"Summer time and the livin' is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high" - George Gershwin
It's been a long and hard road to the fairest season of the year, but the synoptic charts are finally starting to favour the UK. Warm weather, long days, festivals, weekends at the coast and a chance to wear light clothing... these are some of our favourite things about summer. To commemorate the start of this glorious season, we've decided to put together our personal Top 10 Summer Sports list, to inspire you to get out there and enjoy it while it lasts.
10. Stand Up Paddleboard
Stand Up Paddle boarding, or SUPing as it is more commonly known, appears to be the love child of canoeing and surfing. Guys and girls ride waves on these long, buoyant surfboards using an oar to propel and steer themselves - all the while standing up. It's great fun and a fantastic way to stay fit - you'll find yourself using muscles you didn't know existed. But the biggest draw card is how accessible it is. The waves can be absolutely tiny (perfect for those still learning) and the boards are still buoyant enough to ride them.
There are plenty of SUP demo's around the UK to try your hand at the sport under expert guidance. Check out standuppaddlesurf.co.uk for events and the latest in the UK SUP community.
SUP is also quite popular abroad. If you're looking to try SUPing on your travels the best resource is supglobal.com. They have extensive directory listings of SUP shops, schools and holidays.
Sea Sense Top Tip: If you are still learning how to manage the board, be sure to go out where there are NO bathers or other surfers. If you lose control of the board and it hits someone else, they will certainly feel it in the morning.
9. Scuba Diving
Next to space exploration, the ocean floor is the last unconquered frontier around us - thankfully scuba diving is a lot cheaper and less dangerous than a trip to the moon. If you are going anywhere that offers you a chance to go diving this summer, pounce on the opportunity. It's the ultimate safari, which takes you into the quiet, beautiful wilderness.
Sea Sense Top Tip: Make sure you get diving certified before you go on holiday! For diving courses and scuba destinations, check out londonscuba.com. Also check your travel insurance policy to see what type of diving you're covered for. For a detailed guide on how to get started and to see what sort of diving you're covered for, Essential Travel has prepared a How To guide to Scuba diving.
8. Beach Soccer
Take the world's favourite game and combine it with everyone's favourite place to be and you have a dynamite sport. The sand introduces an element of unpredictability that makes beach soccer a tad more exciting to play than regulation football. Improvisation is the skill most required as the ball can pop up anywhere. Try out beach soccer and get Messi at the beach.
Sea Sense Top Tip: Be careful not to injure yourself when running and changing direction. It's easy to twist your ankle (or worse) in the sand. It's advisable to wear ankle guards if you have weak ankles.
A hearty game of volleyball is one of the easiest (albeit cheesiest) ways to get people mingling on the beach. All you need is a net, a ball and people - the game will do the rest. It's hard not to get lost in the competitive rush of making a winning spike or successfully defending a lob that goes over your head. You can blame Top Gun all you like, but the truth is that playing Volleyball is extremely fun.
Sea Sense Top Tip: Remember to warm up properly before making any heroic dives. Like beach soccer, volleyball plays havoc on the ankles so be careful. Also, keep it fun and light - no-one likes a sore loser or the guy who gets into petty arguments over the ball being in or out.
6. Body Surfing
There couldn't be anything more natural than riding waves the way God intended us to do - without any boards or motorised gadgets. All you need is a bathing suit that won't come off in the ocean and waves. Swimming yourself into them can be tricky at first, but once you've bagged yourself a few decent rides it'll feel like you've been doing it your whole life. There are three main methods to riding waves (the names vary from country to country):
The Windmill: Place one arm out in front of you, while using the other to keep stroking
The Handcuffs: Place your arms out straight in front of you and keep your wrists tightly together (like they are handcuffed together)
The Bullet: Ideal for those with little to no hair. Keep your arms tightly held against your side and 'steer' with your head
For more information about this fine sport, plus group discussions and more, check out: www.body-surfing.co.uk
Sea Sense Top Tip: Body surfing is pretty safe, provided you are swimming at a public beach where life guards are present.
5. Water Skiing/Wake Boarding
Water skiing and wake boarding are basically the summer equivalent of the snow variety - the key difference is the boat and the temperature outside. All the basic elements are still there: you glide across the water at high speed, making S-turns across the surface until your legs and arms are too tired to go on. Like most adrenalin-fueled sports, it's really addictive and very tiring, so you'll probably feel like you've been kicked by a mule after day one, but you'll be even hungrier to master the tricks you started trying.
For more information on the UK Water ski and Wakeboarding scene see britishwaterski.org.uk
Sea Sense Top Tip: You don't need a license to go skiing or wake boarding, but you will need a permit to drive the boat. Be careful when skiing: you need a life jacket, a red flag to indicate 'skier down' and an awareness of others around you.
4. Tubing/ Banana Boat
If water skiing and wake boarding are a bit rough for you, the easier option is to hop aboard a banana boat or inside an inner tube. The only skill involved is holding on while the boat races you around the river/ocean. This may be the less serious option when it comes to fun with a speed boat, but it's by no means less fun.
Sea Sense Top Tip: Drivers need to pay special attention to the river, while the spotter keeps their eyes on the banana boat's passengers. There is very little control over the boat or tube when going through turns, so you need to make sure that everyone is far away from land/bridges/other boats at all times.
From the Azores to Zanzibar, there are few coastlines where people don't surf these days. Riding waves is just a cool thing to do, and everybody should try it at least once. It feels like flying and walking on water at the same time, and is a lot more accessible than you would think. Going through a reputable school is the best way to ease yourself into it, on smaller waves with friendly coaches - ideally you should try it with a friend, so that you can support one another. In no time you'll be one of the millions living on the coast with a healthy, liquid addiction.
For the most incredible surfing trip, combined with some volunteer work, Ticket To Ride offer a Worldwide Surfing Adventure Programme that takes you to the best spots in South Africa, Mozambique and Costa Rica. Check out their website for more details.
Sea Sense Top Tip: Don't go out in conditions that you aren't comfortable with, and never surf alone - if you get a cramp or run into any difficulties, you need to be able to call on someone. Insurance cover option Grade 1 includes surfing.
On holiday in the summer time, the sport of 'sailing' should at least partly involve relaxing on the fore deck of a luxury vessel, pimms in hand and big cheesy smile at the ready. It really is the most luxurious way to get out there and enjoy the weather and scenery - especially for those heading to the Aegean, the Med or the Algarve. Sure there are moments when you may have to swab the deck or man the lines, but summer sailing should be more about lolly-gagging and less about work.
Sea Sense Top Tip: If you are not going sailing with a professional, a certified tour group or someone who knows their way around a vessel and the coastline, be sure to check the weather charts. Sailing can be wonderful, but it's very dangerous - the sea and the weather can change in an instant. Check your travel insurance policy, as sailing in territorial waters needs Grade 1 cover.
1. Kite Boarding
Kite Boarding is one of the most exciting and fastest growing sports to emerge in the last decade. It's an eclectic sport that combines the freedom and manoeuvres of surfing with the speed and variety of wind surfing - then doubles the excitement. You only need two elements: wind and water. These days people are not only kite boarding in the ocean, but also in rivers, lakes and dams.
Using the power of the wind, kite boarders are pulled along at incredible speeds while standing on a small, easily maneuverable board. Check out this video of Kirsty Jones, the women's World Champion kiteboarder:
Sea Sense Top Tip: See a coach before you get started. Most retailers offer lessons to first time kite boarders, because learning to control the kite is an absolute essential. Kite surfing requires Grade 1 insurance cover.