Standup paddle boarding spots in Devon and Cornwall: The essential guide
Standup paddle boarding or SUPping has in recent years taken the world of water sports by storm, and it’s easy to see why. With most of the UK’s best beaches now offering SUP board hire, alongside kayaks, canoes and surfboards, there’s little reason not to dip one’s toe (so to speak) into the sport or become a fully fledged fundi.
Surprisingly, standup paddle boarding’s roots don’t originate on the island of Hawaii, where surfing began, but rather from further south in the Pacific Ocean in Peru, where 3000 years ago locals used small reed boats or “caballitos de totora” with a bamboo stick as a paddle for fishing and sport. Modern-day paddle boarding has come a long way since then, with boards sporting sleek designs and fibreglass or epoxy-coated bodies, which are either hollow or have foam cores. Relatively light to transport and with boards than can be inflated in situ, the niftiness of the equipment means that the sport is accessible to all generations of water lovers, including younger children who are able to “hitch a ride” with grown-ups, and there’s the option to kneel and paddle in the early stages of getting to grips with the technique.
Well known for being an excellent form of exercise (all that balancing has got to pay off on one’s abs and glutes), it’s also an activity that can be enjoyed all year round, unlike its surfing and kiteboarding counterparts that rely on decent swell and high winds to get their users out into the open water. Paddle boarding is also a terrific way to enjoy views of the British coastline from an unrivalled vantage point, and, though it may take a bit of “work” to get out there, the effort is thoroughly worthwhile.
Boasting some of the UK’s most awe-inspiring coastal stretches, Devon and Cornwall are a SUPers dream, with sheltered coves and calm bays offering spectacular scenery and safe conditions (of course sea conditions, buoyancy aids and staying within the designated safe swim areas are absolutely vital for anyone taking to the ocean).
The locally based team at Luxury Coastal shared their expert knowledge of the area to uncover some of Devon and Cornwall’s best SUP spots. These are their top picks:
Silver Cove in Brixham, Devon
The coastline that encompasses the fishing town of Brixham is peppered with small coves like the ones at Churston and Fishcombe – all excellent spots for finding sea glass, enjoying a picnic or for languishing in the sunshine. The lesser-known Silver Cove is accessed via a steep bit of coast path down, and, while doable, it’s far more fun to grab a board (or hire one from Broadsands Beach Watersports Centre) and paddle round past Elberry Cove, where its sheltered crescent of shingle awaits.
St Ives Harbour, Cornwall
On a clear day it’s not unusual to see the turquoise waters beyond St Ives harbour strewn with paddle boarders honing their skills; and with far-reaching views past the breakwater and harbour wall out towards Godrevy Lighthouse, it really is a beautiful place to take full advantage of the sport. Harbour-based St Ives Boat Rides hires out single, double and even quadruple paddle boards, which are sturdy and easy to balance on, so it’s never been easier to take to the water, especially if it’s a first attempt.
Kingsbridge Estuary, Devon
Beautiful scenery, sheltered tidal waters and an abundance of birdlife are just some of the reasons the Kingsbridge Estuary in South Hams is so popular with paddle boarders. The estuary is home to Waterborn SUP, which is a lesson and board hire company based at The Crabshell Inn, and newbies and seasoned pros can partake in everything from guided tours to SUP Yoga, but those who prefer exploring the river solo should check the tides before setting off, to ensure they have enough water for the trip back!
Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, Cornwall
Visitors can see Falmouth Bay as they’ve never seen it before with views over miles of aquamarine water in one direction and stunning coastline in the other. The fantastic Falmouth branch of WeSup operates from Gylly Beach and offers everything from sunrise tours and tandem paddle board hire to beginners’ lessons and taster sessions. And to make a day of it or for those who fancy a post-SUP lunch, the award-winning Gylly Café, which sits right on the beach, is a great place to spend some of those calories that have just been burnt off, with glass of wine and their famous Roast on the Coast.
Warfleet Creek, near Dartmouth, Devon
Water sports fans can take in some of the most awe-inspiring views in Devon with a paddle along the River Dart. Warfleet Creek is the perfect spot to set off from at high tide, paddling either upriver towards Tuckenhay or downriver towards Dartmouth Castle. With water one can see to the bottom of, and calm conditions, as well as very little traffic to contend with, it’s ideal for paddle boarders of all abilities, but especially for beginners who are still finding their sea legs.
St Michael’s Mount in Marazion, Cornwall
Anyone who hasn’t yet experienced the majesty that is St Michael’s Mount is missing out; and what better way to see this icon in all its glory than from the unobstructed vantage point of one’s very own paddle board? Marazion must have some of the best conditions for SUPping in all of Cornwall as, more often than not, the water is flat and calm with very little chop. Launching from the beach in Marazion it’s easy to paddle right over to the island where the views are pretty special, and if boarders are feeling peckish they can glide into the harbour for quick refreshments before setting off again. Equipment hire and lessons can be booked through Gosup, which is based on the coast path just behind the beach in Marazion.
Beaches like Maidencombe, Oddicombe and Meadfoot in Torquay are just a handful of Torquay’s paddle boarding spots frequented by both the local and visiting SUP fraternity. The highly popular WeSup paddleboard hire company is based at Abbey Sands and offers everything needed to enjoy a board-based bay experience, from one-on-one lessons to SUP hire (they even have a WeSup coffee shop next to the marina, which is ideal for a post-fun flat white and a pain au chocolat). A lesser-known gem is the small sand-and-shingle Redgate Beach, which is now banned from the public due to it being cut off from the mainland at high tide – fine to paddle board to though, and travellers will be rewarded with clear blue water and views of staggeringly steep wooded cliffs.
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