Paddle Locations – Gannel SUP, Newquay.

It’s hard to choose a favourite SUP location, they all have their own merits.

I often paddle along canals, which can be perfect for a leisurely SUP through beautiful countryside, stopping to chat to other water users and folk cycling and walking the tow paths. Alternatively they make great locations to work on speed, endurance and paddle technique. Lakes and reservoirs provide a similar combination. These are also by far the best locations to teach on as your students are at no risk of floating away while you demonstrate!

I have enjoyed the odd whitewater river paddle (helmet essential), I use one of the soft-top (slick bottomed) school boards for this. Don’t fancy risking my surf sup with its super expensive fins. Coastal SUP generally surpasses the inland waterways for me though. Whether it’s the challenge of the peaks and troughs of open ocean paddling, or simply exploring the estuaries and bays. You quickly develop a greater awareness of the tides, lunar cycles, weather conditions and wind speeds/directions.

Crantock Beach at High tide taken from carpark on East Pentire.

A particular favourite for me is a Gannel SUP – Newquay, Cornwall. I am lucky enough to spend approximately 5 months of the year here, and am never away for more than a few weeks.


The river Gannel (derived from the Cornish Ganel, meaning Channel) rises on Newlyn Downs and drains a 60 km2 area, running approximately 11km and into the sea over Crantock Beach, to the West of Newquay Town. The estuary is classified as a ‘Safe Haven to Shipping’.



Brief History

The Gannel is of great significance to the industrial history of Cornwall. Incoming tides saw schooners and lighters (barges) being poled or rowed up the river channel of this now silted estuary. Their cargo being mainly coal, timber or sand to be unloaded at Trevemper Bridge where it was distributed inland. It’s hard to believe that back in the 1800’s the old boat yard at Trevemper would have seen ships up to 250tonnes!! Until the 1860’s a leadmine was in operation at Trethellan whilst on the southern shore there was a lead and silver smelting works. Welsh coal for the Truro smelting works was landed at Trevemper and Penpol and iron ore from the Great Perran Iron Lode was brought to the Gannel before being shipped onto Wales. The old packhorse bridge at Trevemper is still in existence.

Perfect paddling day for kayak and SUP

Taken from the water. Perfect paddling day for kayak and SUP

Today – Gannel SUP!

The estuary is perfect for either exploring by foot or on horseback (checkout local stables at Trenance)…..more importantly though, the Gannel is perfect for watersports – Gannel SUP!! Paddleboarders (obviously), kayakers and canoeists take much delight in paddling the waters of the estuary at hightide. The Newquay Countryside Service is helping to manage the Gannel as a place for both people and wildlife to enjoy. They stress the importance of following the Country Code, keeping dogs under close control where they may disturb feeding birds. They advise that the Gannel is a very sensitive area and if possible keep to routes that avoid the foreshore, less erosion is caused and the view is often much better. Improvement work on the Gannel is supported by the Rivers Project, Newquay Town Council Restormel Borough Council, the National Trust, and Trewithen Estates.

Gannel Open Space

Gannel Open Space

Wildlife along the Gannel

The Estuary is home to an abundance of wildlife and is being proposed as a Special Area of Conservation. Despite the constantly shifting sands, and varying salinity levels which are common features of estuaries, the key habitats such as the areas of salt marshes and mudflats provide the perfect requirements for wading birds and plants (including samphire, thrift , sea aster and sea purslane). Up to 5000 birds have been recorded here over the winter months (including godwits curlew, whimbrel, dunlin, ringed plover, redshank, grey plover, greenshank, widgen and teal). Fish such as salmon, bass, smelt and shad can also be found as well as significant populations of both sea and brown trout. Upstream in freshwater, trout, lamprey, eel, and bullhead are also present.

Great location for walkers at low tide.

Great location for walkers at low tide. Taken from the bridge.

The Negatives  :-(

Crantock Beach has experienced bathing water failures in the past, particularly after heavy rainfall. During peak seasons, warning/advisory notices are situated on the entry/access points to the beach. Alternatively you can get live text reports from Surfers Against Sewage here. There is an emergency/storm overflow from the Crantock pumping station, that discharges to the River Gannel 500m upstream from the beach. There is also an emergency/storm overflow from the Fern Pit pumping station that discharges to the Gannel close to the beach. The operation of these overflows can lead to a drop in water quality in both the beach and river bathing water. Bearing that in mind, highly advisable to keep an eye on levels before Gannel SUP activities (or bathing/surfing/kayak)!!

Thankfully, the Cornwall Rivers Project took note of the water quality issues at the beaches, and has visited many farms, whose land falls within the catchment area of the Gannel, offering advice focussed on best practice in nutrient management such as monitoring fertiliser inputs and management of livestock manures. Similarly, the Stewardship Schemes within the UK, also focus on these issues.

In 1838, the East Wheel Rose Mine started discharging mine waste into the river, causing mine silting and black slimes to coat the once clean river bed. Bryan et al. (1980) recognised that the Gannel Estuary had the highest lead contamination of any estuary in the south-west, with data indicative that the sediment was sourced from particulate waste from mining activity centred. Cores samples taken from Penpol to Trenance show a very clear minewaste contamination with significant sediment supply enriched in Lead and Zinc. A draw back of the areas’ industrial past.

The Gannel looking upstream towards Crantock Beach. View taken from the water.

Both water users and walkers should keep a keen eye on tide times. Also worth noting that the Gannel is a slightly less friendly paddle location for beginners, during big Spring Tides. The incoming tide can run at a ferocious speed at certain times, especially where it ‘funnels’ at the beach end near the Boat House. The compression caused by wind over tide confliction can also be a bit tricky for novice paddlers to negotiate (both kayak and SUP).

A faster flowing Gannel - spring tide following August Supermoon Taken from the intertidal zone

A faster flowing Gannel – spring tide following August Supermoon
Taken from the intertidal zone

On the whole though, a super location to explore both on and off the water :-)


ASI Instructor, Director of SupAdventureUK, providing SUP Holidays, Paddleboard Lessons and Sales, Stand up Paddle Activities.

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