The joys of a winter paddleboarding safari on the River Tyne

Paddleboarding has taken the world by storm – and this newbie discovers it’s even fun on a winter’s day on the River Tyne (thanks in part to a glorious campfire feast and toasty drysuits)

  • Carlton Reid went on a full-day winter SUP safari in Northumberland, setting off from Hexham
  • He put his drysuit to the test by jumping in the river – his base layers stayed warm and dry, he reports
  • The campfire feast featured griddle-grilled sausages and charcoal-baked bananas with melted chocolate  

In ten years, Stand Up Paddleboarding – or SUPing, if you must – has grown from almost nothing to become a global success story. The Covid-19 lockdown significantly boosted its healthy outdoorsy appeal. It’s a safe, easy-to-learn low-impact activity that gets you up close with nature. It’s also a fabulous workout for your core and burns plenty of calories.

A study conducted by Arizona State University found that a 63-kilo man paddleboarding for an hour burns an average of 385 calories; a woman of the same weight burns 436 calories.

Multiply that for a few hours, and it would be wise to replace some of those calories. On a new, full-day winter SUP safari in frozen Northumberland, you can do just that.

Carlton Reid went on a River Tyne paddleboarding safari with CBK Adventures. His group is pictured here starting out from Hexham Bridge

Carlton is pictured here activating his core and burning some calories. In ten years, Stand Up Paddleboarding has grown from almost nothing to become a global success story

Campfire calories. Think griddle-grilled sausages. Think roasted tomatoes and freshly brewed coffee. Think charcoal-baked bananas oozing with melted chocolate.

And all cooked from a scenic pebble-strewn spit beside the River Tyne near Hexham.

‘How about you make the coffee?’ watersports guide David Calvert asked me.

Cooking tasks were allotted to all on the trip. There were only four of us as this was a warm-up for the full-on trips that CBK Adventures will be running over the winter months; the actual trips are for eight participants.

The food on the paddleboarding trip? ‘Think charcoal-baked bananas oozing with melted chocolate [pictured],’ says Carlton

We were wearing toasty drysuits, so any impromptu dip into the cold river wouldn’t trouble us. Not that any of us fell in — the Tyne was calm and, even though this was only my second time on a paddleboard, my wobbles were kept to a minimum. (These wobbles must have activated my core, though, because I ached for days afterwards.)

David took the time to critique my paddling technique, showing me how to dig deep into the water to gain the utmost efficiency from each stroke.

We had been equipped with top-flight paddles and boards from UK SUP brand Red Paddle Co, all four inflatables laden with food stores and cooking equipment. David carried the most, including Red Paddle Co’s watertight, insulated barrel, out of which came a delicatessen’s-worth of gourmet food and drink.

‘The sausages are that-a-way’: CBK operations director David Calvert is pictured here on the spit of land where the food was served

This was to be a leave-no-trace trip with the campfire being a fold-away affair from Canadian newbie Wolf and Grizzly — the compact system, a recent Kickstarter hit, uses a clever collapsible frame, fold-out grill, and aluminium fire-pit base.

We got the giggles getting the kindling to light with a Wolf and Grizzly sparking stick, a ferrocerium rod that, appropriately enough, can spark a fire even when wet. (The stick’s wrist cord even contains a jute strip for use as emergency kindling.)

While I brewed up, the others set up the griddle to start roasting the vegan and meat sausages and chopped garlic and mushrooms to sizzle in the frying pan. (The bananas and melted chocolate came later, thrust into the dying embers of our spent fire.)

Refuelled for the return trip we packed away and helped each other zip up our drysuits. We had earlier stripped to the waist because it had been a warm winter’s day, but these flat-water trips will go out in all weathers, with the location only decided a few days in advance.

Some could start here in Hexham; others will start and finish on the Northumbrian coast, depending on the strength of the prevailing wind.

‘Even though this was only my second time on a paddleboard, my wobbles were kept to a minimum,’ says Carlton

The group are pictured here heading back to Hexham. ‘With drysuits provided, this is a trip that foul weather won’t curtail, and I should imagine the colder it gets, the more welcoming the hot coffee will be,’ writes Carlton

The unseasonably warm sunshine meant we hadn’t needed a taut nylon tarp to shield us from rain, but David acted out how, in rough weather, he would wedge two of the paddleboards to fashion a windbreak.

Just before we landed back in Hexham, I asked for permission to try out the effectiveness of the drysuit. Duly cleared, I jumped in — my uncovered head let me know that the Tyne was as cold as expected, but, pleasingly, there was no ingress of river water into the Michelin-man suit.

Air-pockets helped me bob to the surface, my base layers still warm and dry.

With drysuits provided, this is a trip that foul weather won’t curtail, and I should imagine the colder it gets, the more welcoming the hot coffee will be, and how much more delicious the campfire-cooked food will taste.

Save me some sausages, I’ll be back when there’s snow on the ground.


The SUP ‘Cook Out’ expedition from CBK Adventures of Cullercoats, Tyneside, costs £109 per person with all equipment and food provided. The trip’s location is communicated two to three days beforehand but will always be within an hour’s travel from Newcastle. Carlton travelled by train to Hexham from Newcastle, which took less than 45 minutes. Participants need to be good swimmers and to have previously paddleboarded but don’t need to be expert SUPers. Expect to paddle for up to three hours — that’s more than 1,200 calories-worth of exercise — and to cook over the campfire for two hours. Participants will be paired up with a campfire to cook part of the group meal. 

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