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  • Writer's pictureAnna Browne

5 essentials to bring when kayaking or paddle boarding on the Isles of Scilly


St Martin’s is the perfect location for hiring a kayak or paddleboard. When you book a hire with us, we provide you with everything you need to head out on the water safely for your paddling adventure. This includes your Zone Map, a safety whistle and a buoyancy aid (also known as a personal flotation device, or PFD for short). We have many sizes of buoyancy aids from toddler through to XL and we also keep three sizes of doggy life jackets!


We’re very happy to help you decide where to explore within our hiring areas. We take into account the equipment you’re hiring, your level of experience and the all-important weather conditions. We also provide a waterproof case for your mobile phone. For safety reasons, you have to take a fully charged phone out on the water with you but, on the plus side, you’ll be able to take lots of shots of your paddling adventure!


So, all the essential items are covered but I’m often asked “what do I need to bring?” Here are my recommendations so you know what to bring with you.


A group of people are on paddleboards on a calm sea with clear blue water.

#1 - Water

A can of water on our beach desk

If you’re heading out on the water it’s important to keep hydrated. Even if you’re gently paddling, you are exercising so will be losing fluids. Especially if it’s a sunny day. If you’re visiting an uninhabited island, there are no facilities or shops on any of them. (As the name suggests, they're uninhabited and beautifully unspoilt.) So please bring enough water with you.


We’ve started selling chilled cans of water from the beach. So, if you do forget your water, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.


#2 - Sunscreen

Four containers of sunscreen we found in our becah desk when clearing it out for the start of the season

As Baz Luhrmann says in Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen),” trust me about the sunscreen”. Make sure you have plenty of sunscreen with you and apply it frequently. When I was cleaning out our beach desk at the start of the season, I found four bottles!


It’s important to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas including your legs and ideally to also wear a hat. It’s a commonly held belief that the sun’s reflection on the water increases the sun’s ability to cause sunburn. According to the World Health Organisation this is true, but water reflects less than 10% of UV radiation.


However, you are more likely to get sunburn while being out on the water for many reasons. There is no shade, you could be in the sun for a long time and also be outside around midday when the sun is at its strongest. Add to this the fact that if you get splashed, which can easily happen when on the water, the sunscreen could get washed off. The air quality on Scilly is very good so even on a cloudy day the UV index will be high.


#3 - Layers

Following on from protecting yourself from the sun, you also need to protect yourself from the cold. When you’re planning what to wear, think about bringing layers with you. Even on a hot day it will always feel cooler out on the water. So, with lots of layers, you have the flexibility to adjust your temperature and to stay warm. A waterproof jacket that you don’t mind getting splashed can also be a useful item to wear.


We’re often asked if we provide wetsuits. We simply don’t have the storage facilities on the beach for this, so are unable to provide them. We appreciate that if you’re flying to the islands then the luggage allowance is quite restrictive for bringing your own if you have one. The Sailing Centre on St Mary’s does hire out wetsuits. Another alternative is to post a wetsuit to yourself so it’s here for your holiday.


#4 - Footwear

It’s useful to have shoes with you especially if you’re thinking of exploring an uninhabited island or want to clamber over rocks. Wet shoes, sandals or an old pair of trainers you don’t mind getting wet all work well.


Alternatively, take your shoes and socks off to get into a kayak, store them in a dry bag, then put them back on when you reach your destination. It’s comfortable kayaking in bare feet.


If you’re going out on a paddleboard then it’s best done in bare feet as it’s easier to grip with your toes. You can wear shoes if you prefer, but there’s more chance of them getting wet!


#5 - Snacks

A variety of filled rolls in a chiller cabinet at the Island Bakery

My final tip is snacks – for me it’s all about the snacks! As with drinking water, there’s no opportunities to buy food on the uninhabited islands so take whatever food you may need with you. Especially if you’re going out for a long kayaking trip. Any form of exercise will make you feel hungry.


The wonderful Island Bakery on St Martin’s sells filled rolls, savoury snacks and a delicious range of cakey loveliness. If you hire any of our equipment for the day you can sign up, for free, to our Day Hire Deal and receive a 15% discount from the Bakery. Simply choose the option when you book your equipment online, then give your surname when you go to the Bakery – we’ll make sure they know you’re coming!


What about storage?

A yellow 15 litre dry bag by a kayak

There’s lots of storage space on the kayaks, both fore and aft. If you want the things you're taking out with you to stay dry it’s possible to hire 15L waterproof bags – after all, no one wants soggy sandwiches. The ones we provide have two shoulder straps so you can wear it like a rucksack when on dry land. The double kayaks have a central area which gives additional storage and will easily fit a small child or a dog


Conversely, you don’t have to take everything you have with you out on the water. We’re very happy for you to leave bags etc with us on the beach, we have a waterproof storage area. We’ll look after your stuff while you’re out having fun. We are also always happy to dogsit!


I hope you’ve found these suggestions useful. Is there anything you won’t leave shore without? Please do leave a comment below and share with me what that would be.








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