paddleboarding in the Cairngorms


Stand up, Get up! Paddleboarding in the Cairngorms

Stand up paddleboarding has seen huge growth as a sport and the Cairngorms is the perfect place to do it

Stand up paddleboarding – known as ‘supping’ – was actually first invented by chance; Hawaiian surfers in the 1950s used the technique as a way to take photographs of their fellow surfers. But one of the reasons that it’s become so popular is that you don’t need to wait for the surf until you can get out there and enjoy it.

In fact, if you’re a complete newbie, you’d be best off getting a lesson from one of our local providers (they usually take between 90 minutes and 2 hours) on one of our stunning, often still lochs. 

“Lochs are an easier place to learn,” says Jonny Freshwater, Loch Insh Outdoor Centre. “You can feel like a pro in half an hour!”.

But one of the best things about the Cairngorms National Park as a SUP paradise is the fact that you can try out many different paddle environments, from lochs to rivers, and many different durations, from a quick paddle to a multi day overnight adventure with a guide.

Remember, though, that there are different safety factors to consider on a river, as Emy McLeod, founder of Strathspey SUP says: “The river moves quicker than people realise and there are hazards to be aware of when river paddling.  Always have a helmet & a quick release harness and the best thing would be to book a trip with one of the local companies before trying any river paddling.”

Full On Adventure company specialises in teaching SUP on rivers, favouring a sheltered spot to introduce paddlers to the slightly different technique and safety approach needed for this variation on the sport. 

Paddleboarding on the River with Full on Adventure at Rothiemurchus

“The learning curve we see from people having their first go at SUP is amazing,” says John Mason, Full on Adventure. “People go quickly from never having been on a SUP, to being able to paddle around, learn how to move in and out of the current and even surf small waves!”

Jim Miller at Active Outdoor Pursuits says that it’s an exciting sport to be involved in right now as it’s constantly developing. He’s seen a growing demand, for instance, for more daring supping, such as white water supping. 

All instructors stress the need, especially on rivers, to get qualified guidance as there are hidden dangers you may not know about but are easy to avoid. However, in the summing up words of Jonny Freshwater: “It’s awesome and you should try it as soon as you can. It’ll change your outlook on the world. It’s wild swimming for people who don’t want to get wet!”

paddleboarding in the Cairngorms
Paddleboarding with Active Outdoor Pursuits

*Please act responsibly when supping. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) gives you the right of responsible access but does not give the right to do this if causing a disturbance to wildlife.  “There are sites of special interest, nesting ground birds and areas where paddling too close can disturb chicks so put a bit of thought into this when planning your paddle,” says Emy McLeod, Strathspey Sup.

Top tips for Supping:

Paddleboarding at Loch Insh Outdoor Centre

Surprising things about Supping:

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