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Whilst working as a marine biologist, Alana, discovered that she could get a much closer look at the magic of Devon’s waterways and wildlife from a paddle board instead of a boat, and in doing so discovered a passion she wanted to share with others. So she set up The Paddle Shack, offering paddle boarding experiences that bring you closer to nature and give you a view of the South Hams from the water…
We started the business about four years ago. My background is in marine biology and I was working around South Devon, running ecological education trips. I used to skipper a boat, but when I started paddle boarding I realised that the wildlife I was surveying would be more natural around me. I got into doing it all the time, going on adventures and visiting secluded beaches, so I decided to start The Paddle Shack.
It’s my own business, which is a nice challenge in itself, but I thought that setting it up it would give other people that opportunity to get out onto the water and maybe care a little more about the environment, as well as having their own adventures. I am trying to feed a lot more marine biology into the business now as well; I have started doing sea safaris this year where a marine biologist takes you on guided walks onto the shore. It’s like extreme rock pooling but without damaging the animals and making sure it’s. It’s really popular with families, and gives younger children an introduction to the wildlife, because my age range with paddle boarding doesn’t start until seven years old.
We are lucky enough to be based in such a beautiful spot, with both the river Dart and the south devon coast line on our doorstep, so there is so much incredible paddling to do. The core function is in the form of three main trip types. There’s a two hour What’s SUP, which is a tuition-based paddle boarding session and you can do it even if you’ve never paddle boarded before. It’s a guided paddle in beautiful areas, and by the end of it most people have been able to stand up and feel more confident about getting out on their own.
Then we have the Adventure SUP, which is an extended version of What’s SUP. It’s perhaps for someone who’s had a go at paddle boarding before and want to have a bit more of an explore. We might go to a secluded beach and have a campfire or you can bring a picnic for example.
Then there’s our SUP and SIP, which is great for friends, celebrations, hen parties and stag dos. It’s essentially the Adventure SUP experience, but we paddle all the way to Dittisham and drop you off to enjoy the infamous FBI pub. We take the boards away, and later you are collected and brought back to Dartmouth, all inclusive, on the Dittisham ferry.
I studied at Plymouth University and then I went on to work as a resident marine biologist at Great Escapes in Dartmouth, which was an initiative set up by marine biologist and documentarist Monty Hall. It was a great experience in marine education and I travelled all around Devon for the Great Escapes roadshow, teaching members of the public about British marine ecosystems. I skippered an eight metre RIP and took people out to the seal colony in Dartmouth and educated them about the local environment. I also did shore walks. Today that business is no longer around, but I saw what really worked and I wanted to bring that back into the town.
I then went on to work for the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust as an educational ranger. That meant I was working with schools and members of the public, getting people interested in the environment. During that time I helped them win a bid to get 10,000 kids outdoors in the summer, which we was a huge success. My work there was mostly around education, but I also volunteered in the research side as well.
No, I grew up in London, but my love of the sea started in west Wales, where I partially grew up. My Mum is Welsh and we went up there all the time on holiday to Cardigan Bay, which is home to one of Britain’s resident dolphin populations. I knew from when I was little that I wanted to work in marine biology. I moved to the South West about 11 years ago though and I’ve never looked back.
Probably the amount of marine information and knowledge that we can offer. I think they’re surprised to realise I am a marine biologist, and I don’t try to push it on people, but I slip in information on the adventures, and if people are interested I will tell them more. We’re also really lucky here to have the seal colony and that’a a great moment to introduce seal knowledge to people. We’re also quite flexible with our trips and while we run sessions from pretty much wherever on the River Dart. Our kiosk is on South embankment in Dartmouth but most of our bookings are made online.
We are introducing the shore walks this year, which I am really excited about. I am also currently researching plastic free crabbing. I notice so much plastic on the shore from crabbing in the summer because it’s such a popular holiday experience. I intend to make the kits available to rent as well as to buy. I want to keep the wholesomeness of the experience but make it better for the environment.
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