In the 1980s, a British surfer was participating in the photography of surfers when he saw people standing on these surfboards and paddling. This photo was the first real evidence of the use of stand-up paddleboards. And now, 40 years later, this activity is fast becoming one of the most popular water sports in the UK.
In London alone, there are over 50 yacht clubs offering lessons or paddleboards for hire. These are primarily based on the River Thames, where notable sites include Kingston, Hampton and Richmond. The river is calm in most areas and although the prime spots can get busy, this is the perfect place for beginners to paddle. The sport is becoming so popular in London that the London SUP Open returns for another year in August 2022. This will be the third year of the event where SUP enthusiasts come to see some of the world’s best paddleboarders compete in a series of knockout races. . On top of that, the City Paddle Festival, also in August next year, is trying to encourage even more locals to play the sport during the 2-day event. There will be entertainment, live music, food, yoga and paddleboarding for all skill levels. Besides the festivals, there are several routes down the river, with distances varying from 3 to 10 miles. In fact, in September, a group of fundraisers traveled 26 miles down the Thames on a trip that took them over 13 hours.
Among paddleboarding enthusiasts is comedian and Strictly winner Bill Bailey, who can be seen paddling the Kew stretch of the Thames. After trying the sport on vacation, he said: “I came back here and thought it was something I would like to try more. I just bought a board and went for a ride on the river, lakes and canals and absolutely loved it. I became completely addicted to it.
Licenses are required for paddleboarders in most areas of the Thames, but these are usually provided if you purchase lessons or tours. This is the only expense for the sport, other than the purchase of a board and a paddle. For a good quality hobbyist board, the cost can vary between £ 300-400 depending on the company and brand. Once you have them, you can spend years paddling the water.
There are many reasons why paddleboarding is gaining popularity in the UK. New developments mean that paddleboards are lighter and stronger than ever before and inflatable paddleboards were the most recent model to come out on the water. As more and more people have expressed their interest, the demand for more transportable boards has increased. These inflatable paddleboards are easy to transport or put in a car if you live further away. In addition to the new paddleboards, thicker wetsuits and waterproof covers allowed people to go on their paddleboards during the colder and wetter months. And it’s not just for paddling that you can use your board – the flexibility of the sport means you can run, surf, and even yoga on the water. Moreover, the paddleboard is quite simple, with a sense of balance and enough strength to paddle, you can easily become an expert.
The rise in popularity of paddleboarding has come with certain dangers, however. Most recently, four people died in Haverfordwest after strong currents swept them away. But as long as you check the weather and currents ahead of time, paddleboarding is a great way to get out and get on the water. And with new opportunities that arise every year, participation in sport will only increase.