LIFE CHANGING STUFF
I love paddle boarding. The definition of ‘to love ‘ is to have great interest and pleasure in something. And I love it because paddle boarding literally changed my life. Sounds very dramatic, but it’s true on a number of levels. I took my first lesson in September 2020, the rules of lockdown at the time as are as hazy to me now as they were then! The kids had gone back to school but we were still in some sort of No Mans Land of social distancing. I had been suffering with anxiety and this made me get out of the house and push myself and soon I felt that anxiety easing. It brought me into a new community of likeminded people and 12 months later I ended up working for a SUP retailer. Now my interest is increasing and I get great pleasure in working with paddle boards and paddleboarding accessories and have learned so much about myself as well as a something that was just meant to be a bit of a hobby. It has become a passion, and I am so obsessed now, that one day, feeling a bit blue, I hugged a paddle board. Yes, I did. It was rather nice too, very comforting in fact! No one saw….
What ever the draw of paddle boarding is, it is clear that in that weirdest of all years, I was not the only one captivated. By March 2021 getting hold of a board to purchase was so tricky it would have been easier to get hold of a unicorn. I was lucky, I was able to get hold of the board I wanted in February 2021, and only had to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive. You can’t beat that feeling of opening up the package and discovering what is inside. Everybody, and I mean everybody, who buys a paddleboard, does that thing… you know the one, and you did it too….!! You open up the box, unfurl the board in your living room, take a photo for social media with you holding your paddle like a trident and exclaim… “its huge!”
I asked a friend, who was recently helping me with articles on paddle boarding routes, ‘what does paddle boarding mean to you?’ In the 18 months since he had taken up the sport, he had become experienced enough to start organising group outings, and is now aiming to take the Water Skills Academy course in order to lead groups safely and more officially. He explained that for him, getting on his board symbolises escapism, getting away from reality and feeling tranquil. Not only that, he also found it to be very sociable and a way to make new friends as well as keep fit. That got me asking more people and I have shared their answers at the end of this article because they all blew me away with the emotion they conveyed.
But if you have been thinking about taking sup paddleboarding, read on to see how it is good for you and why we bang on about it so much! Lets take a look in a bit more detail:
ITS GREAT FOR EVERY BODY!
Whilst I do love the idea of being super fit, I don’t like the actual doing of it very much. Paddleboarding offers many wonderful benefits to you physically without the pain of running or doing, god forbid, a boot camp, since it provides an all-over aerobic workout. Even at a leisurely pace, SUP uses nearly every element of your body, boosting cardiovascular health.
– it is low impact… so no need to endure pain for gain and suitable for all levels of fitness and ages
– strengthens your core… which will help prevent or reduce back pain, increase mobility and it helps with balance too
– improves coordination… your quadriceps, shoulders, arms and knees work together to propel you forward
– creates strength and endurance… the more you paddle, the more you will be able to paddle
– exercising in the fresh air will help you sleep better and if the sun is shining, you get a little bit of Vitamin D too
ITS FOOD FOR THE SOUL!
You’ll see in the comments later that people feel a sense of tranquility and peace when paddleboarding. That could be down to so many factors, not least the company you paddle with.
– paddling gently on water does give you a great opportunity for meditation
– the sound of the water on the blade is soothing
– witnessing nature up close, seeing birds and fish and the changing colours of the seasons
– it can reduce anxiety and depression, as scientific studies have shown that simply being near bodies of water can reduce symptoms
– you can get away from it all.. the work emails, the housework, the traffic (once you get there, obviously)
– exercise raises your endorphins which make you feel great
DONT FORGET THE SOCIAL LIFE!
Wherever you live in the country there is bound to be a group near you to paddle with, even landlocked areas have lakes, canals and rivers you can paddle on but we are also blessed in the UK with a stunning coastline. Regular group paddles mean you can always be guaranteed someone to paddle with, these groups are very welcoming and even if you don’t know anyone when you launch, strangers become friends very quickly. Tips are shared and there’s often bit of ‘board envy’!
During Lockdown these groups emerged and gathered when appropriate to do so, and it provided a wonderful community especially for those perhaps living alone and craving some company as well as the solace from being in nature. We all took to the outdoors to exercise and to looks like we stayed there!
In the summer and evening paddle to watch the sunset is beautiful and just the tonic after a busy or stressful day. This year we have celebrated the full moons and for the Harvest Moon 280 paddlers headed to Mudiford Quay, Near Christchurch, and even made it into the Bournemouth Echo! Maybe if you are an early bird you can wrench yourself out of bed for a sunrise paddle, to start your day watching the sun come up on a brand new day. Either way, we do need to make the most of the long days of summer to keep us going as the days shorten and the weather turns.
Paddling through the Autumn and Winter is beautiful and to be considered if you haven’t done in previous years, since the changing seasons bring a new view to the rivers, lakes and sea. For this it is worth investing in good quality clothing that is suitable for cold air and cold water.
Paddlers are quite the eye-catching spectacle in great numbers, add in some fancy dress and you have a news worthy event. Rivers, lakes and local canals will be teaming with witches and warlocks for Halloween, and who wouldn’t stop and smile and wave at an army of Santas gliding along.
There have have a number of charity and celebratory paddles going ahead all over the UK. Brendan Prince set up The Long Paddle, an epic solo paddle navigating the entire coastline of mainland Britain, to raise awareness for water safety, mens health and marine conservation. He set off in April 2021 on a 141 days, 4000 mile journey, setting setting several world records. The charity is called Above Water and you can donate using this link, but also see some of the work Brendan, a life guard and teacher in the past, does in schools and raising awareness to stop accidental drowning.
River cleans… easier to do on a board on the river, if you see a floating plastic bottle, you can scoop it up and pop it in the bin when you get to dry land. Myself and a friend recently did a clear up where someone had been fly-tipping, filling 2 large buckets full of rubbish which could have endangered the wildlife living on the river and riverbanks. Just sharing this on social media alerted a local magazine to get in touch and want to write about the story.
CELEBRITY PADDLE BOARDERS
Bill Bailey, comedian, keen twitcher and winner of Strictly Come Dancing, has long been an advocate of environmental matters when it comes to protecting the habitat of Britains wildlife, loves to paddle board. Apparently, wherever he goes, he takes 2 inflatable SUPs with him. He is backing the Canal and Rivers Trust in their aim to clean up our waterways and canals and he has gone on record to say he is astounded by the amount of plastic solution in our rivers.
Charley Boorman, actor and best mate to Ewan McGregor, has also led a troup of famous paddle boarders which included Wayne Bridge, Damon Hill and Iwan Evans. The Big Stand Up , a 30mile paddle along the Basingstoke Canal aimed to highlight mens health and in particular to encourage men to speak up and seek support during tough times.
OVER TO YOU..
Here are some of the beautiful words from my fellow paddlers, I couldnt have put it better myself. I am very grateful for their comments, I loved reading them and I am sure their words will resonate…
Tracy : I love the wildlife, the beauty of nature, the trees gently swaying, seeing the fish swimming underneath my board! Letting the current take me! Then seeing the swans fly is magical! Watching the signets grow! Kingfishers fly! The bonus is you are getting exercise without realising! It’s therapy when you sometimes just sit on your board and listen
Jenny: Escape ❤️ from the moment I push off its a bit of peace and a little “me time”
Phones on silent for safety and pictures only
Suzanne: It’s my escape. Life is too full of demands and expectations, but once I’m on the water It’s just me and the elements, whether it’s sunshine, raining, freezing cold or boiling hot, it just doesn’t matter. You can be social and paddle with a large group or be alone with your thoughts it doesn’t matter. It’s about me and my board.
Emma: It’s a therapy in its own right ❤️. Escape from pressure, a time for me and educational too. I’ve discovered so much since starting to paddle. Scenery, nature, peace seeing things from a very different perspective I never knew existed. And the bonus is a beautiful community in likeminded people.
Julian: I have been messing about in kayaks and boats since a teenager, had amazing adventures and seen wonderful sights. SUPs have opened up my experiences to so many more people. They are easy to store, transport and use, allowing anyone access to our wonderful rivers, lakes and coast. Paddleboarding is for everyone and is simply brilliant
Hugh: As a 70+ paddle boarder I get to meet a much more varied group than I do at the golf club or croquet club. Helps me feel young again.
Eduardo: Paddle boarding means connecting with the real world, with mother nature in its pure form. It means getting away from hectic lives, breaking cycles of endless stress and day to day commitments. It means being at peace with our surroundings, respecting the wildlife; hearing the sounds, the smells the vibrancy of waterways and life that surround us. It means tuning our mind and body in perfect harmony with the world we live in and appreciate it as is and not what we are told it is. It means increasing our overall fitness and decreasing our stress levels. It means meeting people, discovering new places and being part of this fantastic part of the country in the world… Dorset. We are lucky indeed.
Thank you to the members of The Real Dorset SUP Community for these comments, some of which brought a tear to my eye, silly old fool, but they were so very heartfelt and passionate. The words…’escape’ and ‘therapy’ come up alot, as well as community. But what does paddle boarding mean to you…?
Written by Helen Louise Davies