Whether you’re wanting to ride the ocean waves or simply paddle sedately in tranquil waters along rivers, estuaries or sheltered coves, Stand Up Paddle Boarding – SUP’ing as its more commonly referred to is the latest new sport to hit the coastal and inland waters of Devon and is suitable for any age and any ability.
For those skeptics out there who are currently raising one eyebrow and think ‘suitable for any age or ability?’ translates into having some degree of balance or being able to surf – trust me, I am living proof that this analogy does not apply!
Having always felt a slight pang of jealousy when watching the seal like surfers in their wetsuits ride the waves of the coastline, and wishing that having grown up on the coast, I had taken up the sport when I was young enough to learn; when given the opportunity to have a go at SUP’ing 18 months ago, I knew I had to give it a try. So, on a calm, still, slightly grey day in Seaton, I donned wetsuit and wiped off mascara (in anticipation of taking an unexpected dip) and hauled myself onto this enormous giant surfboard. With a few encouraging words from an instructor, paddle in hand I knelt up and started to paddle and after a few minutes gingerly took to my feet. It was at that point I discovered, that even someone with my poor balance could in fact stand up and paddle this enormous great craft with some degree of accuracy, stay dry and stay upright ‘most’ of the time – what a revelation!
Being a confident swimmer does help as I am not in the least bit worried about falling off. And yes, this does happen but its all part of the fun and challenge. Paddleboarding is a recognised all-over work out and great for building core strength. You can even take Yoga classes on SUP’s now! What better way to get fit than paddling around the coastline on a sunny day, enjoying the scenery and enjoying the peace and tranquility. A far cry from a hot stuffy gym! Paddleboarding when the sea is like glass and there isn’t a breath of wind is pure escapism. When you are out on the water, the only noise to be heard is the gentle lapping of the sea and the odd seagull as they stare curiously at you as you paddle by. Other times when there is a swell and the sea is choppy its just great fun and completely exhilarating. I spend more time in the water than on the board when there is a bit of a swell, and I have not mastered surfing even the smallest of waves, but I love it and love the challenge.
There is a dazzling array of SUP boards on the market. They come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not the cheapest hobby in the world, however the boards are now widely available to hire out. Beginner’s boards are generally bigger, wider and more rigid, so easier to ride. I am very much a beginner so invested in an inflatable SUP. These I understand are a great choice for beginners and also really useful as they roll up and pack up into a large back pack that fits in most car boots, so no need for roof bars. They also don’t take up the whole of your shed in the winter!
Paddleboarding in Devon
Paddleboarding is by far the best way to soak up the coastline and scenery. You can access coves and inlets that you would never see or reach from the land or coastal footpath. It’s a great way to explore rivers and estuaries, but always check out the tides, winds and take advice from locals on timings and currents. For beginners there are now plenty of places to get instruction, where often you can book guided tours of the coastline in groups, ideal if you are unfamiliar with the area.
South Devon offers a choice of great paddleboarding venues. If you are in South Devon boards can be hired at Blackpool Sands or from Bantham at Triocean Surf. Or for tuition try Devon Windsurf and Canoe Centre and Andre at Torquay SUP and Kitebuggying School
For paddleboarding in North Devon, this is surfer’s heaven and favoured by those who are looking to catch a nice long wave. Boards and tuition are available in Croyde at the Croyde Surf Acadamy
East Devon is where I spend most of my time SUP’ing. Living close to Axminster, Lyme Regis, just over the Dorset border is my favourite spot. If you are in the area I would highly recommend one of the courses offered by the local SUP instructors at Boylo’s These guys are incredibly helpful and the offer private and group tuition.
What ever your age, fitness or sporting ability I urge you to give this sport a go. Its well worth investing in some tuition to learn the basics, but I can guarantee you will have a tonnes of fun and will be hooked from the word go!