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January 23, 2024



Caroline Salmon and Alice Callow flew out and then sailed back on a one-day SUP adventure to the Isles of Scilly to test the transportability of the RED compact SUP!     

Words:  Caroline Salmon

Photos:  Alice Callow and Stuart Walker.

The words England and exotic don’t usually get mentioned in the same sentence, but the Isles of Scilly certainly has the allure of a far-flung land. Made up of around 140 tiny islands, its sugar-fine sandy beaches, secluded stretches of coast and mild micro-climate make for the ultimate paddleboarding playground. Located just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly is the UK’s largest archipelago with only five inhabited islands, meaning it’s a natural sanctuary for marine life, wildlife and seabirds.

Keen to put our Red Paddle Co Compact paddleboards to the test and really hone in on the transportability of our smaller-size SUP, we searched for a destination that would give us a dose of adventure without the long-haul flight. The Isles of Scilly, it turns out, couldn’t be better suited. Offering up a Caribbean-style setting that is just a hop, skip and jump from the Cornish coast, this easy-to-reach location from the UK can be explored as a one-day SUP adventure, armed with nothing but a Compact paddleboard on your back – the perfect travelling companion pairing easy packing with uncompromising quality.

But if you’re keen to get a little more out of your stay, it also offers up some awesome island accommodation, with Recluver, in our opinion, being the best of the bunch. This historic house in the heart of St. Mary’s Bay puts you in a lap of luxury with its sleek self-catering surrounds and stunning sea views to boot. Plus, it’s also perfectly positioned to get the most out of island life being just a short stroll from the day-tripper boats and rib excursions that make regular trips to the different islands.

Let adventure begin!

Compact bags on our backs, we started our day early having booked onto one of the first Skybus flights of the day from Penzance. Forget lengthy airport queues and hours of waiting around, our transfer to the Isles of Scilly was swift and totally stress-free. Plus, the open-plan waiting area is perfect for enjoying panoramic views of the airfield where the Skybus flights are lined up ready to take off to the beautiful isles, a little piece of paddleboarding paradise that you can see hovering on the horizon on a clear day.

Once on the plane we strapped in and kept our eyes glued to the windows so not to miss the incredible bird’s eye view of the Cornish coastline before the islands crept into view. The 20-minute flight is an adventure in itself, providing a breathtaking way of travelling to Scilly, and after a surprisingly smooth landing, we stepped off the plane straight into St. Mary’s airport just as our Compact bags rolled up the conveyer. We were swiftly welcomed by a friendly bus driver, who dropped us off at the centre of Hugh Town to kickstart what would be an epic adventure.

Island hopping on the water

The first challenge of a trip to the Isles of Scilly is to decide which one of its beautiful islands to explore. With only five of its islands being inhabited, there are countless others to discover, each with its own unique allure. One must-do on the paddleboard bucket list is the route from the beautifully rugged Bryher to the uninhabited island of Samson. Flanked by the formidable Atlantic Ocean on one side, but blessed with calm sandy shores on the other, Bryher has something of a split personality, but is boundless in its beauty.

For our trip, we opted for Tresco and hopped on a tripper boat from St. Mary’s. This was our first chance to get up close to the crystal-clear water and we were itching to get our boards pumped up and ready to go. Thankfully it was just a short 20-minute ride and as the greenery of the island came into view, we knew a day trip to this subtropical gem wouldn’t disappoint.

Arguably one of the islands most beautiful spots, Tresco is the second largest island in the archipelago and home to the world-famous Tresco Abby Garden, not to mention endless miles of crowd-free beaches and a rocky North shore peppered with shipwrecks. Arriving at Carn Near Quay, we strolled up the road before spotting Carn Near Bay – completely unoccupied and with bone-white sand that could have been plucked from a Barbados beach.

Discovering paddleboard perfection

It was time to get out on the water and from here we paddled up and down the bay, peering down at the towers of seagrass below, keeping our eyes peeled for fish or even a seal, if we were lucky. After some more exploring, we came back to shore, strapped our board bags on the front of the boards and paddled around the point towards the larger Apple Tree Bay.

Hugging the coastline, we made our way to New Grimsby where we stopped off for refreshments at the picturesque pub, the New Inn. From here we took the boards a little further up the island towards Cromwell’s Castle, where we spotted an isolated bay surrounded by reems of seagrass – a little tricky to navigate through, but well worth the effort to view the fortress from another perspective.

Next, we SUP’ed back down the coast to the sub-tropical Tresco Abbey Garden. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the Isles of Scilly is blessed with a mild micro-climate that gives way to an exotic array of plant life. And there’s no better place to feel the flower power than at this little piece of horticultural heaven. Bursting with more than 20,000 tropical blooms, many of which cannot be grown in any other parts of Britain, you’ll also find a colourful collection of figureheads salvaged from the island’s countless shipwrecks.

A lesson in island life

It was then time to make our way to the Quay for our collection back to St. Mary’s where another watery adventure awaited us on our return. This time, we swapped our paddleboards for goggles and met up with the ocean-loving ladies from The Wild and Scilly Mermaids to do some lengths. Having been swimming in the Isles of Scillies’ epic ocean playground for more than five years, they have turned their passion into an awesome venture offering swim hikes and experiences.

We were lucky enough to join two of its mermaids, Ruth and Anna, for an early morning swim in their favourite bay to find out why they’d swap their legs for fins any day. “There is so much variety to explore, from quiet, white sandy bays to deep-blue water edged with dramatic coastal rock formations” explains Anna – a paramedic by trade and sea swimmer at heart. “The shimmering turquoise shallow waters are brimming with underwater life, and there is always somewhere sheltered from the weather to swim – a huge advantage when living on an island.”

After an epic morning with our new mermaid friends, things took a windy turn – something that comes part and parcel with island life with the weather around Scilly being very interchangeable. Putting our safety hat on, we chose to err on the side of caution and headed out on a rib boat which gave us a little more freedom to island hop when the blustery breeze made SUPing slightly trickier.

If you plan to do a similar Isles of Scilly adventure, we highly recommend that you download the Windy App before choosing your SUP route, and ensure you have the right safety equipment, including a leash, buoyancy aid and means to call for help, should you get in trouble. You can also ask the locals for advice on the wind direction when you arrive – they are always happy to share their local knowledge to ensure you get the best experience.

Homeward bound

Not wanting to wave goodbye to the stunning Isles of Scilly, we reluctantly began our return journey back to the mainland on board the Scillonian III ferry, checking in at St. Mary’s Quay before settling in for the 2hr 45min journey to Cornwall. Our trip to the islands certainly didn’t disappoint, and as our Compact inflatable SUP proved, a day visit is not only possible but a must-do on any boarders’ bucket list.

We packed the 9’6 Compact SUP as well as the 12’ touring board, both of which offer different benefits for a trip like this. The 9’6 Compact is one of the most transportable boards in the Red Paddle Co range, and is an excellent all-rounder. The 12’0 is a slightly heavier package, but as a touring SUP the extended length offers fantastic glide for going longer distances around the crevasses and bays dotted along Scilly.

To make the most of your time on the Isles of Scilly, we highly recommend the Fly Sail package found here:  https://www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk/flysail/. This way you get to see the islands from all perspectives, and, with the right Compact boards on hand, you can fly out and sail back with ease. It truly is the perfect way to get off the beaten path and upgrade your adventure in a little slice of SUP’ing paradise.

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