A few summer’s ago I went to the Isles of Scilly and had my first experience on an SUP. I rented it out for half an hour convinced that I didn’t need a crash course. I really just wanted to give it a bash and see how I got on. I’d spent a lot of time doing yoga and was keen to see how my balance was on an SUP too.
It turns that unless you know what you’re doing the paddling is both hard and exhausting. The headstand, on the other hand was much easier. My balance and core was good but my strength, technique and ability to navigate needed a lot of work.
During my paddle I endured about a 5 minute battle with a light current that meant I was drifting further out than I’d have liked. I was less worried and more frustrated that I didn’t know the best way to deal with it. And in that moment I decided that next time I take out and SUP a lesson would ensue. I wanted to master technique and understand the risks a little more so I could avoid getting myself into unnecesary pickles.
So, in January the following year off I went to Barbados and had another go – preceded by an intensive hour long training session that taught me the not only the basics like, ‘how to hold the paddle properly’ but the different strokes to use and when to apply them, how to navigate with the wind and some top tips to conserve energy. It felt a little like the more you start to learn the more there is to learn.
As it transpires, SUP isn’t all that difficult when you have the basics in place. The memory of my earlier incident in the Scilly’s was placated by the advice from my teacher in Barbados, “if you can’t see the bottom you’ve gone too far out.” I know that principle doesn’t really apply to UK waters when you can rarely see the ocean floor, but the sentiment of staying in shallow waters remained – and I was quietly reassured (I’m a bit scared of deep, open water). No chance of me drifting off into the horizon next time…
I’ve been paddle boarding quite a few times since then – albeit in the slightly colder conditions of England. But I”m hooked now. There’s a great place in London called Active 360 that takes you out on the Thames and along the canals which I love. I’ve even been working with them to get my tidal Thames qualification and learning how to SUP race (which is apparently huge in the US, but not so much). My confidence in the sport has grown hugely, as has my love for it. Once you’ve got the hang of it you can really start to enjoy it and feel the benefits….
- It’s low impact: you’re not giving your joints a blasting but you’re still getting a solid workout.
- It’s sociable: take a few boards out with friends and go paddling. You can chat as you paddle and you’re away from the hustle and bustle of life as well as modern technology. It’s basically the perfect way of socialising as people are forced to switch off.
- Glass bottom into the sea… granted sometimes you’re better off not seeing what’s lurking beneath but equally there’s some moments where this aerial view is priceless
- It’s a core workout: if you’re doing it properly then you should be seriously working your core. If your arms feel like they are about to drop off then you need to brush up on your technique.
- It’s sparking lots of SUP based sports. You’ve heard of SUP yoga, right? What about paddle surfing? Probably not. It’s essentially surfing on an SUP with a paddle and is still relatively underground but it won’t be long until this bursts on the scene
- And finally, it’s much better for the environment that whizzing around on a boat!