-standard Rafting Unleashed sessions are now back on the menu and we can’t think of a better way to beat lockdown blues 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. See Go White Water for details.
Wakeboarding in Clacton
Take to the wake at Curve Water Sports – the number one wakeboarding centre in Essex this summer. 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, you can hit Curve’s Learn 2 Wakeboard package, which costs £30 and includes all equipment, or – if you’ve wakeboarded before – progress right on to the Pay & Wake sessions, which cost £25 and include one-to-one training on the centre’s System 2.0 to get you up to speed – and onto the obstacle jumps! Afterwards, why not hit the Aqua Park too for a spot go inflatable fun? Think Wipe Out with 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. See Explore Outdoors for further info or to make a booking.
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 (£45), 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 (£70) and blast around the estuary while you work on your technique. Sold? Us too! Check out Mersea Island Watersports to book.
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. Hop aboard the school’s swish Dufour 36 for a one-day practical sailing session, which starts from £130, or two-day Start Yachting course, which costs from £250. For a full rundown of the more advanced options, see the Crouch Sailing School’s full RYA offerings. Anchor’s away!
SUP yoga sessions in Basildon
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 on a glassy fresh water lake in Bowers Gifford – a pretty farm location perfect for the occasional sunrise and sunset sessions – and classes cost £20, which includes tuition, all equipment, plus exclusive use of a private lake. Classes are normally held from 6-8pm on Friday evenings and 10am-12 noon on Saturdays. Tuition lasts for one hour, but please allow two hours in total for transport to the lake and equipment prep. See WetnDry SUP for further details or to book. Namaste.