Cape Town - During the course of my adventures, several people have suggested I try kite surfing. I’m happy to give it a go, but being inclined towards instant gratification I prefer tackling things that can be mastered quickly.
Which is why stand-up paddling – also referred to as “sup” or “supping” – was so much fun, and rewarding.
Television and radio star Liezel van der Westhuizen, extremely sporty and nicknamed “Giraffe”, probably because of her amazing long legs, had been after me to come supping with her for ages. Busy schedules got in the way for well over a year, but we finally pinned down a day.
You can sup on the ocean, on rivers, or on the canals at the V&A Waterfront, which is ideal for beginners. Guy Bubb runs the SUP Cape Town club from there, from which you can rent a board with or without a lesson thrown in. While it is a relatively easy sport to master in under an hour, that first lesson is very necessary especially if, like me, you struggle with the simple physics of how paddles work.
Having determined the dress code was a cossie and optional shorts, plus slatherings of SPF 1500 sunblock, we assembled at the clubhouse for a briefing and an explanation of the equipment: a large board (inflatable in this case, but a lot sturdier than a lilo) and a paddle. Guy showed me how to hold the paddle and told me how the board would move when I used it in different ways. My main concern was how deep the water is (you can’t stand), but he assured me it was highly unlikely I would fall in, especially if I adopted the proper, unflattering, stance of bending my legs and sticking my bum out as if I were about to sit on a chair.
Since some people put their life-jacketed children and dogs on the boards, my mind was already wandering towards a chair, umbrella and gin and tonic while someone else paddled, but I think that’s moving into the realm of a raft.
Then it was time to get on the water. The boards are, as promised, very stable. For the first few minutes, however, I went around in tiny uncontrolled circles, then headed directly for the wall of the canal while I figured out how the paddle worked. Guy shouted helpful instructions and I was soon on my way, skimming along beautifully.
The canal route is a 1.5km loop up to the One&Only hotel and back. You are most welcome to get off there and have that gin and tonic. The water is lovely, clear, clean and calm, except when the water taxis come by – which seems to be fairly often – and create a little wake. The drivers are considerate of paddlers though, and slow down a bit. For us it was one of those spectacularly hot, almost windless days we’ve been having so many of lately, but supping can be done in just about any weather condition.
It just gets a bit tougher when you’re paddling against the wind.
On a fitness note, the sport strengthens your core and arms. I was deliciously and mildly sore the next day, but what surprised me was that even though while I was doing it I didn’t feel like I was straining, after getting back on land I was slightly out of breath.
I like exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise.
I understand there are those who take this activity more seriously, with time trials and so on, and there are world championships, but for something leisurely it’s wonderful too. You get into a gentle rhythm and maybe you stop concentrating while you chat to your fellow suppers. That’s when, for no apparent reason, you fall inelegantly to your hands and knees.
You know, like when you trip over something that’s not there? That.
Luckily the board has a large surface area, and you’d have to pull off something quite dramatic to go overboard. Oh how we laughed and laughed.
Apart from that incident, my stand-up paddling experience was an excellent one.
No wonder Liezel said she never passes up an opportunity to get out on the water, and never leaves home without her board. - Weekend Argus