FionaOutdoors gives the fast growing water-based activity Stand Up Paddle Boarding a try on Loch Lomond. She is surprised by how easy it is – and by how much can be seen from atop the large surf-style board.
It feels as though we’re gliding, or “the closest thing to walking on water”, as our Stand Up Paddle Boarding guide says. Literally standing upright and on the top of the SUP board, the gentle activity allows our small group to move gently and quietly across the water of Loch Lomond.
We are newcomers to SUPs but within just 10 minutes we have moved from a hands and knees position on the surprisingly stable boards to being on two feet. We propel ourselves forwards and backwards with one long oar. Within 20 minutes we feel confident and calm and can enjoy the brilliant position of standing high above the water’s surface. (I even find that the board is stable enough to perform a headstand. See the picture below!)
From an upright position on water – as opposed to seated in a canal or kayak – the view beneath the water’s surface is wonderful. I can see down into the sunlit clear waters and twice glimpse a shoal of tiny, darting fish swimming beneath my board.
Gliding almost silently along the edges of the loch I have an unusual vantage point. I feel very tall as I look down towards the shore. Our guides, Barry and Andy of Wilderness SUP Co, tell me that they have seen some fantastic wildlife during their first summer of SUP-ing. Barry says: “We have taken our SUPs to so many places including lochs, rivers and the coast in Scotland and we have been lucky enough to see wildlife both in and out of the water. We have seen otters, fish, heron and many other birds. I think our best sighting has been a roe deer drinking from the edge of a loch. That was so special to see.”
SUPs do not travel at high speed and they are best suited to calmer waters. When faster moving water is encountered, for example on the River Tay, boarders can go down on to their hands and knees for better balance. But it is still surprising how far you can go in just a few hours on a SUP. Andy says: “The gliding movement is very efficient. You sort of skim gently across the surface of the water and there is very little resistance. It is also very easy physically so people do not become tired even when exploring for a full day.”
The attractions of SUPs
Barry believes there are several reasons why the sport has become so popular in the last year. He says: “Scotland has some of the most beautiful waterways in the world and SUP in Scotland allows people to see this beauty of Scotland’s landscapes and natural heritage from a unique viewpoint. SUP is also attractive because it causes very little impact to the surrounding wildlife.
“SUP is also extremely user friendly and is quite easy to get the hang of. To top it all off it is a great fun way to keep in shape.”
I really enjoy this form of transport. It is serene yet rewarding; exciting yet relaxing. A journey form A to B on a SUP seems like an excellent way to explore Scotland’s waterways, especially if you enjoy visiting remote islands and less-visited rivers and shorelines.
Where does SUP originate from?
SUP began in Hawaii in the 1950s when surf instructors wanted to use the unique viewpoint of standing on their boards to keep an eye on their surfers and any approaching weather. More recently many top watermen across the world have been using SUPs to train and explore previously unpaddled waterways. The sport has come to Britain and more lately Scotland via Canada and Europe.
Where to SUP in Scotland
There are so many locations perfect for SUP-ing in Scotland. Wilderness SUPs have so far explored from Ardlui and Luss on Loch Lomond; lochs Venachar and Achray in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park; lochs Kinord and Muick and the River Dee in Aberdeenshire; the River Tweed in the Borders; the Pentland reservoirs; and from beaches in the Edinburgh area, including North Berwick, Cramond and Portobello. A four-day cross-Scotland paddle took them from Ardersier, near Inverness, to Kinlochleven via the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness.
Who to SUP with
There are a number of SUPs providers in Scotland including:
Wilderness SUPs charge from £20 for a one-hour taster session, £60 for a half-day exploration trip that includes their own blend of locally roasted coffee and great snacks, to £100 for a full day including coffee, snacks and a healthy yet hearty locally sourced lunch. Longer trips, such as a new Whisky SUPs trail, are priced on a case-by-case basis.
Do tell us about where you have explored by SUPs.