On the 20th July I, Tarran Kent-Hume, led a group of stand up paddle boarders from Gothenburg to Stockholm. The journey spanned 700km (435 miles) via the Gota Canal and Baltic Sea and, in a word, it was EPIC. Here are nine things I learned along the way.
1. People along the Gota Canal are some of the friendliest and happiest
Everyday we’d be greeted by those passing us, and everyone passed us. From people on bikes, walking, running, people on boats, even babies on trikes. Everyone was inquisitive and friendly, and gob smacked at seeing us paddling along. In Sweden they’re so friendly they even say hi twice, “hey hey”.
2. The lakes in Sweden are huge and the weather can turn on you in an instant
Lake Vanern is the size of a small country and Lake Vattern is brutal. The weather was great on Vanern and we crossed it in a few days, Vattern though, that’s a different story, it was a nightmare. We got caught in a storm and had to pull together and even call out a search and rescue operation.
3. Swedes are awesome
After the dramas of Lake Vattern, we were taken in by the Frennessons, a family that lived on the banks of the lake. Within 15 minutes of meeting them we were given a place to camp and invited into their home for a BBQ and a night of rest.
4. Portaging sucks
The canals are beautiful and calming yet you have to be prepared to constantly haul your paddleboard out of the water and around the locks, over train lines, under bridges and over two metre drops. You learn to deal with it though… Until you get to a near one kilometre portage, which happened twice and, yeah, that sucked.
5. Camping on rock islands is better than it sounds
We camped on little isolated rock islands in the middle of the Baltic Sea and it was worth the 12 hours of paddling. The peaceful calm of the evening sky, the quiet, the little shot of whisky after our dinner, that’s beautiful, that’s adventure.
6. Heading out into the unknown of a huge lake is exciting
Only being able to see a blur in the distance and knowing it could take all day to get there, just paddling along, living in the present, chatting, thinking, listening to music, now that’s living!
7. Sunsets and sunrises are stunning
Some nights we all just sat in silence and stared out past the flickering flames of our campfire and onto the crisp clear waters glowing in the sunset.
8. Paddle boarding naked as often as possible is the way to go
Well at least shirts off. We’d set out in the morning, and after a while the sun was in full heat and we’d often jump in for a skinny-dip and then paddle in the nude.
9. It’s worth it
Left to Right: Alex McCormick, Luke Hindes, George Baksa, Johan Paulsen, Tarran Kent-Hume, Anthony Hennelly
Celebrating the finish with your mates after an epic adventure, some 700kms (435 miles) in 15 days, over a marathon a day, that’s awesome.