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Prone – Loch Tummel, Scotland

August 2022

What a difference a board can make!
Setting off from the Loch Tummel Sailing Club on the south shore, I headed east down the loch with a good wind behind me.
As I passed Tarzan’s Lodge, and the loch opened up, the water became much more lumpy, and continued this way for the next 3-4km, until reaching Camp Island. From here, past Sunken Island and Fake Island, down to the bed, the water was fairly flat. But I knew that this was going to be the last of the easy stuff for today.
I turned at my planned, 7.5km mark, and headed west, back up the loch, and into the wind.
Again, as I passed Fake, Sunken, and even Camp Island, the water was fine and my speed was good. Then I hit it!
Less than 100m from Camp Island, the water got messy. Very messy!
The last time I had been to Tummel, was in November, 2020, and things had got very sketchy, with an unexpected storm blowing in, whilst I was on my inflatable prone board. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it home that day.
Today, although there was no storm, the wind was gaining strength, and the waves were getting big. At one point I thought I was in the middle of a sailing boat race, as I was surrounded by dashes of white. I soon realised that these weren’t a load of boats, they were the white caps of the many waves as far as the eye can see. (Well, as far as my eyes can see.) If I stopped to take a drink, or catch a breath, the waves would try to spin the board around. The water was crashing over the front of the board, over my drinks bottles, and over my head and shoulders. Sometimes it felt like I was scuba diving, rather than prone boarding, having to hold my breath, and keep my head down until I was clear again. The board would ride up over a wave, then smash down on the other side with a mighty “thud” and a shudder, before climbing up the next one, and repeating the process. I had visions of the board smashing in half every time this happened.
My usual pace is around 6.8kmph, but for 2km, in the roughest section, I failed to reach 4kmph. All I could do was keep my head down and plough my way through it all.
Eventually, after passing Tarzan’s Lodge, the water started to calm down.
As I paddled back into the flat water by the sailing club, with Rhona guiding me via walkie talkie, I reflected on the conditions, comparing them to my last trip to Tummel. I’m sure they were more harsh than last time, but with the much more stable 14ft Vanquish Expedition board, and possibly my improved skills, this trip was much more enjoyable. Challenging, but great. Oh yes, and one heck of a workout!!
Disclaimer: People who have paddled Loch Tummel with me know that I have given certain landmarks my own made-up name. There is no “Tarzan’s Lodge”, “Camp Island”, “Sunken Island”, etc, on any map, apart from the one in my head. (But there is a Loch Tummel Sailing Club.)
All pics shot from the shore at the end, in the flat water. Sorry no big water shots.


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