Stand-up paddle-boarding is good for your body and soul, and it turns out Margate is the perfect place to try it. A paddling novice takes to the waves with a few pointers from our thriving local surf schools.
As a first-time paddler, I can promise you that stand-up paddle-boarding - or SUP as it’s also known - is great fun! The sport involves standing or kneeling on the board, using a single blade paddle to propel yourself forward and navigate through the waters. SUP boards are both longer and wider than surfboards, meaning you can balance more easily without the fear of toppling into the water. Like riding a bike, as soon as you’ve harnessed the knack, SUP becomes both relaxing and tranquillising. If you refine your initial wobbly stature to a more poised position, you are able to stand on the board for far longer than when surfing (I admit this does take some practising). Not only is the sport more slow-moving and gentler than other adrenaline-soaked pursuits, a light paddle lets you take in and appreciate the beautiful, local scenery.
In recent years, surf school Margate Sup and Surf has seen demand for SUP flourish due to its accessibility and inclusivity. Lawrence Head, instructor at the school, tells me: “It's accessible to so many people. You don’t have to be an athlete by any means, to SUP!” BSUPA-qualified and a watersports instructor for over twenty years, Lawrence founded his mobile surf school here in Margate after trying SUP in the Canary Islands. With safety at the top of the agenda, being mobile means that the location for lessons can be based on students' needs and on the prevailing weather conditions. SUP also boasts physical and mental health benefits. From core strength to stamina, paddle-boarding provides an extensive yet low-intensity workout. Targeting your legs, arms and core, a casual paddle can burn through 430 calories in the space of an hour, according to SUP World Magazine. Wanting to up the ante, you can upgrade your casual paddle to a yoga-esque workout and get through 540 calories!
Both myself and other paddlers I have spoken to were taken back by the calmness and tranquillity that comes with open-water paddle-boarding. With an obvious boost of the sunshine vitamin, the solo sport also allows for time to reflect and relax. My lesson at the Joss Bay Surf School was with Dave Melmouth, who has worked locally for over 30 years. We discussed the charm of SUP and why it helps clear our minds. “I think there's just something about the ocean. The ocean and the outdoors. Wellness, salt-water, space, the horizon, expanse, sandy beaches, weather,” Dave says. If you’re looking to try SUP, I can assure you Margate is the place. Blessed with beautiful sunsets and optimal geographical conditions, the south-east coast offers the best location for paddle-boarding. The slightly sheltered shore tends to have flatter and calmer waters, which Dave describes as “perfect for paddle-boarding”.
As with any outdoor watersports, there are several safety aspects you should be aware of - you don’t want to risk floating out to sea! Prior to paddling in the open waters, be sure to attend a local SUP lesson to be informed of Margate’s currents, tides and terrain. Being a slightly nervous first-time paddler myself, partaking in a lesson with Joss Bay Surf School assured me I was in good hands. Established in 1988, the school hosts over 2,000 surf and SUP lessons every summer, and has previously been shortlisted as one of the UK’s number one watersports providers. It is accredited by the national governing body Surfing England and, with an array of internationally recognised surf and SUP coaching and beach lifeguard qualifications, safety is their absolute priority.
Not many know that the concept of SUP originated in Peru some 3,000 years ago. A means of fishing and entertainment, the early vessels, called caballitos de totora (“little horses made of reed”), were unstable and fashioned from reeds with a bamboo stick serving as the paddle.
Throughout history there have been several other iterations of the sport: Hawaiians, Peruvians, Polynesians, Israelis and even the gondoliers of Venice all had traces of stand-up paddle-boarding in their cultures. Despite its various global roots, the modern surfing tradition can be traced to the early 1900s and the famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku, aka “The King of Waikiki Beach”.
Fast-forward a hundred years and SUP offers instant appeal and accessibility to all kinds of surfers. Yes, SUP paddlers are surfers too! Credited as the fastest growing watersport, the technological advancements in SUP have spawned a new generation of surfers. Like me, you’ll be glad to know that inflatable easy-to-carry boards are just as good as the previous heavy, rigid boards. Accessible and inclusive, fun and a workout, it is unsurprising that both locals and tourists are starting to pick up the paddle. Visiting Margate or looking for something new? Try SUP to relax and relish in the natural beauty of our captivating coastlines.
To try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding visit:
Margate SUP & Surf - margatesupandsurf.co.uk/
Joss Bay Surf School - jossbay.co.uk/
Kent Surf School - kentsurfschool.co.uk/
Kite Pirates School - kitepirateskiteschool.com/