Originating in Hawaii and later adopted by West-coast American surfers in the early 2000s, paddleboarding has been growing in mainstream popularity ever since. And this summer, an inflatable stand-up (SUP) board is one of the hottest accessories you can have.
Whether you’re looking to explore Britain’s coastlines or hit your local riverways, a paddleboard is the perfect way to start adventuring. Unlike surfing which requires waves, you can move through the water anywhere and at any time with a board and trusty paddle.
According to British Canoeing, more than 1.9 million people have tried paddle sports in the last year with paddleboarding one of the most popular watersports.
This is in part due to the increasing availability of affordable inflatable boards that make the sport far more accessible. It’s also a great workout, exercising your arms, legs and core muscles while aiding balance and coordination.
But if you’re a novice, you may be floundering with where to start when it comes to paddleboarding. From the best kit and paddleboards (including Aldi’s bestselling budget buy) to tips on technique and the best UK destinations for the sport, we’ve rounded up all the information you need to hit the water.
How to paddleboard
Before you start learning how to paddleboard, it’s best to familiarise yourself with the equipment – most importantly, the board and paddle.
Each paddleboard should come with a guide on how to set them up correctly. Once you’re familiarised, it’s time to launch.
Simply walk into the water while carrying the board by its centre handle and when you’re about knee deep, set the board onto the water’s surface. Then, place your paddle across your board and mount it on your knees.
Once you’ve launched your board on water, start out by practicing paddling on your knees. When you feel ready to try standing, move one foot at a time and place your feet where your knees had been resting. Slowly rise into a squat with your heels flat and hands on your paddle.
As soon as you’re in a standing position – feet parallel and hip-width apart – make your first stroke with your paddle which helps you build momentum and remain steady.
Of course, you don’t have to stand up and paddleboarding can be just as fun sat down, while the more intermediate boarders may even want to attempt SUP yoga.
Best inflatable paddleboard
For our tried and tested round-up of paddleboards, our tester spent hours testing on the Devon coastline to whittle it down to 10 of the best models. Taking the crown, Quroc’s qi crossover 10ft 6in (£699, Qurocpaddleboards.co.uk) was said to be an “absolute dream to paddle”. They praised the narrowed and redesigned nose that makes it even better for straight-line speed and gliding over water.
“As the name suggests, the 21 qi crossover really will suit a wide range of riders, from those just finding their feet to those who want to head for the horizon,” they said, adding that it’s “exceptionally comfortable to ride, stable to stand up on and grippy once you’re up and paddling.”
Aldi’s bestselling budget paddleboard
Adding to its value for money, the board is complete with a host of accessories including an adjustable paddle, pump, large fin, small fin, carry bag, seat, repair kit and safety line. Designed for both beginners and more experienced paddleboarders, the inflatable design also boasts an anti-slip surface.
The budget supermarket assures it’s easy to inflate with the included pump and after use, it simply deflates and folds away into the carry bag for storage.
Most paddleboards – and all the ones in our round-up – come complete with a pump, meaning there’s no need to buy one separately.
What to wear paddleboarding
Before you begin paddleboarding, you need some decent gear and a good wetsuit is a must. In our round-up of the best wetsuits for adults, O’Neill’s psycho tech 4/3+ chest zip full wetsuit (£339.99, Boardridersguide.com) impressed our reviewer the most.
Designed for men, it’s made from “a bespoke, thicker neoprene to give you unparalleled warmth whether you’re upright or in the water. But it’s also incredibly flexible and supple, and feels like a second skin.” They praised the smooth profile, zip entrance that feels barely-there and the “remarkable” drainage system.
For women, Patagonia women’s R1 lite yulex long jane spring suit (£150, Eu.patagonia.com) was a top scorer. “A brilliant, flexible, lightweight suit that’s mindful of the environment and ideal for anyone who’s allergic to – or just doesn’t like the feel of – neoprene,” they said.
Our reviewer said it “performs beautifully” while the “tough, durable kneepads felt comfortable against the board, and sleeveless design is brilliant for paddling out.”
Paddleboarding is also a great way to get kids out and about in nature. Sola’s kids storm 3/2mm full-length wetsuit (£53.20, Twfshop.co.uk) earned the top spot in our review, with our tester saying: “A combination of 3mm neoprene on the torso and 2mm on the arms and legs means you get a full range of movement with extra warmth where it’s really needed.”
They also praised the size range (from one-two years up to 13-14 years) and the array of colours available. Most importantly, though, our testers son described it as “like wearing a second skin”, which was all the convincing we needed to give it the top spot.
Where to paddleboard
Now, all that’s left is to decide where to go. From self-catering farms to family-friendly hotels, we’ve rounded up the best places to stay with water on your doorstep in our paddleboarding destination guide.
On a budget? Stay at Signal Rock Cottages in Glencoe, owned by certified paddleboarding instructors Rob and Keren. Paddling on a small loch coloured green with the reflection of conifers and reeds, under towering 3,000ft peaks, will be your introductory taster to SUP in Scotland.
And if you’re after something seeped in style, head to the waves of Brighton to stay in the funky seafront hotel, Selina, a nascent brand with origins on a Panamanian surf beach, designed by Tola Ojuolape. Here, you’ll enjoy a 90-minute paddleboard session with local company, Flow + Paddle, before heading back to the hotel for a cocktail and vegan sourdough pizza.
For the latest discounts on paddleboards and other sports offers, try the below links:
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