Stand up paddle-boarding is sailing its way to Scotland and I was invited by a new company to try it out.
In October, Emma Hepplewhite (35) and her husband Duncan (36) launched their website paddlefast.co.uk hoping to anchor themselves down as the leading voice on Britain’s fastest growing watersport.
Duncan, who has been involved with sailing since he was 16, started his own business in 2002, Scottish Sailing, selling spare boat equipment up and down the country. Eventually this expanded into selling boats and services.
Emma joined the company in 2014 and has seen the profits of the business increase.
Paddlefast has been added into the company and focuses on selling everything anyone needs to start enjoying stand up paddle-boarding.
Emma said: “When a supplier told us they had seen 70 per cent growth in SUP sales south of the border we saw a golden opportunity to become the go-to supplier based in Scotland.”
On sale are a variety of boards from the Red Paddle Co SURF STAR, for beginners like me, to the BIC SUP Air board for people who are far more skilled, fast and brave.
The popularity of the sport is easy to see with many people interested when the new stock was showcased at the Scotland Boat Show and a lot of the kit being sold out by the end of it.
The company held an open day in the canal next to the Park Bistro in Linlithgow and I was invited to go along and test out some of the equipment.
I had no idea what to expect, except maybe falling in the water! So as it was a fairly chilly, wintry Sunday afternoon, I wrapped myself up in a hat, jumper, gloves and many more layers to ensure I didn’t feel the cold.
Before setting sail, Emma went through the important health and safety aspects of the sport.
She explained to me how vital the leash, a velcro ankle attachment, is in keeping you safe out on the water. Emma said: “No matter the conditions, calm or choppy, this should always be worn. It keeps you attached to the board if you fall off and these boards will be more buoyant than life jackets.”
With the safety talk over, I took my first venture onto one of the boards.
A bit shaky, but following instructions I knelt down on the centre of the board, one knee either side of the handle, as I slowly drifted out to the centre of the canal thanks to a push off the dock from Emma.
She said: “Move your weight from side to side to test how stable the board actually is.” I did so and was surprised at how little it shifted. Feeling a little bit more confident I slowly stood up and began paddling gently up the canal.
My early expectations of myself to be resembling Bambi on ice were wiped out very quickly as it is not as difficult as many people may think it is to stay on your feet.
Pretty soon I was strolling up the water able to enjoy the fantastic scenery on display.
Emma had jumped on her board to join me on the river. She said: “With the majority of Scotland’s population living within a five minute drive of a canal, loch, or sea, SUP is an excellent way to stay fit outdoors.” She added the beauty Scotland’s waterways offer is an extra bonus.
Having found my sea legs and confidence I moved up a board to the race board, a faster more advanced piece of kit.
Again, taking my time to settle myself on the board by kneeling first, I was soon swooshing my way down the river and realised that I was far too warm in all my layers.
It may not look like it but paddle-boarding is a lot of work. Your arms are constantly moving while your legs are firmly planted on the board, using muscles you never knew existed.
After 45 minutes of sailing I really did start to feel the strain on my legs however I was enjoying myself too much on the water to care.
Emma explained the many different ways people enjoy paddle-boarding.
She said: “There are races and team events. People have their dogs sitting on the front of the board. There is one which can hold nine people! “Yoga is even done out on the water as well.”
Returning to land, Emma showed me the ins and outs of the boards. I was surprised to discover they were simply pumped up full of air. Emma demonstrated how simple it is to pump up a board and that it takes no time at all to deflate, meaning the boards can be easily stored in the house and do not take up a lot of room when travelling.
Emma said: “It is that easy. The board’s so simple to look after but do not be fooled, even though it is just air inside them they are incredibly tough and durable.”
I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent paddle-boarding and believe that Scotland is the perfect place for a sport like this to really take off.
With fantastic views and plenty of waterways, everyone has the chance to get out on the water.
More information is available at paddlefast.co.uk and scottishcanals.co.uk.