The sun was shining, the sea was glistening, the sand shimmered like gold, and a perfect blue sky stretched over the horizon…
This was definitely how I pictured the day that I would try paddle boarding – or if you want the correct term, Stand Up Paddle Boarding. I imagined myself looking like a character out of 90210 or something similar – a beach babe (let’s forget about the wetsuits now) becoming an instant pro at the sport. Of course, the reality was quite different.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding ( or SUP, let’s use the abbreviation to save me the clearly strenuous effort of typing it out over and over again) began in the 1950s in Hawaii, where it was known as ‘hoe he’e nalu.’ But that’s a bit of a difficult one to pronounce, so no wonder us Brits stuck to the more English-friendly ‘SUP.’ The main equipment consists of a paddleboard – similar to a surfboard – and a paddle, adjusted according to your height. Different clothing is worn according to the conditions.
My friends and I are now mostly third years, so instead of wild nights on Wind St., we’re opting to spend our time on the more liver-friendly options available to us in Swansea. Thankfully, 360 Beach and Watersports offers such activities. Not just for keeno athletes, this facility is open to all, with a complete range of sports and events on offer for the public. You probably saw the stall for these guys at the Freshers’ Fayre; they offer all sorts of discounts for us students (saving money, what? Love a bargain!) and are, in my opinion, a fairly priced centre anyway.
So after that mini-history, let’s return to the main story. The weather was not the best, the drizzle was refusing to stop, and the air was fairly chilly. After signing in, (you can book online, wham bam, quick card payment and there’s your place on the session), we were presented with wetsuits and were scooted off to the changing rooms to squeeze into them. After a group picture and a lot of laughing about how we looked, my friends and I waddled off to meet the instructor and to get stuck in. We were given buoyancy aids as well to complete the look, and after another picture (yes. We’re those girls) we hopped down to the sand to really begin our fun day out.
After a quick run through of the basics with the instructor, we were sent out to sea. By that time, the threatening rain had ceased to bother any of us and the wetsuits were doing their job in keeping us warm. Scrambling onto our boards, we tried the easy-peasy sit on your knees method before standing up and paddling away. It looks pretty easy from afar. I can tell you it is not. It’s not difficult exactly; you just have to focus on what you’re doing and use your core a lot. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really enjoyable. You paddle alternately on each side to get yourself moving and once you’ve built up a momentum, you can whizz into the distance.
Of course, I fell in, and was the only one to do so. Maintaining my usual dignity and poise, I was able to pull myself back up onto my board, resembling an uncoordinated seal or a struggling whale whilst doing so. My friends didn’t suffer my fate, and paddled away somewhat gracefully (I’m lying. I’m not sure any of us possess any grace. Sorry girl.s) for the hour that we were allotted. Under the instructor’s guidance, our route resembled an oval, and by the end of the session we were back to where we had set off from, drifting in by the pull of the waves.
I’d say the session was a success despite my quick dip in the waters of Swansea Bay, (I wanted a swim, promise). Afterwards, we made a cheeky trip to the café that is part of 360 for a warming hot choccie, I’d definitely recommend it. Go for the Hot Chocolate Deluxe, you deserve all that whipped cream after a sports sesh.
Kayaking is definitely next on the schedule, then possibly hiring a volleyball court. This is practically Hawaii, Swansea style.
By Naomi White
SUP sessions are £12.50 per hour, and include wetsuit and equipment hire and instructor guidance. Other sporting activities are also available. Check out the website for more info at http://www.360swansea.co.uk, or give them a call on 01792 655844