SUP North started paddle boarding on Southport marine lake in 2012 and then teaching on the lake from 2013. We still feel very lucky to have such a large, attractive and enclosed body of water, with plenty of space, photogenic landmarks and watering holes.
Southport marine lake was originally constructed and opened in 1887, covering just the area south of the pier. While Southport had grown as a coastal town, the sea was receding, making bathing and accessing boats more difficult, so the lake was intended to compensate by bringing water closer to the town. It was a great success, so much that an extension was planned and opened in 1892 – which added the area east of the two islands.
The two islands, now home to many wildfowl and an egret colony, were formed at the next extension in 1963 when the sea had further retreated. The islands themselves are part of the old lake wall, and their inclusion saved demolishing the entire wall. It was at this time that Southport Sailing club was established on the western shore of the lake off Marine Drive. Finally in 1966, the final extension, north of the breakwater was created – now known as the ‘bowl’ and home to water skiers in summer months.
The Venetian bridge, south of the pier, was constructed in 1931 to offer a direct route from the gardens to the sea bathing lake. The iconic Marine Way cable stay bridge, which appears in many of our pictures, replaced the previous road bridge and was opened in 2004. Some residents apparently objected to the ‘modern’ design. We are grateful for the picturesque bridges and pier, which offer great photo opportunities and a chance to wave at interested children as you paddle below them
The pier, which crosses the lake and continues past Ocean Plaza shopping and leisure area out onto the foreshore, is the oldest iron pier in the country, and the second longest at 1,108 m (3,635 ft). Opened in August 1860, the pier was originally 1,340 m (4,380 ft). Storms and fires caused it to be reduced to its current length. Although the main purpose of the pier was as a promenade, for which it is still popular today, steamers would dock at the pier and drop passengers off to visit. In the 1920s the silting of the channel meant few steamers could reach the pier, and its use began to decline.
Southport marine lake is 1 mile (1.6km) long, a quarter of a mile (400m) wide at the widest point, and a lap is conveniently 3km, which works well for paddle board racing and training. The depth is mainly 4ft (1.2m) or less, although there are some deeper points, so don’t always assume you can stand. Being a marine lake, it contains sea water. The water is periodically topped up, or partially exchanged on spring tides when the sea comes right into the sluice gates.
The lake is home (although not a reserve) for many wildfowl including Greylag and Canada geese, Whooper Swans, Moorhens, Coots, Little Grebes, Little Egrets, sheltering Cormorants and occasional visiting species. Twitchers with long lenses can often be seen on the Promenade when a rare visitor is on the lake. Paddle boarders may catch a glimpse of a penguin pair, although now somewhat faded and also a two-tailed dragon.
Southport marine lake is also home to several water sport organisations. Southport Sailing Club and West Lancashire Yacht Club have clubhouses on the coastal side of the lake, offering sailing instruction, recreational sailing, local races and, annually, the country’s only 24 hour Dinghy Race (WLYC) and junior 12 Hour Race (SSC). Waterside Lodge is home to the Scouts, providing, canoeing, kayaking, bell-boating and sailing to Scout troops and other junior organisations. Merchant Taylor School train rowers on the lake, and the Waterski club ski, wake and knee board from the Sailing club.
While owned by Sefton Council, the lake is run by concessionaire, Southport Watersports, based in the building below the Lakeside Inn – Britain’s Smallest pub mid-way along the west side of the lake on the Promenade. Southport Watersports undertake all maintenance and run leisure boats in spring and summer months including motor boats, pedalos, cruise boats and the Jet boat.
Stand up paddle boarding or kayaking on Southport marine lake requires a licence with Southport Watersports or a day ticket. The annual licence is renewed annually and is provided along with lake rules including areas of access and dates of any closures for events. SUP North works with Southport Watersports to administer and supply licences to paddle boarders and kayakers. Please email us for forms and instructions. For day tickets please go to Southport Watersports website.