A few weeks a go I had a great chat with With Bob Cartwright from the Outdoors Station about my paddle around Mallorca. Chatting about the trip, adventuring and the incredible spot of Stand up paddle boarding was a joy. Once I get started its hard to stop me, but Bob did a great job at keeping me on track.
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I’ve wanted to undertake a Multiday Stand up paddle board expedition for quite some time now, but due to family life and limited annual leave, it’s never really happened. I’ve looked on with envious eyes as others set off on their adventures wishing it was me.
Last year everything just came together, holidays, family time and fitness. All I needed to do was find somewhere to explore. I needed somewhere with good weather in April and a decent distance achievable in a week. A simple google search revealed that Mallorca was 350km around and flights would cost just over £116 including 26kg of hold luggage, and the cherry on the top. The airport was right on the beach. Perfect!
In my head this would be quite simple and went something like this…….. Fly to airport – walk to beach – sleep on beach – paddle round island – sleep on beach – walk to airport – fly home. How difficult could it be? Mallorca looked quite small on the map, easy!
I started the year training for the UK Endurance series, but due to other commitments the training had become irregular or dropped off completely. I’d built up a good base level of paddling fitness since January, but really hadn’t paddled much for the 6 weeks leading up to the trip. Mentally I couldn’t have been more prepared. I really was ready for my own adventure. It’s been on my list for ages. I have a family and it just kept getting pushed back, but not this time. This was it!
I decided to take the Fanatic Ray air 12’6” with the Fanatic Carbon 80 three piece paddle. I felt this would give me the stability and carrying capacity I would need. The inflatable SUP board is the ideal exploration craft. It can carry a lot of kit, its stable and packs up to the size of a suitcase for easy transport, and the quality of the boards is now so good.
I packed two pairs or shorts, two quick dry T shirts, a lightweight puffer jacket, waterproofs, ION neo shorts and top, sleeping bag, bivi bag, tarp and sleeping mat, micro camping stove, Firepot dehydrated food and some flip flops, Into several dry bags and then put these, along with the board into the Palm River Trek 125L waterproof gear bag. The perfect fit.
On day one I arrived on the beach at Ca’n Pastilla and was greeted by a very very flat sea, perfect paddling conditions. Being the super unorganised person that I am, it took me a while to get everything sorted and packed away onto the board. A planned departure time of just after 9am rapidly ran into 10:30. By this time the wind was starting to build and I just had to get going. I departed from the beach and headed left to the headland and out of Palma Bay. The target for my first day was Cala Santanyi, just around the southern point of Mallorca and about 58km away. I quickly settled into a rhythm and just kept plugging away, one paddle stroke after the other. I rounded the point and left Palma bay at about 16km. I wouldn’t see Palma again now for another 6 days, the adventure had really begun and it was so exciting.
The onshore wind ramped up on the first afternoon so I didn’t quite make it to Cala Santanyi. After 30km of paddling on my left I decided to stop at Colonia De Saint Jordi, about 20 km short of my target. I found a nice secluded island about two km away and bedded down for the night.
Day two started early and went much the same as day one, stroke after stroke, just putting in the hours and taking in the scenery. By the middle of day one I had started to grow some pretty impressive blisters on my left hand, caused by the one sided paddling. This had made it quite uncomfortable to paddle by day two. I’d not brought anything to care for the blisters so I had to try and protect them by adjusting my stroke and preventing them from popping.
The next 4 days were the best days of the trip. The wind disappeared and the Mediterranean looked like an endless deep blue mill pond. The scenery became more epic as the days drew out. With wild beaches and massive imposing cliffs rising straight out of the sea. Even my blisters settled down a bit. The winds of the first two days left some decent swell in the water and required me to use my surfing skills to navigate the board and kit through some chunky 3 foot walls and into the beach at Cala Mesquida. I felt like a complete surf god, only to look like a total idiot by making a hash of getting back out again after my rest. The good weather allowed me to paddle straight across Alcudia Bay and Badia Da Pollencia, in the North East of the island, cutting 20 km off my journey. Paddling under my own steam, alone across those bays with 10km to the nearest land in any direction was an amazing experience. I found out later that paddling more than 6km offshore is actually illegal. Oops!
Days 5 and 6 were really slow paddling days. There was just too much to gawp at. This was the section between Cala Sant Vicenc and Banyalbufar. Those amazing limestone cliffs towering hundreds of meters above my head as I paddled, dotted with gravity defying goats hopping from crevice to ledge. Below me that bottomless deep blue sea with the odd jelly fish passing by and dolphins breaching in the distance. I found one bay and just sat there on the board looking around me for ages it was so beautiful, and no one else for miles around. I continued a bit further down the coast and came across a couple of ribs bobbing around at the base of the cliffs. There was a lot of laughing and shouting coming from there so I decided to paddle over and have a look. I’m so glad I did. The two boats were anchored at the base of a gorge cutting deep into the cliff. On one of the boats I met David and Tristan who were enjoying their day off doing a bit of Gorge scrambling and asked If I wanted to join them. Of course I did! I then spent the next hour climbing up limestone flows and jumping off high ledges into freezing cold freshwater plunge pools cold enough to take your breath away. Those guys had climbing hats and wetsuits, I had my shorts and t shirt. That was such a good day. They told me about and awesome secluded camping spot too. I would never have known it was there if it hadn’t gone over and chatted to them.
One of my highlights was the wild camping. It’s illegal in Mallorca, but it was out of season and I wouldn’t be camping on the tourist beaches, so I took the chance. I loved that feeling of being at the end of the day and you know you need to find somewhere to camp, paddling along trying to find the ideal spot. Then looking around and finding a cave, or a fishermans hut, I slept in both. I also slept on my own island, in a kitchen of a campsite that was closed, under some beach umbrellas, in a storage shed, in the grounds of the most idyllic disused hydroelectric PowerStation I have ever seen, some spots were so deserted I was able to do a bit of skinny dipping and have a wash. Others I had to hide from fishermen in the early hours of the morning. It really was great. One of my favourite parts of the trip.
I arrived back in Palma 7 days later, after paddling for 63 hours and covering 331km. beating the previous record by 6 days. What a sense of achievement.
I had achieved my goal and my long held dream or adventure.