SUP is not a huge investment for a lot of fun, killer scenery and a fabulous workout

Have you ever been curious to try stand up paddle boarding? You know, those peeps who are everywhere all of a sudden, upright on their surfboard, scaling way out over surf and sea with nothing but a paddle? Though SUP can be traced back to 50’s surf photography in Hawaii, it only became a certifiable ‘sport’ in the naughties and has since gained rapid popularity as the new alternative surf form and water sport.

Well, if you were to saunter up to Manly and nod at the right relaxed-looking surfy type, you could try it out for a lark. There are several companies to help you with the first steps, including the immediately likeable Ryan of Manly Surf Guide – a local and full-time SUP instructor. He has absolutely the best office in the world, operating out of the charming Bower Restaurant, nestled between Manly and Shelly Beach in the little jewelled sanctuary of Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve. He’ll kit you up and have you going before you know it – first on the boardwalk and then straight into the bay, past swimmers, snorkelers, divers and sun soakers. Nerves? Nah! The calm, protected waters and Ryan’s quiet authority will cast their spell pretty quickly and you’ll be sailing through the steps in no time.

This physically challenged reporter only experienced a few wobbles and the requisite topple in the process of getting the balance right from kneeling to standing. After that, it was a blink to paddling and feeling invincible – until inevitably a distraction caused another fall. Even those inelegant stacks are great fun – the crystal-clear water offering a short rest from all the effort. Then, back on the board to sail the seas, heading towards the blue horizon with an easy rhythm and sun-kissed smile. As one learner so aptly put it, “it’s the meditative man’s surfing”.

Private lessons go for an hour and guaranteed by the end you’ll be feeling confident, relaxed, making good speed despite the swell, and maybe even carrying on a conversation from your board. Even if it takes a couple of lessons to hold your own, the good news is that’s all you’ll need. Then just practice with the equipment until you’re ready to take the next step – braving the surf itself.

A definite recommend. SUP is not a huge investment for a lot of fun, killer scenery and a fabulous workout. Whilst rapid mastery of the sport under Ryan’s watch can be accredited to his easy, expert guidance and infectious smile, a little flattery never goes astray. His appraisal of this reviewer’s first attempts? 9.5 out of 10. Take that, Sports Gods! This is actually something a gal can do without making a total fool of herself; maybe even outdo the guys for a change. Yes, that’s a challenge. Go on, try it for yourself.


By Niyati Libotte


* Ryan Hayfield and his merry band of instructors at Manly Surf Guide operate every day of the week from dawn till dusk. For bookings and more, go to or call 0412417431.



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