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Walking on water with WESUP

“Guys, you really don't need a wetsuit, you won't fall in and you'll be way too hot.” I really should have heeded Sean's advice as I pulled on my summer shortie in preparation for my stand-up paddleboarding debut. Several people have been trying to get me on a SUP for quite a while, none less so than fellow ex-British Snowboard Champion Tudor Thomas – but I'd written it off as a bit of a fad and didn't see how it would fit with my surfing ethos.

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Then I remembered what it was like back in the day when snowboarding was also in its infancy, described as ‘a fad that wouldn’t last’ and was simply an annoying pest that skiers loved to hate. Having borne the brunt of various physical and verbal beatings when there were only a few of us so-called ‘gays on trays’ on the slopes, perhaps I should be the first to acknowledge the importance of embracing alternative sporting ‘fads’. And as a personal trainer and advocate of outdoor training using all available natural features instead of indoor air-conditioned gyms, SUP was a very attractive proposition.

So, back to the beach … and what a beach. Gyllanvasse has to be one of the best locations for a SUP school in Cornwall, the water is calm and safe, the beach is a haven for local tanning addicts and WESUP is right there in the midst of it all, a stone’s throw from the water’s edge and right next to Gylly Beach Café, a fantastic restaurant and bar, no wonder WESUP’s Sean and Tristan are stoked at the thought of spending every day of the summer here.

After ignoring Sean’s wetsuit advice we (myself and fellow journalists Gavin and Liz from Bournemouth) picked up our boards and headed down the beach. My first impression was how light the boards were – given their SUPer tanker proportions, I was expecting an equally solid weight but no, my Fanatic was as light as a feather.

“Right, just a few basics to run through on the beach then we’ll hit the water,” announced Sean, who then proceeded to show us the correct techniques for using the paddle, how and where to stand on the board and of course all the necessary safety info. Sean inspires plenty of confidence and definitely knows his stuff. As a SUP veteran of several years, he knows all the little tips and tricks to make your first SUP session as pleasurable as it should be.

Out on the water we started by kneeling on the board, paddling around a little before making the transition to our feet which was surprisingly straightforward although the nervous tension in my legs created by a ridiculous apprehension to falling in (more of a pride issue you understand) wasn’t helping matters. While the Fanatic SUP that I was using was amazingly stable, it definitely resembled the feeling of standing on a wobble board and it’s quite a workout, just as I’d imagined. You use muscles that you didn’t realise existed, just to stay upright. The stabiliser muscles in your legs work overtime and your core and upper back muscles love the feeling as you pull the paddle through the water and propel yourself and your board smoothly across the water.

If you’re thinking that this new sport sounds like a recipe for disaster, take a leaf out of Liz’s book. Claiming to have never been on a board of any description before today, on land or sea, Liz took to it like a SUP to water and definitely supports the claim that anyone can SUP (however the jury is out on whether Liz was actually lying all along just in case she took a dip!).

“Bend your knees, use your core and pull the paddle, don’t scoop,” advised Sean as I realised that I was still far too tense. Simple words that really help and proof that however good you think you are at similar sports, having an initial lesson at WESUP will save you many frustrating hours paddling around in circles.

Before we knew it, we had travelled up the coast to the next beach and it was time to turn around – yes, more instruction was required in the art of steering and general navigation but a couple of advanced manoeuvring tricks learnt and our tankers were suddenly becoming very nimble speed machines.

“Who needs the Med!” grinned Gavin rolling down his wetsuit top to cool off and scanning the perfectly clear water for fish. It was certainly hot work and I for one was thinking about ‘falling in’ … but could I pretend that I meant to? Pride before a fall? Too much pride methinks.

Suddenly we were back at Gylly beach and I was really disappointed to hear that our time was up as I was just starting to smooth out the technique and feeling the need to explore more of the coastline – but it would have to wait until next time.

I will definitely be incorporating SUP into my PT sessions this summer and while my clients may moan at me for making them run up sand dunes they’ll love the SUP!

If you also want an awesome full body workout, stand-up paddleboarding should be in your quiver of activities this summer and beyond, but be sure to remember sunscreen, sunglasses and plenty of water – and don’t forget, listen to Sean, wetsuits are definitely optional!

Board hire is from £15, a one-hour lesson costs £35 and excursions are £35.

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Walking on water with WESUP

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