David Whitley tests out a new sport as he hits the waterways on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Stand-up paddle surfing is pretty much what the name suggests. It’s a cross between surfing, kayaking and manning a gondola (albeit without singing the song from the Cornetto adverts). The sport originated in Hawai’i, as did Chris de Aboitiz, who has decided to bring it to’s Sunshine Coast.
Chris, unsurprisingly, is sickenly fit and prone to getting up early. My jaunt around the water starts at 7am, but I arrive to meet the 6am group returning.
The boards are much bigger than your average surf board, and thus theoretically easier to stand on. I’m wobbly as we go round in a quick tutorial loop, but it seems relatively straightforward. Stand with the feet close together, paddle with straight arms and avoid overcorrecting. “Oh, and remember that speed is balance,” says Chris. “It gets trickier if you stop paddling.”
It also helps if you look straight ahead of you, rather than gawping at all the rather expensive housing that lines Noosa’s waterways. It may be fascinating to ogle the millions on display, but doing so does nothing for your stability.
It takes one look at a gleaming yacht, then a glance at where on earth I’m putting my paddle for the first involuntary swim of proceedings. It’s a cycle that is repeated with irritating regularity.
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Chris, meanwhile, sails along nonchalantly with Lani the dog acting as a gleeful figurehead on the front of the board.
It takes three quarters of an hour for another member of the group to show any solidarity by falling in themselves. That said, by the end Lani has enough confidence in me to jump on my board, run through my legs and sit in front of me as I paddle to shore.
A slightly less wet workout on Noosa’s convoluted watery arteries can be done in a kayak. Kayak Noosa in Noosaville runs kayaking tours, but is also quite happy to give individuals a vessel, a paddle and a map, then send them on their merry way.
From a kayak, you get views that are impossible on any other mode of transport. You’re at water level, looking up and out. Things look bigger than they would do on, say, a cruise. The pelicans that sidle up alongside appear far mightier than they ordinarily would. When they open their mammoth bills, or spread their wings, they look magnificent rather than comical.
The other great thing is that it’s largely as easy or as hard as you want to make it. On the way back to base, I’m fighting the current, so I have to put a bit of muscle in. But for most of the hour-or-so on the Noosa Sound, it’s a lot more relaxed.
A leisurely float along with the odd momentum-maintaining paddle-dip in the water allows you to take everything in properly; the kids challenging each other to jump from the bridge, the fishermen with a beer in one hand and rod in another, the Toblerone-like hills jutting up over the forest.
It’s also the best way of indulging in a bit of property porn. The waterfront houses form a millionaire’s circle, and there’s an evident mine’s-better-than-yours approach to the decor. Gleaming glass frontages and yachts moored to private jetties are the norm.
You’d have thought that anyone who spent that much money on a house would live in it, but apart from a big barbecue fest going on at one of them, the properties seem remarkably quiet. It’s like peering into uninhabited show homes most of the way round.
But this is part of the Noosa vibe as much as the shopping and the food. Speaking of which, after all that physical activity, the full three course pig-out is entirely justifiable…
Try it out with Stand Up Paddle Surfing Australia.