In common with seaside destinations all over the UK, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) in North Devon is becoming increasingly popular. No longer do locals stare and scratch their heads at the site of paddleboarding, with its unusual combination of surfboard and super long oar. In fact, these days it’s all the rage in the Devon watersports scene, with many of our guests here at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel
coming get their SUP fix. So what is the big draw?
Well, for starters, the art of SUP has several key attractions. For one thing, unlike sailing or surfing, paddle board adventures can take place in most conditions, even when wind or waves are limited. Nor do you need the open sea, because lakes, estuaries and canals are all viable (although Woolacombe Bay does make a beautiful backdrop!). And equally, you don’t need to be any particular age, ability or physique to give it a try. It can be a relaxing hour on the waves- or a great day of adventure.
What is SUP?
With its origins in Hawaii, stand up Paddle boarding is a variant of traditional surfing that relies on oar-strokes rather than harnessing wave power. There is probably also a natural connection with primitive canoes and boats worldwide, where users stood up to paddle or punt their craft, rather than sitting. For our purposes, it is an enjoyable way to take to the water with maximum pleasure, minimum hassle.
Nor is this a British phenomena, with SUP one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Crazier variants include SUP racing, which can get frenetically competitive, or even paddle board yoga. Whatever next?
What equipment to I need for stand up paddle boarding?
The simple answer is “not a great deal”, although getting started can represent some investment Here are the main SUP essentials:
• SUP Board –These are rather like a surf board, but typically larger (very often 10ft and over) and quite a lot thicker for stability. Another common type is the inflatable stand up paddle board, which are not only very portable (most will fit in a suitcase or large rucksack!) but surprisingly rigid when correctly inflated. We would recommend you try before you buy and pick a long board (over 10ft) with plenty of width for stability (30” minimum).
• SUP Paddle- Were you to use a standard canoe or kayak paddle with a SUP board, you might have trouble bending down to make strokes. Hence purpose made paddles for paddle boarding are longer than other models. A suitable length paddle is from 2”-10” taller than the rider, who shouldn’t have to stoop uncomfortably in order to paddle.
• Wet Suit- Although SUP can be carried out in just swimming gear on balmy summer days, a wetsuit is important for much of the year, to keep body temperature stable.
Hire or buy? We'd highly recommend giving it a trial first with a lesson and rented gear.
SUP Gear to Hire or Buy? With quality SUP equipment not coming cheap, many first time paddle boarding fans opt to hire the kit. Often it can be provided by the same friendly professionals who offer SUP lessons and tuition. An ideal way to test the water without breaking the bank we think!
Solid or Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board? Which is right for you? That depends on several factors. A solid board might be ideal if you live close to water and have the means to transport a (potentially long!) SUP board. However, don't assume that inflatable SUP boards are poor quality; they are surprisingly rigid and have the big advantage that they will pack into your luggage- and you can go paddleboarding virtually anywhere in the world that you find water!
How to Paddleboard: Stable balance and smooth paddling technique are the rudiments of SUP, from beginner to expert. For those used to sitting down in boats, it can be a very different challenge!
Suitable marks to start with would be lakes, estuaries and slow flowing rivers- or perhaps the beach on a calm day. Your starting position should be even and solid, with feet parallel planted shoulder width apart roughly- not a dramatic “surfer” stance, but a measured and stable position of control. Paddling is done smoothly, with one hand on top of the paddle. Done correctly, your body and back come into play, not just the arms! Just like with kayaking, the SUP boarder alternates sides to travel in a straight line. With practise however, you can also make turns and manoeuvres, or even travel with reverse sweeps.
Above: Stand Up Paddle Boarders of all ages take to the sea on a sheltered Devon beach.
Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) lessons and equipment hire in North Devon & Woolacombe
SUP is not rocket science, but some friendly help is more than worth tracking down. Not only could this save you hours of trial and error, but it also sets you off on the right paddle in terms of keeping a good posture and avoiding aches and pains.There are stacks of places to paddle board in North Devon and all over the land, but we would strongly recommend booking a coach, who can give you the safest, best possible start- not to mention tipping you off about the best places to try SUP locally.
Here at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel
, we have the best possible location for short breaks and holidays in Devon, but some first class local tuition for newcomers to SUP:
Nick Thorn Surf School:
Can provide friendly, quality paddle boarding lessons, providing all the gear and the perfect start to the world of SUP: http://nickthorn.com