Trying out SUP paddle boarding

iSUP: a new way to get in trouble at sea (worth reading)

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Finally I got to try this SUP-ing everyone’s so crazy about, on a recreational inlet in north Sydney. Ideally it should have been an iSUP to satisfy the strict submission criteria of IK&P, but among the user-owners and rental places on Sydney’s northern beaches, it seems carrying or stacking your oversized ironing board to the beach or lake is no great hardship.

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I would guess mine was a beginner’s round-nosed planing board of around 10 feet by 30 inches wide. I read later this was a little under-buoyant for my weight, but I can’t say it felt like that, or looks so in the photos.
You read a lot about how SUPing is a good work-out for the core (stomach) muscles. Thirty minutes of flat-out SUPing a day for two or three years will turn a wobbling belly barrel into a granite-hard six-pack. But initially, I found it was my feet and thighs which felt over-worked from micro-managing my tippiness, though any balancing exercises must be a good way of working the core.
Conditions were a light breeze topping out at a 2-3 inch swell and, just as with kayaking, it felt a lot more satisfying padding into a slight breeze than having it behind you, right up to the point it becomes a headwind. I don’t have acrobatic levels of balance but I was determined not to fall in so edged off the shore very slowly. I only fell off when the skeg snagged a tree root in the shallows. It sounds like I got off a lot better than Gael did, learning to iSUP on his marlin-nosed racer in Sardinia.
Half an hour in I got over the initial wobbliness and, like all inveterate hoons, decided to see how fast will it go (mister). Who knows if I was doing it right, but I found a knee-dip just prior to putting in a good draw close to the board before standing back up straight and pulling back felt right. It would’ve been fun to try a couple hours of this. Note the bend in the long stick in some pictures.

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I did experiment with canoe-style J-stroking, where you give the end of each stroke a little outward scoop to counteract the tendency of the board to turn off course. But I can’t say it worked which is why most SUPers you’ll see swap sides every three or four strokes to track straight.
It’s fun to stand like a fully-fledged, chest-beating biped, but seeing as you need near-flat water I can’t see a SUP board being an irresistible travel tool as a packraft or IK are. On more turbulent waters falling in would be more common, which means away from the Mediterranean conditions I was padding in, you’d need to dress for immersion. Who wants the if they can help it?
Still, I’d like to give it a good go unhampered by the ticking of the rental metre. On eBay new iSUPs go from 150 quid, with quality used ones from £350. As with a lot of recreational stuff, buying used you can put in the time at your convenience to get a good idea for SUPing, then sell it for less than the rental hours, if it’s not for you. I must say I would be more attracted to owning a longer and pointier iSUP board (below), as Gael A writes about here. And then probably regret it once I failed to stay on it.
So for the moment, I think I’m happy to carry on renting when the opportunity arises.


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