Stand Up Paddling is often touted as a great way to “stay young” – both mentally and physically.  Not only is it a bit easier on the knees than traditional surfing, it also has a whole host of other benefits that can help you stay mobile and healthy right into your nineties and beyond.

A study by C. Ruess et al. in 2013 found that physically, SUP is a highly complex sport, using a large number of muscle groups throughout the body – especially abdominal and back muscles, and it is also a great form of exercise. In a second study, C. Ruess et al. found stand up paddling significantly enhances balance, and recommends it for rehabilitation exercises and also as a falling prevention, especially for the age group 50 plus. “Given the low risk of injury, SUP could prove to be a good workout and balance training for untrained, overweight or even elderly people,” writes Ruess.

But if you are already in your 70s or 80s, and paddling regularly, it’s likely you know all this already, without the need for supporting evidence.  It’s something about the way it makes you feel.

Part of this could also be what scientist Wallace J Nichols calls the “blue mind” – simply being on, in or near water can help improve our overall wellbeing – “We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken” writes Nichols in Blue Mind

Brian Jordan at Matauri Bay

This week we’re celebrating quite possibly New Zealand’s keenest paddler.  The very first paddler to register for 2018 NZ Champs, 74 year old Brian Jordan is from Opua, Bay of Islands.   

“I find paddle boarding most rewarding in so many ways – fitness, social, exploring and injury-free compared to other sport,” writes Brian, who has been paddling for four years.

To encourage and inspire more senior members of our SUP community to #joinus at Hoe Toa, we asked Brian if he’d share a few thoughts about paddleboarding at 74.

Here’s his story… 

I first got introduced to paddle boards few years ago when, while sailing in Vanuatu, I saw Anthony Willis (of yacht Squid) paddling.

I have been supping for 4 years now. I began with having a surf board made for me, took it on my yacht to Elliot South bay where I sat out the back and watched some guys surf. Two of them who had paddles were catching every wave. On my way home I thought how much better it would be on a paddle board than on a surf board. If there was no surf I could still go exploring.

When I arrived home I took my surf board to a shop and sold it. I then phoned Karl Roberts in Whangarei about possible purchase of an inflatable 9’8 Red Air board, leash and paddle.

Karl was on holiday on his boat at that time so I got Denis Buckland to open the shop and sort me out with a board and paddle. Denis suggested I try out one on the river there but I was too scared in case I fell off (never been on a paddle board before).

When I got back home I couldn’t wait to pump it up and get out on it, with my wife taking footage!  After 15 minutes I was going good. I could not wait to get more paddling in the next day.

A week later I headed to Elliot South for a surf-paddle stint.  What a difference! I was flying off the back, nose diving, then finally got it sorted and had some great rides from out the back to the beach.  After this I was into longer distances up to 10 km, getting faster each time.

I decided to have a go and enter a race. I called my friend Denis Buckland. He encouraged me to give it a go. So I entered in the Bridge to Basin race that Karl Roberts and Riverside Suppers were running. I turned up, all fired up ready to beat everyone. It was blowing so hard the course got changed to 4 – lappers. We all started. I got a shock when the competitors just took off like a rocket. I realised that my turning skills were hopeless, and the other paddlers went past me! I blamed it on my Red Air and decided a new board would be the answer. Here we go again… I phoned Karl Roberts to see if he had a SIC Bullet 12’6.

On his home turf – Opua.

New start! I joined Riverside Suppers in Whangarei and also paddled with Pear Tree Paddlers in Kerikeri. This new board made me 4 to 5 minutes faster. I managed to go past some of the other paddlers!

Next stage was when my mate Denis showed me his Moana  flat water race board, I couldn’t help getting one myself. I chatted to Toby and Bridget Wild in Nelson where I purchased a Moana board. I used it a lot and have now sold it but still think this was my favourite one. I also purchased SIC boards from Dale Masters.

Bill Dawes from Pear Tree Paddlers was running a development squad which I became part of and learnt a whole lot of skills. On Tuesdays I paddled with Riverside Suppers and on Thursdays with Pear Tree Paddlers. Rest of the week I went out on my own and with whoever else wanted to go with me. Now I was able to pass on some skills to new paddlers when we paddled together.

NZ SUP Nationals 2016. Photo by Georgia Schofield.

My first Nationals competition gave me 2nd placing in my age group which gave me a boost for more competitions. I began to take part in whatever races going in Northland and got faster and faster.

And then in 2016 disaster struck when I was diagnosed with prostrate cancer!  I had to get radiation treatment for 8 weeks so I took my board to Auckland hoping to get out on the water there. But the radiation knocked my body and burnt a nerve in my leg. Once the treatment was over I tried paddling but found I could not move my feet easily and my strength and speed had gone. I felt fatigued and unmotivated, just lay around for a month. I had treatments with physios.  I made attempt to get out paddling again and was 7 minutes slower and falling behind everyone! Was it the cancer or my age that slowed me so much? I was back paddling with the clubs, keeping record of every minute that I improved.

2017 was a better year when I came 1st in my age group in Orewa Nationals and 3rd in 3 km men’s race. I got 3rd in Snake Bank Challenge in Whangarei. In 26 km Cambridge to Hamilton race I was 1st in Men over 60’s group.

Still winning.

Since getting paddle boards I have sold my yacht. It is so easy to put a board on a car and get a good paddle. When the coast is windy, rivers are calm. Being in Opua there is always somewhere to paddle.

Over the years I have completed 25 marathons, many half marathons, 10km races and triathlons but I find paddle boarding most rewarding in so many ways – fitness, social, exploring and injury-free compared to other sport.

One thing I must say to new paddlers is to listen to paddle board shop advice. Those guys will save you in the long run. Karl Roberts had suggested to me to get a 14’ board when everyone was racing on 12’6. Now I do have a 14’ SIC. Also it is worth getting a few lessons just to get started. For me in races the hard bit is when there is a wide age group category example 50+ or 60+. At 74 years of age I have no choice but to compete in this category.

I thank these guys for their help and support – Bill Dawes from Kerikeri, Karl Roberts and Denis Buckland from Whangarei and Toby and Bridget Wild of Moana paddle boards in Nelson.

I am happy to give advice or support to any new paddlers.

Brian Jordan

You’re never too old. #joinus #nzsup



Ruess, C., Kristen, K. H., Eckelt, M., Mally, F., Litzenberger, S., & Sabo, A. (2013a). Activity of Trunk and Leg Muscles during Stand up Paddle Sur ng. Procedia Engineering, 60(0), 57-61. doi:

Ruess, C., Kristen, K.H., Eckelt, M., Mally, F., Litzenberger, S., Sabo, A. (2013). Stand Up Paddle Surfing – an aerobic workout and balance training, Procedia Engineering 60, 62 – 66

Nichols, Wallace J. And Cousteau, Celine. (2015). Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.   Little, Brown and Company.