I love to surf in the UK, but the best waves arrive on our coasts in the winter. As summer begins and the swell mellows, I am always on the look out for a fun but effective way to keep in shape and maintain my strength.
Stand-up paddle boarding (or SUP, as it is known in surfing circles) provides the perfect outdoor weekend workout. It is a full body workout that builds core stability, strength and stamina. The added bonus is that you get to enjoy the adventure of exploring the British waterways or coastlines at the same time.
SUP can be practised by people of all ages and fitness levels, which means the whole family can join in.
As the name suggests, SUP involves standing on a large, buoyant surf board and propelling yourself through the water with a long paddle. The sport can be practised in any body of water, whether it be the ocean, a lake or a river. As a beginner, you will want to start on calm waters with little current - perhaps a lake if you have one nearby.
Once you have mastered paddling and navigation in calm waters you can try out the more challenging conditions of river SUPing or even try a tour along the coastline. With enough practice you may eventually be surfing the waves on your SUP board.
SUP is a full-body workout - paddling works your arms, shoulders and back muscles. As you stand on the board and propel yourself through the water, you are constantly making adjustments to maintain your balance, resulting in an intense workout for the core muscles of the body - stomach, back and obliques.
Maintaining a strong, steady paddle for a period of time provides for great cardiovascular training too. You can vary your workout according to your own requirements - remember to warm up before any strenuous sprinting and to warm down at the end of your session. As you practice and build your muscles, you will find that you are able to stay in the water for ever longer periods of time.
The sport requires a minimum of equipment - a board, a paddle, a wetsuit (depending on the temperature of the water), a personal buoyancy device, sunblock and sunglasses.
The board can be purchased for anywhere between £600 to £1,500 - depending on the exact specifications of the board . If you are not yet ready to invest in your own equipment, you can rent from your local surf shop, which should also be able to offer lessons for beginners and valuable advice on the best locations to practice.
Check out www.standuppaddlesurf.co.uk to find a SUP school or shop near you.