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Going down the Lesse on a compact Stand-Up Paddleboard

Our Itiwit ambassador gives an account of her expedition with friends on the brand-new ultra-compact stand-up paddleboard down the River Lesse in Belgium.

Going down the Lesse on a compact Stand-Up Paddleboard

A few weeks ago, we decided to seek further adventures on the Lesse with friends on a quest for an outdoor experience. This time, we wanted to try it with a stand-up paddleboard!

Going down the Lesse on a compact Stand-Up Paddleboard

The River Lesse has two stretches –12km and 21km in length – suitable for the general public. Given the water level at this time of year, only the 12km stretch was accessible. We were lucky – this is the prettiest section! Other stretches of the Lesse are accessible in the winter months for more experienced kayakers, reaching II or possibly II+ on the difficulty scale.
I sought information for this expedition as it's a river with a high flow rate, especially at the two weirs. I had still never crossed a weir on a SUP. Due to the presence of rocks and a water level that could sometimes be low, I needed a suitable board. Breaking my fin and being unable to enjoy the river all the way down was out of the question!

A shorter but wider board for stability together with multiple short fins to avoid touching the bottom is generally recommended for an expedition on a river with low water levels and a stronger current. This made my new Compact board a no-brainer!

What is more, for this expedition, we planned to meet at the end point of the 12km stretch to park our vehicles and take the train from there to the start in Gendron. I love travelling by train!  The adventure had already begun! We were off on our mini expedition, together with our SUP equipment. It was great to be able to carry my kit in this really compact mini backpack weighing 7kg.  My friend with her conventional board was green with jealousy. Her bag (a really practical one when all is said) was nonetheless twice the size of mine!

Going down the Lesse on a compact Stand-Up Paddleboard

Once at the station in Gendron, we got off the train and found ourselves right at the edge of the river where we'd be starting off from. Our friends went to pick up their kayaks and we inflated our boards. Then we were off on our invigorating trip down the river! We were impatient to rediscover this magnificent landscape dotted with castles and rocks.

First impressions were fantastic, and despite the board being shorter, I enjoyed amazing stability. I felt ready to go for it on this mini adventure.

The kayakers overtaking us seemed to be very jealous of our stand-up paddleboards.

This touring expedition led us deep into a green and leafy environment classed as a Natura 2000 area!  Reaching the Aiguilles de Chaleux crag was a great moment. It was almost like being at the foot of the rocky outcrops in Krabi. The other highlight was discovering the Château de Walzin. A fairytale castle standing in front of us at the top of a magnificent cliff. Simply magical! We had fun going under the exceptionally cool waterfall flowing from the rock. The joys of stand-up paddleboarding!

We needed to be careful as just after the castle was the first weir on this stretch, where I recommend stand-up paddleboarders should get out and "walk around". Especially in view of the flow rate and low water level. Care is needed to avoid slipping on the rocks, and you shouldn't be afraid to get wet on this section, but the sensations and adrenaline are up to expectations.

The second weir can be done on the board and is great fun. With my Compact board, I crossed it effortlessly. Other stand-up paddleboarders had their fins broken at this point because they each had a single central fin rather than two shorter fins.

The remainder of the excursion was calmer, with the wonderful discovery of a small cave, and obstacle-free paddleboarding on sections with less water, once again thanks to the two small fins.
In the late afternoon, we finally arrived at the point where the Lesse flows into the Meuse. I dried off my board, deflated it using the valve, folded it in two, rolled it up and used the strap to fit it back into the small bag!
We loaded all our kit into the car and ended the day smiling and full of memories.

Going down the Lesse on a compact Stand-Up Paddleboard