Whether you’re one of our regular Fambridge paddleboarders, who comes to the Yacht Haven all prepped and ready with your SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) strapped to your yacht, or you’re a SUP novice, keen to have a go and hire one nearby, you’ll be pleased to hear you’re in for a treat.
Along our Essex coast, you’ll find a fine selection of waterways, perfect for paddleboarding far from the maddening crowds. From rivers and creeks to lakes, beach-side coastal waters, tributaries, and wiggly salt marshes – whatever floats your board!
Experience the benefits too; get closer to nature and keep your eyes peeled for a few unusual characters, feel the good physically and mentally – build core strength, improve balance, take your mind off the daily grind and drink in the fresh air - and plan where to go for a rewarding meal later.
We’ve put our heads together and pulled together a shortlist of our favourite paddleboarding locations close to the River Crouch and easily accessible from Fambridge Yacht Haven...
1. North Fambridge
Very conveniently, paddleboarders can launch directly onto the River Crouch from Fambridge Yacht Haven and enjoy the calm of the Crouch right away. The beauty of the SUP is that the wildlife don’t hear you approaching in the same way they do when you’re on a motor launch, so you get to see a lot more of these beauties – look out for some of the unusual winged and four-legged characters who live along the river banks. Although do tell if you see a seal!
You can also hire boards or have lessons on the safe Fambridge lake from WOT-SUP Paddle School, located just next to the marina at Fambridge Yacht Haven.
2. Paper Mill Lock
Distance from Fambridge Yacht Haven: 12 miles. View on a map
On the River Chelmer between Chelmsford and Heybridge you’ll find Paper Mill Lock. A popular haunt for paddleboarding because of its flat waters – sheltered by trees and surrounding countryside – and very pretty scenery, there’s a cafe nearby for snacks and refreshments, although call ahead to check they’re open. Please take care around the locks as you paddle along the river, just hop off and walk around the gate and hop back onboard.
3. Heybridge Basin
Distance from Fambridge Yacht Haven: approx. 10 miles. View on a map
Slap bang in the Maldon district you’ll find Heybridge Basin, another fantastic spot for paddleboarding with easy access to the Blackwater Estuary. Look out for traditional Thames sailing barges and wiggle around the winding network of marshes and creeks – at high tide! Beware, it’s extremely muddy when the tides out. Remember licence fees do apply to all non-powered vessels on the river and please respect the local wildlife, their ecosystem and your fellow river goers, here’s the Paddler’s Code.
Distance from Fambridge Yacht Haven: 8 miles. View on a map
When you’re paddleboarding it’s important to know your water. The River Crouch is a tidal river which flows west to east and from Battlesbridge into a wide estuary for almost 18 miles. A regular paddleboarding jaunt is from Hullbridge (with its gem of a pub, The Anchor Riverside) down to Battlesbridge (5 miles there and back) with its distinctive bridge and impressive antiques market, making sure you safely navigate the gates, anchored boats and the pull of the tide along the way.
Distance from Fambridge Yacht Haven: 9 miles. View on a map
As opposed to paddleboarding in the sea, where offshore winds can blow you and your paddleboard from the shore out to sea, the river can be a quieter stretch of water to navigate. Although you should always check the local weather and tide information before setting out. There is a Burnham SUP Club, based at Burnham Sailing Club, and slightly west of Burnham-on-Crouch is a great launch site for paddleboarders called Creeksea. Be prepared for wide waterways and big skies!
6. St Lawrence Bay, River Blackwater
Distance from Fambridge Yacht Haven: 11 miles. View on a map
If you’re after somewhere quiet to paddleboard, with plenty of wildlife-spotting thrown in, Blackwater is a great choice but do check tide times – again, it’s muddy when the tide is out. Jump in at St Lawrence and paddle long with the incoming tide towards Maldon and you can even paddle around the magical Londoner’s outpost Osea Island (pictured) or the equally remote Northey Island, owned and run by the National Trust. Look out for Brent Geese!
7. Bradwell-on-Sea, Southminster
Distance from Fambridge Yacht Haven: 15 miles. View on a map
Still on the River Blackwater, Bradwell-on-Sea is renowned for St Peter-on-the-Wall, the oldest church in England. Supposedly dating back to the 12th century. The recommended time to paddleboard in Bradwell is during the summer months but be warned the average water temperature is reputed to be 14.3°C.
Map of SUP-ing destinations
Stay Safe Afloat
Whatever activity you’re planning on the water, there’s always the need for caution. The water can be unpredictable, conditions can change very quickly, and you should always be prepared in case you get into difficulty.
Here’s a run down of what to do before heading out on your paddleboard adventure:
- Book a lesson. Make sure you’re confident on a SUP before you go exploring.
- Get a SUP buddy. Don’t go alone, it’s much more fun to paddleboard with a pal and you can help one another if the unexpected occurs.
- Check the weather forecast. Choppy water can be extremely challenging and conditions can change quickly. If in doubt, don’t go out! View live weather from North Fambridge or why not check out our live webcams!
- Avoid offshore winds. The water might look calm, but offshore winds can quickly blow you and your paddleboard out to sea. If you decide to launch from the beach, stick to a lifeguarded beach, check the orange windsock for wind direction and ask a lifeguard if you’re unsure.
- Check tide times. The pull of the tide can be strong. In one direction you might glide along but remember paddleboarding back against the tide can be tiring, especially if you’re a beginner. Think of your timings and daylight hours, you don’t want to run out of water as the tide retracts or lose the light. Spring and neap tides can catch you out too so check ahead.
- Dress right. Wear the appropriate gear. During the winter months you might want a wet suit or dry suit and in the summer it might be warm, but the water can still be very cold, so you might still opt for a wetsuit.
Lessons and Hire
If you are a paddleboard newbie and want to learn the basics, there are a few places in the area who offer SUP lessons and rentals including WOT-SUP based on Fambridge Lake on the River Crouch. They offer tuition, hire, SUP yoga and SUP tours around various destinations.
Essex and in particular the North Fambridge area offers a fantastic range of paddleboarding spots, each offering unique scenery and experiences. Whether you're a beginner or experienced, there’s a paddleboard adventure to suit everyone.
British Canoeing provide plenty of information for SUP safety, from essential kit and basic techniques to getting the right leash and turning. Check out their website here.
Wherever you go, have a fabulous time, stay safe and let us know how you get on. And if you have other paddleboarding spots you’d like us to add to the list, get in touch.
Stand up for SUP!