There are so many fantastic ways to enjoy the great outdoors, some you may be familiar with and some you might never have heard of. So if there’s an activity you’ve always wanted to try, or want to find something a bit different, my series of activity guides should help you decide if it’s for you and if so, how to get started.
So have you ever wanted to have a go at…Stand-up paddlesurfing?
Stand-up paddlesurfing is booming in Australia and the US. Celebrities have frequently been spotted off the coast of Malibu, paddle in hand as a way of keeping those abs toned. Here in the UK a handful of paddle surfing schools are starting to crop up around our shores, and we asked Pete Stephens from Westcountry Watersports to give us the skinny on what this new sport is all about and how you can get started.
It is a completely different sport in its own right. Like windsurfing, kiteboarding and kayaking, you can make use of waves but the appeal and flexibility of this reinvented sport goes much further. The fitness benefits for core stability have also been recognised by many ‘watermen’ such as Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama as a means of developing a very positive general level of fitness, muscle tone and endurance. People with little experience can get on a SUP board and with only a small amount of guidance make rapid progress.
How did you get started?
I was introduced to SUP around four years ago by a friend and active kite surfer from Brighton. We were at a great location, the mouth of the Hayle estuary near St Ives in Cornwall and within a few tentative first paddle strokes I was hooked. From a standing position you had a fantastic view of what is going on in and around your environment, and balancing and using of a paddle to propel you gives you a phenomenal feeling of energizing muscle groups all over your body without any real impact. Combine that with the learning process of teaching your body to do something new was really addictive.
Lots of friends and customers were highly sceptical when I first started trying to preach to them about this new sport, and then everyone who tried it picked it up within 10 minutes! If you have the correct equipment and the sea state and weather conditions are right, then you should be able to progress very rapidly. Doing it in the waves adds a whole new dimension into the equation, but we have found that with limited practice and with guidance of experienced SUP’ers you can enjoy a much quicker learning curve than with traditional surfing. Of course, any SUP in surf must be undertaken with a healthy respect for the conditions.
Is it expensive?
As with any watersport, the right clothing to keep you warm enough for what you doing is crucial. For the UK, a wetsuit that suits the time of year and temperature is essential and will set you back anything from around £50 to as much as £250 if you are looking at the best. In terms of the hardware you will need a board, a leash and a paddle. This is where you should try to speak to a good retailer and if possible demo before you buy or take advice from experienced SUP’ers. Generally, new board prices start from £450 and for the top end products they can be well over £1000! Prices are not too dissimilar to traditional surf longbooards and a market for second hand boards is beginning to develop so this is an avenue worth looking into as well. Paddles need to be cut to length and can be priced from around £50 for an alloy shaft and plastic blade to £200 – £250 for a lighter & stronger composite 100% carbon fibre model. A leash sized to your board is probably in the region of £25. Once all kitted out, you are ready to go.
Having lived in Cornwall all my life I can certainly say I have everything within a few miles to enjoy this sport. For flat water cruising, around the Carrick Roads from Mylor Yacht Harbour up the creeks and estuary is a great way to enjoy the scenery and even better it also allows me to commute to work there from home! The Helford River and the Fowey River can also give some great sheltered cruising as well. For waves the beach from Godrevy to Hayle is stunning giving plenty of space and lots of uncrowded waves to play on. Crantock Beach is another great location with the River Gannel on hand gives another spot with the perfect blend of flat water and a good SUP wave.
Ok I’m sold, so what do I do now?
Give it a try by going along to a paddle club. Check out www.bsupa.org.uk for details nationwide, or if you’re down in Cornwall then Westcountry Watersports (www.wcws.biz ) run a paddle club once a week. They will provide you with a board and paddle, a buoyancy and all the essential tips to get you started.
Has this guide tempted you to give SUP a try? Can you recommend a great spot or a great instructor? Share your experiences in the comments section below.