Gdańsk has long been called the Polish Venice, but in recent years the potential of Gdańsk as a water city has definitely developed. This is facilitated by investments located along the Motława River – a water artery of the over 1000-year-old city. The quays of Wyspa Spichrzów and Ołowianka have been renovated, slipways have been created – ideal for launching SUP boards, two drawbridges have been put into use (to Ołowianka and the footbridge of the Holy Spirit), and soon they will be joined by the Stągiewny Bridge and an extensive marina.
Swimming around Gdańsk, you can get the impression that you are a spectator in a water theater, there is always something going on! Ships, galleys, yachts, kayaks and of course SUPs are sailing, bridges are rising, sirens are sounding.
Gdańsk is ideal for sightseeing on a SUP board. The trip can be planned in several ways and we will always be impressed by the charm of the city and the way in which history connects with the present.
One of the most popular routes is the circumnavigation of Granary Island, including the Kamienna Sluza.
We start the trip on the Nowa Motława in the Lower Town at the slipway on Kamienna Grobli. Nowa Motława is nothing more than the “second thread” of the Motława, dug in the 16th century to make the old port bigger and additionally protect Granary Island against looting and arson. There is relative peace on the water here, which is why it is the perfect place to launch your board.
We start rowing south towards the old fortifications and the Stone Sluice. On the left, we pass the former stands for watching water sports, which are to be rebuilt in the coming years as part of the revitalization of the Lower Town. Hopefully we’ll be cheering for the races here soon
SUP surfers. There are buildings on the right the southern promontory of Wyspa Spichrzów – modern buildings of the Nowa Motława estate, which perfectly blend in with this place.
We sail under the Toruński Bridge, a former stopping place for vessels arriving via the Vistula from Toruń. A few more strokes with the oar and around the bend we will see the green gate of the Stone Sluice. The sluice was created during the construction of the modern fortifications of Gdańsk, as a place where the waters of the Motława were introduced into the city and the water level in the port and in the city moats was regulated. Today, the sluice has only one pair of gates, which close automatically when the wind from the north brakes the current and raises the water level on the Motława. When the gates are closed, you can try to squeeze through the culvert in the former mill on the right.
After passing through the gates of the lock (or the mill), a completely different world appears to us. This is a wild corner of the Lower Town. We look at birds, and there are ducks, cormorants, swans, grebes, sand owls and many others.
The four stone towers guarding the access to the sluice, called the Four Virgins, make a great impression on us. On the right, there is a view of the majestic Żubr Bastion, which has retained its original height. From here, you can go further up the Motława or swim deep into the former city moat, today known as the Motława River. This is a good idea for an autumn trip, when the former moat is not overgrown. We turn back, flowing through the Kamienna Sluza again, heading towards Wyspa Spichrzów.
Just past the Toruński Bridge, we turn left into a narrow canal connecting the waters of the Nowa and Stara Motława.
In this short isthmus, you have to bend several times because of the low-hanging bridges. Sailing from the direction of Nowa Motława, we can admire the towers of the Church of St. Trinity and St. Anna located in the Lower Town. It is also a very charming place to admire the sunsets
the sun. Beavers live in the canal and sometimes it is possible to observe them here. After a few strokes with the oar, we sail out onto the wide waters of the Stara Motława. On the right side we can see Wyspa Spichrzów in all its glory. We will pass the ruins of granaries with interesting names, such as Skull, but also new buildings that have been built here relatively recently.
The closer you are to the Green Bridge, the more you have to watch out for traffic on the water. More and more motor boaters, kayaks and boats appear here.
Wyspa Spichrzów is a former port warehouse district – once the largest of its kind in Europe. And the granaries are best admired from a SUP. You can say hello to them, read their names and look at their beauty.
In the southern part, we have a chance to see the still undeveloped, wartime ruins of the granaries White Horse, Red Lion and Skull. Between them stand Gdańsk, Elbląg, Toruń and Pod Korona. Rowing down the Motława, we pass the Blue Lamb, one of the few who survived the last war in its entirety.
We can see the historic bridges to Granary Island – the Cow Bridge and the Green Bridge. In the past, they were drawbridges to ensure that ships could enter up the river and receive goods from the warehouses, but also to protect the island from looters and arsonists, they were opened at night, thus preventing entry to the island.
The hardships of rowing are rewarded by a wonderful view behind the Green Bridge. We enter the most visited part of Gdańsk, the historic port. Here again, as before, it is teeming with life. On the left, we can see the Long Embankment, which is decorated with water gates – the most characteristic element of Gdańsk’s cultural heritage.
On Długie Pobrzeże, the tower of the Naturalists’ House and the symbol of Gdańsk – the Crane – catch the eye. On the right side, modern architecture, which in its shape refers to the former character of this place. The preserved ruins of granaries and the original Deo granary have been integrated into the modern buildings. Granary Island in its new version is very often visited by residents and tourists. The attractiveness of this place is increased by a revolving footbridge, which moves clockwise every half an hour and allows cruise ships to leave the port. This is a time of increased traffic in the port and you should be especially careful while sailing SUP. It is good to plan the trip in the hours when the footbridge is moved over the Motława and the traffic is calmer.
Behind the footbridge protrudes the wooden structure of the Crane. Watching it from the board provides an amazing experience. The passers-by looking on seem to envy us such a wonderful means of transport.
Behind Żuraw, we turn right and, flowing through the old crossover, we return to the waters of the Nowa Motława. We can still wave to Sołdek (the first ship launched in Poland after WWII), which stays behind our backs. Next time we’ll sail further and we’ll be able to touch its sheet metal. Meanwhile, we sail through the Gdańsk marina, where yachts from all over the world moor during the season. Soon there will be even more of them, and all thanks to the reconstruction of the Stągiewny Bridge into a drawbridge and the extension of the marina on its other side.
On the way back, we sail along the eastern side of Wyspa Spichrzów. Work on the reconstruction of the granaries is still underway here. The project is to be completed in 2023. Behind the Stągięwny Bridge, we see the ruins of the former Rogoźników Bridge, which has not been rebuilt. The name of the bridge refers to the guild of rogoźniks, who produced mats/horns with which barges with goods were covered.
The last strokes of the oar and we are at the slipway on Kamienna Grobli, where we started the trip. It was a shorter variant. We also recommend sailing around Ołowianka and returning through the Na Stępce Canal. Visiting Gdańsk with SUP is definitely the best way to get to know the city, which has always been associated with water.