Many of you may have heard the term SUP but what actually is it? Well back to basics. It’s shorthand for stand up paddle boarding. This is a sport that’s became much more popular over the last few years and now you can try it for yourself right in the centre of Bristol. We teamed up with SUP Bristol to experience one of their award winning stand up paddle board taster sessions.

SUP – what you need to know

Stand up paddle surfing and stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is an offshoot of surfing that originated in Hawaii.

Stand up paddle surfing is derived from its Polynesian roots. The Hawaiian translation is Ku Hoe He’e Nalu; to stand, to paddle, to surf, a wave.

The popularity of the modern sport of SUP has its origination in the Hawaiian Islands. In the early 1960s the Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf. This is where the term “Beach Boy Surfing” originates, another name for Stand Up Paddle boarding.

The Kit

For stand up paddle boarding you have two pieces of main equipment. The SUP board, which compared to other types of board is actually quite big! You also have your SUP paddle, which can adjust to your size.

The SUP Bristol taster experience

I joined a group of around 8 people for my SUP experience. The groups are kept to this size for a much more intimate experience.

We started on a day that had seen all weathers. Starting with a light rain but ending with us being enveloped in beautiful sunshine with a rainbow on the horizon. The session begins on land with a step by step guide to understanding the SUP board, how to get back on if you fall off, health and safety and the rules of the waterways in Bristol harbour. Our instructor Ben was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and most off all patient with us.

After the briefing session your journey on the water begins. You start by getting onto your board off of a jetty in a kneeling position in the middle of the board. When you first get on it is a very weird experience as you need to find the sweet spot of balance within yourself but once you get used to it (which took a few minutes for me) you begin to feel quite confident.

After a 10 minutes of understanding the paddle and manoeuvring the board it was time to try and stand up. We were taken to a smaller, secluded section of water which was calm to practice standing up. I was the first to fall in! Very proud moment and when I hit the water it took my breath away because of how cold it was. I was very glad to be wearing a wetsuit! Standing up does take some practice as it is a very weird experience as you are balancing on water. Once you get the position correctly and the wobbles of you legs begins to subside it feels a much more relaxing. My tip for everyone is to always look ahead when paddling because as soon as you look down you are already in the water.

Once we had learnt the basics and because the water was relatively calm we are as a group able to navigate our way up river towards the famous SS Great Britain.



If you are looking to try something new and you aren’t a huge adrenaline junkie then stand up paddleboarding is definitely for you. It takes some time to master the basics but this 90 minute taster session is a great way to experience something new and meet some great people along the way.

It’s a sport that takes a lot of concentration but at the same time when you are cruising down Bristol harbour side on a lovely evening, watching the world go by the experience is really relaxing. It was great to see the city that I was born in, from a new perspective and it was great to paddle right up to the SS Great Britain. Be prepared to hurt all over the next day because although it is calm you definitely get a full body workout.

The SUP Bristol team are a great bunch of people and you can see their dedication and passion to teaching this sport through their sessions. They have won awards at various large tourism competitions. They are all passionate about SUPing and are great instructors. As I said before it takes a lot of patience to instruct a bunch of people who might be falling in quite often!

Once you’ve tried SUP you will want to keep going back. You can SUP at any age, which makes it highly accessible. The SUP Bristol taster sessions are the perfect way to begin and if you are interested to continue after a taster session SUP Bristol have many other sessions, from SUP yoga, kids club and events away from Bristol.

For more information on SUP Bristol sessions check out the SUP Bristol website.