You’ve bought a SUP, been paddling a few times… so now what? PaddleFit Coach and NZSUP Committee member Helen Blair explores some ways to make paddling even more fun.
It wasn’t that long ago I was new to the water and stand up paddling (SUP). Like many people, I’d had a play on a board on holiday, then came home and bought my own… with very little idea of what to do with it. A few lessons later, I started to realise there was heaps more to this whole SUP thing than I’d thought.
With some vague clue of what to do, I started heading out solo. I soon discovered that without any real water know-how, it was hard to pick when to go out (wind, choppy water etc etc) and good places to paddle. The number of times I turned back at the beach because of offshore winds or what I then saw as threatening choppy water, started to become a bit frustrating.
Some of my Auckland SUP buddies, heading out on a downwind run together
Fast-forward three years and I now run a small coaching business called CitySUP, and am reasonably competitive in most race environments. A lot has changed in my level of skill, knowledge and experience, and a huge influence on my progress and enjoyment of SUP has been meeting friendly, passionate and generous people who time after time, pointed me in the right direction.
Stand up paddling is a young sport that has largely grown up in the digital age, and therefore it doesn’t yet have the infrastructure of rugby, tennis or other established sports.
So how do you connect with other SUPers in a sport that flies a little bit under the radar?
Clubs are a great way to connect with other paddlers. Often they’re based out of existing water sports centres or clubs like sailing or surfing. If there are no visible signs of a SUP Club, ask around, and find out about any regular groups who paddle and who organises them. Clubs often host social paddling events which are great for meeting like-minded SUPers during a leisurely paddle.
The Pod girls and I about to set off from Cambridge to Hamilton on the Mighty Waikato
Many of the people I know in SUP, I’ve met through events. Most ‘race’ events have a strong social scene around them and include fun, social paddling options. So please resist any temptation to be intimidated by the idea of racing and come on down and meet us. We’re all quite human ;-), are all ages and come from all walks of life. Check out the NZSUP calendar for events near you.
The weekly Harcourts Beach Series at Takapuna has a 1km, a 3km and a 4km paddling option. Keep fit and have fun!
Digital forums are huge! Most clubs, events, brands have a bigger online than ‘physical’ presence. So Facebook, websites, events sites etc are the places to be searching for your local paddling groups, when they meet and what they are doing. The NZSUP website [link] also has a directory of SUP Shops and Schools. Search for SUP Club “your location” and see what pops up! And don’t be afraid to post on group pages.
SHOPS & SCHOOLS
Water sports shops and centres are great places to meet people who have knowledge of what’s going on and networks they can put you in touch with. Some shops with a SUP focus run lessons, clinics or training pods with small groups which will lift your skills and help you to meet other paddlers at a similar level.
The City Surf Series is a dedicated regular paddling event at Mission Bay that allows us to get out of town for the occasional weekend away – a great excuse to paddle some of NZ’s best locations and share a BBQ with friends!
Finally SUP instructors (see NZSUP website directory) have knowledge of your local paddling spots, weather and conditions as well as knowing about paddling itself. SUP instructors can either be based in water sports centres or operate independently … shops, Facebook or websites again are the best way to find them. If you pay for a lesson or programme then be sure to be inquisitive, ask your instructor questions … we have networks, local knowledge and know where to paddle in different weather conditions. So ask!!
Stand Up Paddling can be beneficial to a wide spectrum of the community, so don’t be put off by disabilities or poor health. The PaddleOn Cancer Rehabilitation Program is an eight week intro to paddling in a safe, supportive group environment for people who have had cancer and their supporters. It is run all over NZ by specially trained physiotherapists alongside certified SUP Instructors. Check it out here www.paddleon.co.nz. There are also opportunities for people to stand up paddle through the Halberg Trust and Autism NZ.
You could be super lucky and have a ready-made SUP network. However, for many people who’ve taken up SUP recently the likelihood is, that’s not the case. Don’t be afraid to search for your local tribe. And to those of us who have established networks, please continue to be welcoming and generous with your knowledge. I for one would not be doing what I’m doing today without that generosity.
Practicing catching waves at Whangamata on my race board. I wouldn’t be here without my SUP friends!