For centuries, human beings have had a rich and rewarding – if often fraught – relationship with water.
In fact, you could say that water has played a significant part in shaping us into the people we are today.
Besides the obvious role of water in our well-being – we need to drink it to stay alive – water also provides a valuable source of food (and revenue) and has dictated where and how we build our towns and cities and conduct our daily business. We use it to water our crops and our gardens; to wash our dishes and flush our toilets; to fill our cups of tea or create the perfect cup of coffee.
However, water can also have a profound positive effect on our well-being, providing an enriching platform for improving our mental and physical health. Women can use water to help soothe labour pains, those who suffer from anxiety and depression can use it to ease their symptoms, and the rest of us can use our lakes, rivers, and seas as a playground for various exhilarating water sports and activities.
Speaking of which – whether you are new to the world of water-based sports or already a keen participant, here are 5 of the most thrilling and rewarding water sports and activities you can try in the UK this year.
Wild swimming has become incredibly popular in the British Isles over the past few years, popularised by afficionados such as the late Roger Deakin in his ground-breaking book, Waterlog, and championed by various groups and charities, such as Mental Health Swims.
There are a number of obvious benefits to wild swimming. For one thing, it is a very cheap and easily accessible pastime – all you really need to get started is a map, a swimsuit, and perhaps a pair of goggles.
Besides being fun and undeniably thrilling – particularly if the water is on the chilly side – it can also have a host of mental and physical benefits. Based on anecdotal evidence, these include its ability to help with easing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, arthritis, migraines, and menopause.
Paddleboarding is a fun and engaging way to experience the water, whether you are giving it a try in a river or a lake, or in the sea.
It does require a little getting used to, and you will have to master the fundamentals of the sport – such as learning how to balance while standing upright, as well as getting to grips with tricker manoeuvres such as the ‘step back turn’. But once you have got the hang of things, you and your family can enjoy an immersive experience without – well, immersing.
It’s also an easily accessible sport, with numerous locations across the UK giving you the opportunity to try it, from the Norfolk Broads to the Isle of Wight and Scotland’s awe-inspiring Glencoe.
The sport of canoeing not only provides a unique perspective on the beauty of our British rivers and coastlines, but can also be an exhilarating means of improving your fitness. It’s also an ideal activity for families and groups of friends, so you can enjoy memorable bonding experiences with your nearest and dearest while exploring dramatic shorelines, tranquil canoes, and lush riverbanks populated by species of wildlife you may not otherwise have the opportunity to spy.
Like paddleboarding and wild swimming, canoeing is a sport you can enjoy in a plethora of breath-taking places scattered across the UK. Just be aware that licenses may be required for some locations, so do your research before you set off.
If you are looking for a water sport that can provide both adrenaline-pumping thrills and relaxing cruising, then powerboating could be just your cup of tea. Various courses are available, designed for recreational boaters keen to take to the waves, and once you’ve gained your certification it won’t be hard to find an assortment of stunning motor boats for sale.
Before you know it, you will be taking your loved ones on gentle cruises along tranquil waterways, spotting all kinds of birds and wildlife along the way – or skipping over the waves with the open sea spread out before you like a glittering sun-dappled carpet.
Not all water sports provide a relaxing way to connect with the natural world. Surfing is the perfect activity for those who want to test their mettle against the power of the sea. Requiring a hard-won blend of balance and technique, this sport may be challenging to pick up at first – but the rewards can last a lifetime.
While you may associate surfing primarily with the sun-kissed beaches of Australia or the US, there are plenty of surfing hotspots to be uncovered in the UK – not to mention a number of surfing schools where you can learn to ride the waves like a professional. Get the whole family involved and share the thrills and inevitable spills side by side!