Menai Challenge Info - Challenge Course
The Menai Challenge is an Unsupervised Standing Challenge. Paddlers are entirely responsible for their own safety and welfare, and that of others, whilst attempting or preparing for the Menai Challenge. We suggest all paddlers undertake a site specific risk assessment before paddling. And continue a dynamic risk assessment whilst on the water. All paddlers should carry relevant safety equipment; suggestions include: waterproofed mobile phone, VHF radio, flares, spare warm clothing, exposure bag, first aid kit, spare paddles etc. Paddlers should be well versed and competent in self rescue techniques and open/moving water paddling; solo paddling is most strongly not recommended. Participants must wear a CE approved personal flotation device (PFD) and paddling clothing relevant to the anticipated conditions.
Beware of other water users and obstacles within the Straits. There are numerous buoys, moored craft and markers/perches/posts - all of which could result in serious harm if you get too close. Give them all a very wide berth, the fast flow means that you will close surprisingly rapidly on any obstacles. Be aware that some parts of the course can be exposed to wind and wave.
It is recommended to notify Holyhead Coastguard (01407 762051) and/or a shore contact before you set out.
(See also PSK Safety Info Page)
This double loop of the Swellies starts and finishes in Menai Bridge. This course is more technically challenging than the Legacy course and provides various options for paddlers to plan optimal tidal timing and routes.
The Challenge Course involves two laps of the Swellies and has three turn points:
Turn Point - Brittania Bridge:
Turn around the central pillar of the Brittania Bridge, at the western end of the Swellies (SH 541, 710). The turn can be taken either clockwise or anti-clockwise, go up one arch and then down the other arch.
Turn Point - Gored Goch (SH 545,713):
Gored Goch island has a white cottage on it. Turn around the island in either direction.
Turn Point 2 - St. George's Pier (SH 559, 720):
Turn around the pier in either direction. This turn point marks the end of the first loop.
The Walkway Bridge to St. George's Pier (SH 559, 720). The white, steel walkway bridge leads on to the floating pier. (From the end of the Menai Bridge slipway look to your left (East) and you will see the bridge lying 200m or so ahead. Start/finish directly beneath the bridge.)Start from St. George's Pier, paddle into the Swellies and turn around Brittania Bridge (BB) or Gored Goch(GG) Island - it's up to you. Return to Menai Bridge to paddle around St. George's Pier and then return to the Swellies for the the second lap. Take the final turn around your outstanding turn point, either BB or GG, and then back to the finish line. The order in which to take the turns within the Swellies is optional. Turn 2 is a compulsory turn around St. George's Pier at the end of the first lap.
Hazards and Warnings
Brittania BridgeThe Brittania Bridge pillar sits on a rocky island which is submerged at high water, don't get too close or you may damage boat, blades or body! Expect fast moving water here.
At all water levels there are submerged rocks close to the surface around the island - keep an eye out! If you are unfamiliar with this area then the island is best rounded close to Slack Water.
Fish Traps: To the North (Anglesey) side of the island there is a large 'fish trap' formed of a stone wall topped with a stone slatted fence. Water passes through submerged vents in this wall and at high water flows through/over the fence. This is an extremely bad place to be in a kayak - Avoid! The leading edge of the fish trap wall is marked with a rather tired wooden post surmounted with a triangle (see image). Pass well clear to the outside (North) side of this post.
DO NOT PADDLE INSIDE THE POST/FISH TRAP AREA.
There is always some tidal flow at the pier (direction varies), give plenty of room from the pier structure and to the numerous moorings in the vicinity. The pier is used as a permananent mooring for the Prince Madog research vessel and also as visiting moorings for other craft. Give way to all vessels here. There may be low hanging chains beneath the pier end of the walkway.
There are two posts within the course area - the Green Perch close to the Menai Bridge slipway and the Yellow/Black Cardinal post in the Swellies. If the water is moving these will close fast and can be extremely dangerous - AVOID!
Slack water and High/Low water times do not coincide here. There is plenty of turbulent water at mid-tide, we suggest you pass through at Slack Water if you are not familiar.
At low water rocks and weed are exposed along the length of the course, at high water the water's edge may reach within the treeline in places - take care.
The Swellies can be busy with various craft, especially on sunny days. Keep a good watch and avoid early - they are not looking for you.
Strong Westerlies will give rough conditions from Brittania Bridge to the West (especially on the ebb) and to the East of the Menai Bridge slipway. In strong Easterly winds the whole stretch to the East of the Telford Bridge can become very rough, especially on the flood tide.
But then if it's that windy you aren't going to get a good time anyway, stay somewhere warm and dry instead.
It is left to the paddler to choose the best time and tide to undertake a Menai Challenge run (do your homework) - however if you are unfamiliar with Gored Goch we suggest you may want to arrive there close to Slack Water. High Water Slack is around HW Liverpool -1:50 and Low Water Slack is around LW Liverpool -2:10 - these times may vary.
There is very limited car parking by the slipway and this becomes busy during the summer months. There are car parks available off the Hight Street in Menai Bridge, you may want to drop your boat and then move your car to a car park. Please park considerately, car parking is limited for local residents also.
Please do not park on the slipway, it is in regular use - year round.