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Discover a new skill – try paddleboarding

Escape the beach and head out on a paddleboard, explore beaches and coves impossible to reach on foot – but have a lesson first!

Get a unique perspective of the coast

Every now and then a new way of exploring the coast comes along that seems so simple and straightforward that you wonder why it hasn’t caught on before. Paddleboarding fits into this category: all you need is a board, a paddle, common sense and off you go.

As learning new skills go, paddleboarding is one of the most straightforward and one that rewards you with the uplifting experience of exploring inland and coastal waters.

The beauty, says George Shillito of the Red Paddle Company, based in Totnes, South Devon, is that paddleboarding can offer you everything from a short half an hour of nurdling around inshore coves to a two-day coastal camping experience exploring beaches and coves, difficult or impossible to reach on foot.

From his Totnes base in South Devon, George loves to head down the River Dart, stopping off at the Sharpham vineyards along the way for a picnic and even heading all 14km downriver to Dartmouth. 

‘The whole of the south coast is great for paddleboarding,’ he says. ‘My wife and I were walking near Gara Rock (in the South Hams, between Plymouth and Torbay) and looking at the coast below the headlands of Bolt head and Bolt Tails. We just thought how wonderful it is to paddleboard along the water there and get a unique perspective on the coast. 

 ‘The real magic of paddleboarding is that it means so much in different ways to so many people; you can do it with family, friends, or by yourself. It gets very personal, there is silence and you are just looking back at the bustle of the beach or the shore.”

Discover a new skill – try paddleboarding Discover a new skill – try paddleboarding
Discover a new skill – try paddleboarding

Have a lesson before paddling solo

While paddleboarding can feel like a timeless experience, intriguingly, it turns out to have been with us for much longer than we might think.

‘It’s been around for hundreds of years. Hawaiian fishermen have always paddleboarded,’ George explains. ‘They used it to get from one little island to another and to give them a higher perspective when looking for fish or looking out for waves.’

Recent years have seen paddleboarding evolve into an accessible leisure pursuit. More stable, inflatable paddleboards make it easier to stay upright. However, the most important piece of equipment you need, says George, is your brain. 

Much of the southern English coast is suitable for paddleboarding, as tides are generally not too strong (with the exception of some tidal races outside Poole Harbour) and it’s always sensible to check conditions with a local water sports shop or lifeguards.

This, says George, is why it makes good sense to have at least one lesson before you start paddling solo.

‘There’s little involving technical challenges,” he says, “but an instructor will show you how to watch the wind and the waves. Your body is effectively acting as a sail and it can catch the wind and pull you the wrong way quite easily. People tend to look at whether it’s sunny or not; they can overlook the windspeed, which is what is more important.”

By Mark Rowe