I’d never tried stand up paddle boarding before, but when I was invited to go along to the first stand up paddle (SUP) festival in the UAE, I thought it sounded like fun and would be a great chance to give it a go and find out more.
The event was held on Friday 21st March on the West Beach at the Emirates Palace Hotel and aimed to introduce recreational paddlers to SUP racing, with a variety of races from a 1km beginners race to a 6km race for more experienced SUP-ers.
I’d been to the Emirates Palace Hotel many times, but never actually been down on the beach before. As you might expect, of course it’s a beautiful long stretch of sand with views back across the city. And it never fails to amaze me just how strikingly blue the colour of the water in Abu Dhabi is.
I hadn’t really known what to expect from the festival, but there was a lot going on and a fun, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. It was a family event with kids events also scheduled for the morning so there was an opportunity for everyone to take part whether old or young, new comer or experienced.
I left the races for those that knew what they were doing, or at least those who had tried it a few more times than me, and stuck to having a paddle around in the demo space next to the races. I was lucky to be assisted by Gil from the Emirates Palace watersports crew, who showed me the basics and helped me get going. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d expected – I mean, it didn’t take long for me to get wet – but I was surprised that pretty quickly I was able to stand up from kneeling on the board and get going. It’s all a matter of finding your balance really. And it certainly helped having Gil shout direction and words of encouragement from the shallows to keep me going.
It was all great fun, though quite hard to get very far with the strong wind and while I was able to improve my turning ability (though the people swimming nearby may not have agreed), I’ll have to work on stopping techniques next time. I’m pretty sure shouting “land ahoy!” to warn those on the shore before running aground is not how it’s meant to be done…!
There’s a heap of water sports on offer down at the West Beach including windsurfing, water-skiing, sailing, wake boarding and more. Private SUP lessons are Dhs250 for 60 minutes. It’s also a great work out and although it didn’t cross my mind at the time, I could definitely feel the muscles across my core and arms the next day – bonus!
If you’re into SUP, watch out for the SUP World Series making a stop in Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina from April 16th to 19th, where the world’s top SUP-ers will be competing.