In the 1980s, a British surfer was taking part in photography of surfers when he saw people standing up on these surfboards and paddling. This photo was the first real evidence of stand up paddle boards being used. And now, 40 years on, this activity is becoming one of the most popular watersports in the UK.


In London alone, there are over 50 boat clubs offering lessons or paddleboards for hire. These are mostly based on the River Thames, where notable spots include Kingston, Hampton, and Richmond. The river is quiet in most areas and even though favoured places can be busy, it is the perfect location for beginners to paddle. The sport is becoming so popular in London that the London SUP Open is returning for another year in August 2022. This will be the third year of the event where SUP enthusiasts come to watch some of the world’s best paddleboarders compete in a series of knockout races. As well as this, the City Paddle Festival, also in August next year, attempts to encourage even more locals into the sport over the 2 day event. There will be entertainment, live music, food, yoga and paddleboarding opportunities for all abilities. Other than festivals, there are multiple routes to take down the river, with varying distances from 3 to 10 miles. In fact, in September, a group of fundraisers paddled 26 miles down the Thames in a journey that took them over 13 hours to complete.


Amongst paddleboard enthusiasts is comedian and Strictly winner Bill Bailey who may be spotted paddling on the Kew stretch of the Thames. After trying the sport on holiday, he said, 'I came back here and thought this is something I'd like to try more of. I just bought a board and I went off on trips on the river, lakes and canals and I really loved it. I got completely hooked on it.'


Licenses are required for paddleboarders in most areas of the Thames, but they are usually provided if you buy lessons or tours. This is the only expense for the sport, other than buying a board and paddle. For a good quality amateur board, the cost can vary between £300-£400 depending on the company and make. Once you have these, you can enjoy years of paddling on the water.


There are many reasons as to why paddleboarding is growing in popularity in the UK. New developments  mean paddleboards are lighter and stronger than ever before and inflatable paddleboards have been the most recent model to come out onto the water. As more and more people have shown an interest, there has been higher demand for more transportable boards. These blow-up paddleboards are easy to carry around or put into a car if you live further away. As well as new paddleboards, thicker wetsuits and waterproof covers have allowed people to go on their paddleboards in colder and wetter months. And it's not just paddling you can use your board for - the flexibility of the sport means you can do racing, surfing and even yoga on the water. Also, paddleboarding is quite straightforward, with a sense of balance and enough strength to paddle, you can easily become an expert.


The rise in popularity in paddleboarding has seen some dangers though. Most recently, four people died in Haverfordwest after strong currents swept them away. But as long as you check the weather and currents beforehand, paddleboarding is a great way to get outside and onto the water. And with new opportunities arising every year, the participation in the sport will only increase further.