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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Surely Nothing Else Can Go Wrong?

Surely nothing else can go wrong, I thought to myself as I removed my Redpaddle inflatable SUP from it's rucksack. I was in the tiny Italian village of Torno on the  shore of Lago di Como, Lake Como, in the north of Italy. This was a paddle I had been looking forward to for quite some time. But I was running late. At least 24 hours late. And I was in the wrong village .................

When I found out I would be visiting Milan in March 2017, my first thought was to use a well-known internet search engine to find some suitable locations for Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP). I wasn’t too concerned that my search turned up a blank, when I realised Lake Como was only an hour or so from Milan on the train.

After my previous difficulties with hiring suitable boards and equipment abroad, this time I was going to take my own inflatable Redpaddle SUP. Wrapped around my single cylinder pump. And my newly purchased three piece paddle. All carefully wrapped in various towels.

Juventus Stadium, Turin

But before I went to Como, I made a quick one night trip to Turin. I love watching football so the opportunity to watch Juventus v Milan at the Juventus Stadium was too good to pass up. There was a fantastic atmosphere in the stadium and I enjoyed watching Juventus winning 2-1 thanks to a (very) last minute penalty. But then my plans started to go awry ……………….

Have you ever had one of those nights out which is completely unplanned and turns into a fantastic occasion? If you have then you’ll understand what I mean:
I popped into the Irish Bar round the corner from my hotel, for just one quick post match drink – which soon turned into more than one. Many, many more than one! I got into the bad company (or maybe it was ‘the good company’) of two American expats, seven Irishmen on a weekend away and two Italian barmaids who seemed intent on plying us all with shots. The beer, the Irish Whiskey and a huge variety of shots were flowing. I cant remember the last time I had so much fun in a pub. And I definitely cant remember the last time I had such a sore head the following day.

So I arrived in the town of Como much later than expected, and much more tired than expected. I still intended to have a paddle on the first day, but when I went for a walk around the town, to seek a suitable spot to get onto the Lake, I couldn’t really find anything suitable. It was late afternoon, early evening. Time was passing and I decided to leave my paddle until the following day. Plan A was gone.

The ferry from Como
Plan B: I took a cruise on the ferry service around the southern end of the lake to shake off the hangover and to scout out a suitable launching point away from the main town. Just as the ferry was pulling out of the stop at Moltrasio, that’s when I saw it. A small slip way next to the ferry stop. I could easily inflate my board here. It even looked a safe spot to leave my pump and bag while I was on the lake. Secluded and safe. I decided to return here the following day.

The following morning found me back on the ferry and looking forward to a few hours paddling. Yesterday had been a bit of a write off but nothing would go wrong today. Suddenly I realised that the ferry had passed the port of Moltrasio! What had happened? Had I dozed off for a few minutes? Or maybe I had just been day dreaming? Or did the ferry follow a different route on a Sunday? I still don’t know how it happened but I had missed Moltrasio! And the ferry was heading to the next stop at Torno. What was I going to do?

I decided to get off at Torno anyway and look for a spot to get on the lake. I’m glad I did as Torno is a beautiful tiny village on the eastern shore of Lake Como. And I quickly found a suitable place to get on the lake. Nothing else was going to wrong.

Or could it? As I took my board and pump out of the rucksack, I could see that the pump had not survived the trip intact. The pressure gauge was broken off and the thread was also damaged! Oh no! I was in a tiny village a long way from anywhere. There would be absolutely no chance of finding a replacement pump here. I’d travelled a long way for this paddle, and I’d been eagerly looking forward to it for a long time. I’m sure you can imagine how I was feeling.

My first thought was to try and hold the two broken ends of the pump together with one had whilst trying to pump with the other. I can't image why I even thought this might work! As soon as I got any air at all into the board, it just came back out again. It was useless. Was my paddle over before it had even begun? I needed some gaffer tape. But the village was so tiny I wasn’t even sure it had a shop of any description. And it was Sunday. Nothing would be open.

But just as I was on the verge of giving up, bitterly disappointed, I remembered I had seen a group of Scouts sitting in the village square as I passed through earlier. I remembered that I had been a Scout as a teenager. And I remembered that the motto of the Scouts was ‘Be Prepared’! Hopefully the Scouts would be prepared for my predicament and be able to lend me some tape? So I made my way back up to the square, taking my broken pump with me, and made my request, mainly through sign language as I don’t speak Italian. Sadly these particular Scouts were not prepared for my particular request. It’s a number of years since I was in the Scouts, maybe the motto has changed!

I was once again close to packing my gear away and heading back to Como. But there at the far corner of the square, I saw a café. Perhaps they could help. So I went in and, again using my best sign language and acting skills, I asked for help. The lady behind the counter was extremely helpful. She had no plastic tape, but she did have some parcel tape. You know, the very thin, light brown parcel tape. Would it be good enough?

I held the two broken ends of the pump together, and I wrapped and wrapped and wrapped. Round and round, over and over again. By the time I had finished, the join felt pretty strong. Would it be good enough? Was the join sealed or would the air just escape through the gaps? Only one way to find out ………………..

And it worked. Well sort of. I managed to inflate the board to some extent. Eventually, as the pressure increased, air began to escape through the gaps in the tape. I had no idea how much air I had managed to get in, as the gauge was broken. The board didn’t feel as firm as usual, but it would have to do. My long awaited paddle on Lake Como was going to take place after all. Hopefully I had enough air in to take my weight. I wasn’t wearing a wetsuit so I didn’t fancy a dip in the water. It was a pleasantly warm spring day, perhaps 20*C. But I knew the water in Lake Como had come down from the surrounding mountains as the winter snow and ice had melted. The water wasn’t going to be warm.

Well the good news was that my plan worked, the board comfortably took my weight, albeit it was much much less firm than I was used to. The water was calm, there was virtually no wind and the scenery was more beautiful than I can adequately describe. I spent a pleasant hour or so paddling back over to Moltrasio before heading south, along the western shore to the slightly larger village of Cernobbio. It had all been worth the effort. Amazing scenery and a tranquil part of the lake. The water was almost entirely flat. And it was lunch time!

Pizza and Pinot Grigio at Cernobbio

When in Rome (well Lake Como) and all that. So it was pizza and pino grigio for lunch. Just the one glass, well maybe two, as I still had to cross the lake again to my starting point. I spent a wonderful hour sitting with the warm spring sunshine on my face, eating, drinking, and explaining stand up paddle boarding to some American tourists.

Time to head back for Torno. But guess what? Whilst I was at lunch the wind had gotten up considerably. And I would be paddling into the wind to get back to my starting point. And there was a lot more traffic travelling up and down the lake.The water was choppy, partly as a result of the wind and partly as a result the greater volume of traffic on the lake as the day wore on. And my board wasn’t as firm as it should have been. It was hard work on the return paddle. And my board felt wobbly. Very wobbly indeed. Maybe I should have stuck to one glass of wine with my pizza.

The first part of my trip, from Torno to Moltrasio to Cernobbio was peaceful, tranquil and relaxing. The second part, directly across from Cernobbio back to Torno was a bit more challenging. Not the hardest paddle I’ve undertaken. Not by a longshot, but the reduced air pressure in my board certainly added to the challenge. I was delighted to make it back to Torno, in one piece, and, more importantly, dry!


Lake Como is absolutely captivating. I certainly intend to return here and paddle again one day soon. If you ever get the opportunity, I recommend you visit Lake Como.

March 2017

PS. Did anything else go wrong that trip? Well my Gopro was behaving very temperamentally. I did manage to capture a few shots on it before having to switch to my Samsung S7. I hope you enjoy the few pictures I was able to take.

1 comment:

  1. Well, you had your challenges but looks like you enjoyed the paddle. Note to myself: always take gaffer tape! I went to Lake Como last year (for my birthday, not paddleboarding) but would love to return and do a four day trip, staying at hotels in different villages...


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