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Blog ethics does…SurfSUPNI

Posted on June 20, 2012 @ 2:57 PM in AdventureBeaches does is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘ does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.

OutdoorNI’s Sarah Nelson spent an afternoon Stand up Paddleboarding in Portballintrae Harbour with SurfSUPNI.   Here’s how she got on…

For those wondering what stand up paddleboarding even is here’s a bit of background for you… Stand up paddleboarding (SUP), also know as stand up paddle surfing is an emerging global sport with a Hawaiian heritage.  An ancient form of surfing (with a paddle), it re-emerged as a way for surfing instructors to manage their large groups of students, as standing on the board gave them a higher viewpoint.  It is now a sport in its own right and is the latest craze to hit Northern Irish waters.  A fun, exhilarating and relaxing way to explore our country’s many beautiful waterways, learning to SUP is a must!

Not only is it an ancient sport but all the celebs are at it!  From Jennifer Aniston to Pierce Brosnan and Rihanna they’ve all had a go and it’s even featured in Flo Rider’s recent music video – if it’s good enough for Flo Rider it’s good enough for me! And on that note I booked my first lesson with   

Stand Up Paddleboarding Northern Ireland

Portballintrae was a lovely setting in itself and having arrived early I treated myself to a quick ice cream and took in the view before heading on down to the Surf SUP NI headquarters at Portballintrae Harbour. 

It is here where I was met by John Bustard – the owner of who kitted me out with a wetsuit, some lovely new wetsuit booties and a buoyancy aid.  John introduced us to our equipment including our boards…a lot bigger than a normal surfboard I had visions of myself struggling to control it out of the water never mind in it, but after being shown the correct way to hold it, we were able to carry them on our own no problem.  It was great to learn the simple things like handling the equipment as it showed us how accessible the sport is to do on your own.

As we headed down to the waters edge John warned us that the only thing we needed to worry about where the Somali Pirates – I was willing to take my chances.  We buddied up and all had a go getting comfortable paddling on our fronts whilst getting helpful tips such as how to use the handle to get the correct positioning, where to put the all important paddle and how to turn. After successfully negotiating our way around the shallows of the harbour, we headed back to dry land to practice our paddle strokes.  John told us it was all about the core – and that if we wanted Cameron Diaz abs this was the way to get them - I don’t know about rock hard abs, but I like to think I at least worked off the ice cream!

Once John was confident we had the technique down it was time to attempt standing up.  At this point I started to think it mightn’t be as easy as it looked – according to my wii fit experiences my balance leaves a lot to be desired for, this coupled with the fact that we had all just been given advice about ‘safe falling’ meant I was fully prepared to get wet!  However a firm believer in ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and taking it in stages; to the knees and then onto the feet it wasn’t long until I was actually standing up with not a drop of water in site and I wasn’t the only one – everyone in the group managed to stand up on their first go.  Once up it was a great feeling and I’m pretty sure it’s the closest anyone will ever get to experiencing walking on water!  Enjoying my new found skills I paddled round the harbour taking in the stunning setting, thinking to myself, ‘it doesn’t get much more relaxing than this’.    

However this was soon to change, not content with everyone being dry – John set us a challenge to do a 360 degree turn on the board while it stayed in position.  Slowly, but surely and most definitely wobbly I managed to master it.  Then it was time for a bit of fun; a race to a mark, standing up, turning around and then racing back.  With my nice dry wetsuit giving me renewed confidence I was off!  Soon realising there’s no time for slow and steady in a race I tried my best to quickly turn around, but then came the dreaded wobbling, all I could hear were John’s futile shouts; ‘Bend your knees! Bend your knees!’ but it was too late I was in. Well, it was bound to happen at some point!   

We then ventured out further and were even lucky enough to be treated to a seal popping its head above the water, no doubt curious about the strange people floating on the water.   Happily paddling along I attempted to take Johns advice of how to get better steerage by standing further back on the board but before I knew it I was submerged once again, thankfully this time no one was looking – but unfortunately there’s no hiding the splash!

It was then time to peacefully paddle back into the shore as our session was coming to an end.  I can safely say that this is the perfect package for anyone who wants to try out Stand Up Paddleboarding for the first time and is a great way to learn all the basics you need to enjoy SUP on your own. Always making us feel at ease John made sure everyone was using the correct technique every step of the way helping us to lay good foundations, something which will no doubt come in handy as going by the fun everyone had I think it is safe to say that this is most definitely not the last time we will be SUPin’.

Activity Provider:


+44(0)77 9661 4844


From £35 per person – all specialist equipment provided


Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

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