Expert guide: paddleboarding in Devon

Paddleboarding is now on every watersports fan’s fun radar: easier to learn than surfing yet just as thrilling, it’s rapidly growing in popularity. Paddleboarding instructor André Shorland from Torquay Kitesurfing, Kitebuggying and SUP School told Official Devon how to get started, what you need, and where’s best to go paddleboarding in Devon.
Official Devon tip: Paddleboarding is also known as SUPing (Stand Up Paddleboarding), or paddle surfing.

 

paddleboarding-SUP-Devon-waves-

Tell us what paddleboarding is, André.
It’s standing up on an oversize surfboard, specifically shaped for the purpose, and using a single blade paddle to propel you, either in surf or on flat water in the sea, river, lake or even canal.
It’s not a new sport. In the 1940’s surf instructors on Waikiki beach used to stand up and paddle out to the break using a one bladed paddle, which allowed them to have a better view over their surfing group, and to keep their wealthy customers’ cameras dry!

How did you get into it?
Back in 2007 I was busy teaching kitesurfing when someone offered me some paddleboards to try. A month or two later, with time on my hands as the weather had been bad for kitesurfing, I tried them out on a flat day and was immediately hooked. It was so relaxing, but a steady all over exercise, and I couldn’t wait to try them in the surf – which was even more of a buzz.

What’s the attraction of paddlboarding?
It’s instant: board, paddle, leash and off you go. It’s so easy to learn and a much quicker learning curve than surfing, with more options of use (flat water or surf, long distance/short distance). It’s fun for all ages, and you can make it as easy or as difficult as you like. I love that you can catch even the smallest of waves and have great fun – which is what it’s all about – and then progress into bigger stuff. Nearly every big surf spot in the world has people SUP’ing now.
SUP is also great for overall fitness and core strength, and a good stress reliever. I’ve found it a big help with an old back injury.

paddleboarding SUP Devon flat 1

Why is paddleboarding in Devon particularly good?
Devon has so much to offer when you’re paddle boarding because of the beautiful coastline with all its wild life. Birds, seals and dolphins come really close, and it’s worth getting polarized sunglasses to see them swim underneath your board. Paddleboarding’s also great way to spot where the bass and mullet shoals are – take a rod out and catch one for dinner!
In Devon there are the estuaries and coves to explore, super smooth rivers and canals, and some reservoirs and lakes that allow SUPs. Then there are a great variety of beaches to check out and surf as your ability improves.

Which are your favourite spots for paddleboarding in Devon?

South Devon: Bantham and Bigbury are well known surf spots which can get very crowded, but also great places to paddle around, with little inlets and estuaries for flat water sessions. From Totnes to Dartmouth along the Dart is a beautiful river paddle with the woods coming down to the water’s edge. Just check out the tide tables and wind direction forecast first, as you don’t want to be paddling against the tide or wind, but do use it to your advantage. Take your time, as there’s over 9 miles of river to explore – and check out the area’s vineyards.

Torbay: There are some nice coastal paddles around Torbay, and when the easterly winds blow there can be some good waves. Depending on your ability there are various spots to choose from. This the area where I teach, and I’m always happy to talk paddleboarding and give advice on good spots depending on your experience.

Teignmouth and Dawlish: You’ll find some lovely beach cruising and maybe surf around Teignmouth and Dawlish, if the wind direction and tide are right. Travel up the river to Newton Abbot or vice versa.

Exmouth: There are varied conditions on river lagoons and surf around Exmouth, but do check the tide as it can be very strong at times. Check with the local surf shop.

River Tamar: The Tamar is 60 miles long, with many tributaries to investigate and plenty of places to stop, explore and get a bite to eat and drink.

North Devon: Saunton Sands is a favourite surf spot with a nice long wave. If it’s crowded there’s plenty of space down the beach. And to cruise along when there are no waves, there’s also the big river estuary between Saunton and Westward Ho! (where the rivers Taw and Torridge merge), but check the tide and wind first.

paddleboarding SUP Devon waves 2

Can anyone enjoy take part?
It’s a great sport for all the family, young and old. I’ve taught people from 7 years old to 70. It’s not a strength thing, although you do have to carry the board to the water (carry slings are available that fit over your shoulder and pack away into a bum bag). The key is paddleboarding in the right conditions for you and having the correct equipment. Get a lesson to start with, and then it is a very quick learning curve.

What equipment do you need?
Just a board, paddle and leash, and wet suit and boots depending on your ability and time of year. Most boards now can be used on flat water as well as surf, and the one you need will be decided a lot by your height and weight. Go to a good SUP shop or school and try a few out before you buy as your first board could be anything from 12’ to 9’, depending on your size. There are various price ranges which correspond to construction methods: foam, fibreglass or EPS foam and epoxy sandwich boards with wood laminates, and even (very expensive) carbon fibre, super light weight boards.
Paddles also vary: they can be made of aluminium, glass fibre or carbon, which are lighter but more expensive. The paddle should be as long as your height plus about 20cm, depending on what sort of paddling you are doing (flat water or surf).

What do you have to think about safety-wise?
Standard stuff really: preferably go with a friend, and if on your own, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. If on rivers and canals, check out in advance an easy spot to get out at the end. Take a mobile phone in a waterproof bag as well.

Contact André at Torquay Kitesurfing, Kitebuggying and SUP School or call 01803 212411