Where to Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP)
Of course there are those who ride surf on a SUP board or shoot challenging white water rapids but the great beauty of this sport is that any body of water will do and for beginners the flatter and calmer the better. Nature lovers and those in search of serenity will find themselves suddenly able to get to all kinds of hidden places previously inaccessible to all those without a boat. Getting closer to wildlife is easy as you glide along, often soundlessly and encounters with seals and dolphins in the water are something of a regular occurrence.
Last of all SUP is for all – couch potatoes included. Regular SUP is a great workout if you want it to be but the high volume, stable platform requires little effort to propel it through the water. And should you happen to be a yoga fan, workouts on a SUP have become popular too.
Choosing Your School
Popularity surges in SUP mean a huge choice of schools, equipment hire outfits and SUP tour operators but to ensure the most fun possible it pays to choose carefully. Find yourself a Surfing New Zealand and International Surfing Association accredited instructor or school – you can check these out at http://www.surfingnz.co.nz/
Bay of Islands, North Island
The magical Bay of Islands with its seemingly endless tucked away coves, sheltered beaches and myriad inlets offers no better playground for the would-be SUP enthusiast. Calm waters are easy to find here and what's more they tend to be of the crystal clear variety and in any number of dream-like shades from emerald to turquoise.
Add into the mix year-round warm waters, a subtropical climate and the presence of many resident dolphins and it all starts to sound more than a little like paradise. The main outfit here are Northland Paddleboarding based in Kerikeri who offer lessons, tours to all kinds of secret spots and surf SUP too.
Coromandel, North Island
The Coromandel has beautiful beaches by the bucket-load and is a favourite weekend haunt for Aucklanders because of its relatively close proximity to the big city. The whole peninsula is sprinkled with sleepy beach towns and rainforest while the coastal waters are frequented by dolphins.
Coromandel Paddleboarding operates from the lovely beach and tranquil estuary of Whangamata and beginners' lessons take place in pretty Flaxmill Bay or Purangi River. Once you are up and riding and oozing with confidence (an hour or two should do it) you might want to head out on a tour which hugs the beautiful coast to arrive at the Cooks Beach sea caves. Alternatively you can stroke your way to Donut Island and back on a 2km round-trip.
Credit: Rotorua Paddle Tours
Rotorua, North Island
Celebrated as being New Zealand's centre for all things geothermically bubbling, gushing, steaming, spouting and otherwise fascinating as well as a focus for Maori cultural experiences, Rotorua now has another reason to visit. With 16 lakes to choose from it is a SUP wonderland where water adventures include exploration of lakeside coves, channels and placid rivers. Water shades are incredible and ever shifting while the scenery in general typically falls into the stunning category.
Because the waters here are so safe and under the right weather conditions mill-pond flat, total beginners get to explore all kinds of out of the way places and enjoy the sound of silence broken only by native bird song. How about a little paddle followed by a soak in stunning natural hot pools accessible only by water? If you're thinking yes Rotorua Paddle Tours offer a range of lessons and guided tour options which include a very special stop off at Manupirua Hot Springs.
Raglan, North Island
To the surfing fraternity Raglan is New Zealand's wave-riding Mecca and as a result a funky little surf town has grown up on the North Island's west coast. However, that doesn't mean there isn't something here too for the SUPpers. Raglan Paddleboarding School are ready and able to introduce you to the world of SUP with lessons, guided tours, SUP yoga and board hire all on the menu.
Abel Tasman, South Island
The stunning Abel Tasman National Park arguably represents the most idyllic SUP conditions and scenery possible anywhere; lush native forest, high sunshine hours, perfectly translucent waters, beach after beach of pure white sand and a whole host of bays, lagoons and islands only accessible by water which make any kind of sharing unnecessary. This is what awaits you here along with the possibility of close encounters with the dolphins and seals which call these waters home.
Abel Tasman Paddleboarding based in Marahau, offer lessons to get you up and confident and then pick from an incredible menu of tours with some great combos possible such as SUP+ kayaking, SUP+ sailing or SUP+ guided hike or make your own perfect trip with their custom options.
Wanaka, South Island
Another offering of lake and river environment surrounded by soaring mountains and breathtaking scenery. Wanaka Kayaks offer SUP lessons and guided tours as well as equipment hire for anyone adept enough to go solo. SUP yoga is also up for grabs.