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Paddle boarding. The non-surfers way to keep fit

Paddle boarding. The non-surfers way to keep fit

Imagine yourself gently paddling atop a surfboard in the sunshine off the beaches of Hawaii. Now take that image and put it on the middle of London’s Thames, or the Norfolk fens.

Paddle boarding is spreading across the world as the latest fitness craze without the need for as much balancing prowess as surfing.

With the likes of Cindy Crawford taking up the sport, stand-up paddle boarding, or SUP as it’s better known, demands less skill than surfing, and you don’t have to rely on the waves – but it still delivers an impressive full body workout to anyone who chooses to try it out, on ocean, lake or even a river.

The paddle boards are much bigger and more stable than a surf board, and the sport is a good option for pretty much anyone game enough as on flat water, it’s fairly simple to try and maintain balance.

In 2011, around 1.2 million people tried stand-up paddle boarding a rise of 18 percent from 2010.

You can choose to paddle gently and take in the sights – such as when stand-up paddle boarding through the Norfolk fens. Or you could use your session as a brisk workout using a number of muscle groups. By just standing on the unstable platform of a paddle board, you are engaging your stabiliser muscles, and the action of paddling targets the upper body.

The core gets worked hard because you are standing up the whole time you’re on the board.

The intensity of the workout depends also on the body of water you are working with. If you’re trying to paddle while there is the added difficulty of the waves, then the workout can be really intense.

Anyone can learn to paddle board, probably in just a couple of hours, but anyone thinking of trying out the sport must be sure they’re comfortable in the water and should be able to swim. It’s suitable for those of all ages, although some schools require a minimum age of ten. The sport is a really good core workout and you can get fit while taking in some of the beautiful sites that the UK coastline, rivers and lakes have to offer.

The sport began when surf instructors in Hawaii stood up on their boards to take photographs of students, but for now forget Hawaii, Bali and Mexico, and start off with some of these locations ideal for stand-up paddle boarding in the UK.


Active360 offers paddle boarding under the arches of Kew Bridge, with some great views of the capital. Trips and paddle boarding lessons either head towards Putney or Richmond, taking into account the direction of the tide. Showers and changing facilities are available as well as lockers for valuable.

Norfolk fens

The Fen Paddle Company offers lessons and trips in Ely and Wicken Fen. They pitch themselves as the first company to promote stand-up paddle boarding and stand-up paddle surfing as a flat water sport and leisure pastime.

They are constantly expanding their locations around East Anglia and are open to suggestions for places to paddle board.


St Ives Surf School offer the perfect introduction to paddle boarding with a one-a-half hour lesson where you’re taught basic safety skills, paddling techniques, balance and coastal awareness. Once you’ve put your skills into practice you can then take part in one of their guided tours around the Cornish coast. Lessons cost £35.


Ok, so Scotland may not conjure up images of sunshine beaches, but it does offer beautiful, unspoiled and rugged coastline which is a joy to explore. Paddle Surf Scotland offers lessons and tours around Perthshire and Tayside and can come out to other locations if you have a group which requires lessons. They can help you get into surfing, whitewater, downwinders or racing and show all the skills and techniques you need to start SUPing. Lessons  cost £40 per 3 hour session, with a minimum of two people required.


Weston Paddleboard Company teaches paddle boarding at various Bristol and Somerset and offers lessons to individuals and groups, including stag and hen dos. The school is a British Stand Up Paddle Association (BSUPA) trained and accredited school.


Stand up paddleboarding Gower offers paddle boarding trips that can be a relaxing cruise along the coastline, taking in the wildlife; or a full on cardiovascular workout that pumps the adrenaline.

You can learn to paddle board in a two hour session for a cost of £40, or coastal cruises cost £45 for a two hour session.

When you’ve tried your hand at the various locations across the UK maybe you’ll fancy taking your own paddle board further afield, or hiring one out there – perhaps on the coast of California, Mexico, or of course back to its roots- in Hawaii.