When I was telling my Dutch friends that I was going to learn how to SUP, they were mostly like “what?!?” That makes it quite obvious that supping is, at least where I live, not a very common activity yet. When I looked it up on the Wikitionary, this is what I found:
supping (plural suppings)
When I told my friends what supping actually is, most of them were like “ahhh, that! I know that!” so most people have seen images but don’t really know the name. To SUP means to Stand Up Paddleboard and it’s a relatively new full body work-out on the water. According to the website of Isle Surf Board you can burn anywhere between 300 and 1.100 calories an hour with supping, depending on the intensity.
As I planned to go supping in Alaska between the icebergs, I decided it might be a good idea to familiarize myself with it rather than stepping onto the board as a complete newbie. Jaba SUP in Gouda offered introduce me to this new trend in the outdoor and fitness world.
On a recent Friday I planned a meeting with Janneke, the owner of Jaba SUP, at the Nieuwkoopse Plassen, a big natural area in the western part of The Netherlands. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of water so I was kind of anxious for it, in my worst nightmare I feared not even being able to stay up ont he board… On the internet I read that many people say it’s way harder than they expected and that your balance is crucial in finding your way. And exactly that balance is one of my weak spots (see, I should have gone to BodyBalance at the gym more often!).
After a short explanation it’s time to leave. We slide the boards into the water and take off my shoes. Supping barefoot is the best option to be in touch with the board. Janneke tells me we are crossing the big surface of water on our knees, since there’s a strong wind. All wobbly I crawl on the board from the jetty and straight away I’m being blown forward by the wind without doing anything. Even though we are crossing on our knees, the waves are high and the wind too strong, so we end up far away from where we planned to start. After struggling for about 15 minutes we made it to the other side and it’s about time to really learn to sup.
“Go ahead and try it” says Janneke
OK so there we go. First standing on my foot with my hands still on the board, then slowly pushing yourself up, leave your hands free and definitely don’t let go of your paddle. Even though the board is wobbly, I’m standing without falling into the water. I try to bend my knees a bit to I don’t look like a robot and while I try just to stay up, Janneke explains me the details of how to move forward and make small turns. Soon after I’m actually moving forward and even though it’s not fast, I’m glad at least I got the hang of this. Other than canoeing or kayaking, with supping the paddle movement is way more subtle. It takes a while before I get it but generally I’m doing just fine for a first time. I manage to stay up on my board, I’m slowly progressing and only end up against the sides of the waterways every now and then. I can do this!
Then we get to the point where we are parallel with the big waterway we had to cross on our knees and the wind is back, it practially blows me away right to the side of the canal. I start to panic but then realize the way out is always to sit back down on my knees. So that’s what I do. While we are sitting down, Janneke takes a look at our options. The wind is too strong to paddle against for a beginner so she decides to tow me so we can reach the next canal without trouble. Sounds like a plan, my arms are dead already anyway.
Eventually we reach a small canal where we are away from the wind. I try to stand up again and as I finally feel at ease on my board, we are supping through the silence of Dutch nature. Every now and then there’s a cow re-chewing his meal and we even see a fox pretty close to the shore.
We reach the place where we have to cross the big surface again but it turns out a family of swans made this spot their home. And they decide we are not allowed to pass. Papa swan immediately comes our way, wings spread, not amused that we are entering his territory. We decide to find another way through but that turns out a bit harder than expected. While I’m supping forward, I suddenly end up in the water. The fin on the bottom of the board got stuck in the waterlilies and made me lose my balance. The water is not too cold but I’m glad that I decided not to bring a camera or iPhone.
We paddle into a small canal and it seems big enough to reach the big waterway. However, it turns out to be a dead end and we need to turn. By then, the canal has become too narrow to turn so my next challenge is to paddle backwards, which is harder than I thought. Eventually the canal becomes wide enough so we can turn and make our way back.
A bit later than planned, we make it back to the Nieuwkoop harbour. The wind is still quite strong so Janneke invites me along on another on of her trips, so I can experience the silence of nature even better and more relaxed.
My first SUP experience was a special one: lots of wind, wildlife making it impossible to pass, turning in a narrow canal, a picknick with a coke and banana and a splash into the uninviting muddy waters. Definitely the best adventure I could have wished for on a random Friday morning.
Jaba SUP offers classes and various packages in Gouda and the Groene Hart (“Green Heart”) area in The Netherlands. Check out their website for more information.
The sub introduction was offered to me by Jaba SUP in exchange for this article. However, as always, all opinions are entirely my own.
Thank you for sharing!