Stand-up paddle boarding (or SUP) is the fastest growing water sport in the world, and as a result, a thriving SUP scene has sprung up in South Devon. Picturesque cliffy coastlines, azure waters, sandy beaches and crystal clear rivers conspire to make the area the perfect playground for SUP beginners and seasoned paddle boarders alike.
If you’re planning an escape to this part of the world, there are plenty of reasons to feature a paddle boarding adventure on your holiday wish list.
SUP is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to get on the water. Providing the weather conditions are favourable, it’s not difficult for beginners or children to pick up quickly, and it’s also lots of fun. Paddle boards offer a peaceful way to explore the region’s enchanting waterways and coastline. Nothing beats the sensation of gliding swiftly across the water standing up, revealing a new perspective both above and below the water’s surface.
There’s so much to see at a paddling pace. When you’re mindful of your stunning surroundings, you’ll take home vivid memories of darting fish, spiky spider crabs, luminous jellyfish, playful seals and dolphins, and numerous species of marine birds swooping into your line of sight.
Paddle boarding is also a great way to spend time with a loved one, whether it’s your other half, a friend or your child. If you take it easy, there’ll be plenty of time to chat and stumble upon secret places you never knew existed, be it hidden beaches or rock pools teeming with life.
SUP also provides a fun work-out, especially effective for toning abs and arms. Some venues even offer SUP yoga classes – the perfect way to stretch, balance and unwind in a beautiful natural setting, as long as you can live with the high odds of falling in!
Here are some of our favourite SUP spots in South Devon…
1. Kingsbridge Estuary
This sheltered tidal estuary, with its scenic surroundings, intriguing creeks, and abundance of birds and wildlife, provides perfect paddling conditions for beginners and experienced paddle boarders alike. Seasoned paddlers can try the picturesque paddle from Kingsbridge to Salcombe and back, allowing approx. 1 hour each way, plus time for a coffee or breakfast at the conveniently positioned Captain Morgan’s café. Check tides before setting off to ensure you have enough water for the whole trip!
Kingsbridge-based Waterborn offer tuition, guided tours and equipment hire, and are located right next to the popular Crabshell Inn on the banks of the estuary, making it easy to refuel with delicious food and drink afterwards. Waterborn also offer SUP yoga classes too.
2. Bigbury-on-Sea/Burgh Island
Explore the unique and stunning coastline around Bigbury Bay, or at high tide, circumnavigate the tidal Burgh Island, home to the famous Art Deco hotel that inspired two Agatha Christie novels. It’ll take around an hour to explore all its nooks, crannies and caves, then reward your efforts with a drink in the 14th century smugglers haunt, The Pilchard Inn.
Discovery Surf School offer tuition and board/wetsuit hire.
3. Salcombe South Sands
South Sands beach is a great place to launch your paddle board. Either explore Salcombe’s pretty harbour and popular sandy beaches, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, cross the Bar out to sea and investigate this craggy stretch of coastline, peppered with secluded beaches and isolated coves only accessible from the water. Take a picnic to make the most of discovering your own patch of sand.
Sea Kayak Salcombe offer tuition, guided tours and equipment hire, operating out of a former lifeboat station that is now Bo’s Café, which will accommodate your refreshment needs too.
4. South Milton Sands
The wide sheltered bay at South Milton Sands is a great place to go paddle boarding. Seals and dolphins are often spotted frolicking in the water here, whilst the rock pools around the iconic arch of the Thurlestone Rock are full of life. Gaze into the crystal water to see what lies beneath, and enjoy the beautiful backdrop of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Surfin’ Sam offer board/wetsuit hire.
5. The River Dart, Dittisham
Launching from Warfleet Creek, Dittisham, at high tide, you can either coast up river towards the bustling town of Totnes, or meander down river towards the maritime town of Dartmouth. Either way, you’re sure to spot an abundance of river wildlife, including Canadian geese, swans, kingfishers, and the occasional seal or dolphin if you’re lucky. For the adventurous types, a paddle past Dartmouth Castle takes you out to sea where, hugging the stunning coastline, you can explore hidden coves and canyons to your heart’s content. Keep an eye on the tide though to make sure there’s enough water for your return to Dittisham.
Dittisham Boats offer tuition, tours and equipment hire.
If you’re looking for holiday accommodation while you make the most of paddle boarding in South Devon, find your perfect holiday cottage here
A few SUP safety tips:
- If you’re a complete beginner, it’s a good idea to book yourself onto an introductory 1-2 hour lesson first to learn the basics. There are many centres across the UK where you can learn to stand up paddleboard. Check out www.bsupa.org.uk/ to find a centre near you.
- If you’re going out on your own, always let someone know where you are going.
- Plan your route, and safe entry and exit points. Also have your phone with you in case you get into trouble.
- Check the tides, currents and weather conditions before setting out and remember that conditions can change in a flash.
- If you’re paddling in the ocean, make sure you know the impact of tides, currents and weather conditions. For example, if there’s an off-shore wind and you’re standing up, you will act like a sail and travel away from land quickly. Always reserve enough energy to paddle back against it.