- Words by Iain Evans & Mel Winter
I’m sitting with two new friends, a woman from Russia and a woman from Italy, at the Nusa Lembongan shore in the early afternoon. As the ocean laps against the boats, we exchange travel stories while they wait at the bar, I don’t ask for what, caught up in tales of adventures. Then as a couple approaches on SUP’s, they start to get excited.
“You should come with us! We’re hiring SUP’s to go exploring the reefs.”
“No, I mean, I’ve never done it, I don’t want to slow you down.”
With 100% seriousness the beautiful, Italian woman turns to me and says,
“You never say No in Bali!!!!”
And so began my first experience on a Stand Up Paddleboard. After a lot of wobbling and graceless manoeuvring, we slid over reefs watching the wild sea life below, we paddled leisurely out to Playgrounds, where it was gently breaking, calm after a storm swell; I was stoked.
I never got into the sport on my turf, but recently had the opportunity to take one for a spin on a glassy, flat day at Vetch’s reef. We visited Deon Bosman from Naish and he gave us a lot of tips to make paddling much more efficient and get the most out of the equipment.
We pushed out, one on the board and one swimming next to it. The thing builds up massive speed from your first stroke and we soon realised that swimming alongside was not a viable option. The thing I tried to keep in mind when I started to wobble was Deon’s ‘bicycle theory’: if you’re not moving forward you’ll likely fall over, but if you keep peddling you gain stability. Same same with the SUP.
The great thing about this water sport is that no matter how much or little you know about it, you’ll still end up having fun, even if that means looking foolish (me sticking my butt out too much and then falling over).
This is one of those water sports that can be fun for the whole family and has very little barrier to entry, except maybe picking the right equipment, but that’s what we’re here for!
5 steps to getting started with a SUP
- Figure out why you want a SUP in the first place.
Are you interested in riding waves, going racing downwind, going exploring, socialising with other SUP'ers or just for a bit of fitness. All of these are great reasons to start SUP’ing and will impact on what board to choose and where you choose to SUP. There are a wide variety of models suited specifically for all of these activities and they are not limited to just the ocean. SUP’s are great for dams, lakes and rivers too. It’s been well documented that for the last 5 years a group of SUP’ers have done the Dusi Canoe Marathon from ‘Maritzburg to Durban on modified SUPs! So you can literally SUP anywhere that there is a nice large body of water.
- How do I choose a board?
Based on the decision above, you’ll choose a board. It’s a great time to get into with a 20% sale running on the Naish range currently. Naish pretty much covers all the options and is a great International brand that is available right here in SA with excellent after sales service, advice and even trade-in options as your skills progress. Click here to view your options (https://www.pollywog.co.za/collections/sups?constraint=naish&view=all).
- What else do you need?
Practically speaking, you need a set of roof racks and tie-downs (unless you go for one of the convenient inflatable options), a Paddle of course - we’d suggest an adjustable paddle to start with, and a leash. Then all you need to do is get down to the water!
You don't need a PFD (Personal Floatation Device) by law, but it’s a good idea to get one if you are planning to go far out to sea or on long exploration missions, but that will come much later in your SUP journey!
- How do you get started?
There are many ways, but the most fun is to go down with a friend who already SUP’s, or with someone who is keen to learn too. If you’re going in the ocean - choose a flat day, without too much wind - like a Durban winter morning - and definitely with an easy beach entry - no point breaks or rocky launches please! SUP’s are big boards and you’ll be unstable to start with until you get the hang of it.
There are plenty of videos on Youtube to watch, but essentially - start on your knees until you get through the shorebreak, remembering to keep the paddle straight in line with the board and not across your body if you go through a breaker, as it’ll either snap or pull you backwards off the board. Once you’re past backline or in flat water, stand up with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and with your feet just in front of the handle - seriously - when in doubt- go further forward. Then paddle - reaching forwards with straight arms always (no bent elbows!) and long strokes from the nose of the board to as far back as you can reach while still maintaining a good posture. And of course, balance! The more momentum you have the easier it is to balance.
- Get outta here already!
So, choose your adventure, choose your board, get the racks, the paddle and the leash and you’re all set… Now what are you waiting for? Go SUP already!