Three years ago I tried stand up paddle boarding (SUP) on a gorgeous summer’s day at Sorrento, the jewel in the crown of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. It was the perfect place to hire a board for an hour and have an introductory lesson.
I’m a SUP evangelist
That day, in a sheltered picturesque bay of clear, sparkling blue water I experienced love at first SUP. I vowed to get my own board and make SUP a part of my life. Well, I did and I have and I’m addicted. I’m a proud SUP evangelist, and I’m going to give you 5 reasons why you should try it for yourself.
5 reasons to try SUP
1. It’s great for self-confidence
Learning to stand up is challenging but so achievable regardless of your age or fitness ability. Your learning trajectory will go from 0 to 100 very quickly.
The first few times you try SUP you’ll be in the water more than on your board. You’ll wobble and fall, your legs will shake and your toes will grip the deck so hard that they cramp. That’s even before you’ve actually done any paddling!
You’ll keep getting back on and back up and you’ll eventually relax. You’ll soften your knees and look up rather than down. Before you know it you’ll be gliding over the water thanks to your expert paddling stroke.
For someone who’s not gifted with any sort of sporting ability it fills me with confidence that I’m successful at something as graceful as SUP. I promise you’ll experience this self-confidence too!
2. You’ll be inspired to become an environmental warrior
Taking up SUP has resulted in a surprising benefit that is fast becoming my number one reason to love it. I have a renewed appreciation of the natural environment and the importance of doing my part to protect it for future generations.
As you glide along on your board you have a bird’s eye view of the expanse of water and the abundance of life beneath its surface. I’ve been up close to fish, crabs, jellyfish, starfish, giant rays and dolphins. I’ve seen crystal clear waters and gardens of textured seaweeds. It truly is breathtaking.
SUP has inspired me to become an environmental warrior. I now follow the rule of picking up three bits of plastic every time I go to the beach. Simple actions like this can really make a difference to the health of our marine environments. Learn more about being part of the global movement of Take 3 For The Sea here.
3. SUP is a great exercise for strength and balance
SUP is a low impact exercise that is great for building strength and balance. Going from kneeling to standing (and staying on!) uses the large leg muscles we need to maintain functional strength as we get older. At the same time your toes, back, shoulders, arms and neck are getting a workout.
SUP is also an excellent core workout. It may look like you’re just standing around plopping your paddle in the water but there is so much core work going on. The SUP stance requires activation of not only your legs and glutes, but also your core. Without this, you’ll end up swimming more than standing. You’ll also discover that an effective paddling stroke uses just as many core muscles as arm muscles.
Just as yoga is great for improving balance, SUP dials that up a notch by adding a moving body of water beneath you! Looking up and ahead at a point on the horizon will become second nature, and a great way to improve your balance on and off the board. Or if you love a challenge why not mix the two and try SUP yoga!
4. It’s the best fun you’ll have exercising
SUP is fun! It creates lasting memories of long summer days, sunshine and happy times. I’ll never forget the day I paddled out to the deep and saw dolphins frolicking in the wake of a passing boat.
All ages love SUP, even if there’s not much standing happening. Just sitting on the board with legs dangling in the water or using it like a kayak is beautiful. Life doesn’t get much better than having a day at the beach sharing a SUP session with family and friends.
It’s also a great way to keep your fitness habits on track during summer and holiday times when usual routine is on hold. I’m not a naturally sporty person and I recognise that I can easily lose motivation to exercise. SUP is the perfect way to maintain the habit I work hard to create, and have so much fun at the same time. It sure beats doing burpees in a gym on a winter’s day!
5. SUP is great for your mental health
I love helping family and friends give SUP a go. Without exception they return with the biggest smile on their face. Everyone loves it. I’m convinced it’s because SUP requires a focus that gives you a break from whatever is going on in your head at the time.
There’s no room for replaying worn out scenarios, to-do lists or worries about the future when you’re 100% focused on standing on that board. And when you master that, as everybody eventually does, the feeling of accomplishment makes you feel 10 feet tall.
Being on my SUP with the sound of the water lapping against the side of the board, mesmerised by the beautiful environment and experiencing the perspective that comes from being a small fish in a big pond (ha, pun intended) is my ultimate mental health care strategy.
SUP can add so much to your life
Staying active, caring for your mind and body and spending time in nature are important foundations for healthy ageing. SUP ticks all of these boxes and some.
If you’re still not convinced I urge you to listen to Jo Moseley’s inspirational story on this episode of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast. In 2019 Jo became the first woman in the UK to SUP coast to coast, raising environmental awareness and proving that midlife can be a time of amazing possibilities.
The Church of the Open Sky
Surfers refer to ‘The Church of the Open Sky’ – the joy of communing with the ocean and the spiritual stillness and connection it allows. I love that description, because this is what SUP brings to my life. I hope you’ll consider trying SUP and experiencing this for yourself.