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Last weekend Bex and I popped up to Norfolk to surprise a friend for his 40th birthday.  Maybe ‘popped’ isn’t quite the right word; my truck isn’t the fastest vehicle so I think “tootled in a rush” would be better.

After six hours of driving we turned down a small lane and nearly missed the carpark being distracted by sparkly balloons floating above a stone bridge announcing the big 4-0.  Another couple of friends had arrived before us and put them up as a surprise for the birthday boy. As we hurriedly unloaded and set off up river the wind got a little frisky and popped the zero but four probably still worked for the group’s maturity level.

The birthday boy had been dropped by his wife with lunch, his SUP, £10, and a slightly suspicious feeling.  After a while sitting on his own wondering what was happening, a group of the surprise guests scooped him up and they all took to the river in canoes and SUPs.  When we met them coming the other way a short while later it was a relief to turn around and go with the wind.

The Bure is a beautiful river with gently moving strands of weed under the surface, alternating banks of fields and trees, and a steam train running past.  We launched from the carpark on Old Cromer Rd in Little Hautbois, which has a slipway into the water, and paddled downstream to the Rising Sun pub in Coltishall, a trip of about 3 hours.  There is one short portage, as you come to Coltishall, round a weir.

My friend is lucky enough to have a house backing onto the water so we landed and cracked out the beers!  No party is complete without silly games and the suggestion was SUP polo at this one. With three to a team, a lightweight football, and goal lines at each edge of the garden; the idea was to get the ball across the other team’s goal line as we didn’t have nets.  Games were started with each team on their own goal line and an umpire throwing the ball into the centre from the bank. As a safety precaution, paddles were not allowed to be lifted above waist height, and could not be used to knock other players off their paddleboards.  Bumping into another player was fine though – this is definitely a game for inflatables!!

Unsurprisingly, it all got a little competitive and very wet with players falling in all over the place.  A proficient step back turn was definitely an advantage, as was a stable but turnable board. We found three a side best in the space we had but I can imagine, with more room, it would be great with four or five to a team.  Searching the internet, inflatable fields including the goals can be bought at 20x25m size for three a side and there are places that run sup polo sessions.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and it has given you some ideas for paddle locations and fun games.  Please use the comments to share any games you play on your SUPs and happy paddling!

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