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Stand up paddle boarding: your new favourite workout?

Lifestyle — Posted 21/09/16

Clear your mind and strengthen your body with an afternoon out on the water. Here’s why stand up paddle boarding is one fitness trend worth trying.

Originating in Hawaii as a variation on surfing, stand up paddle boarding has been a much-loved watersport for a while now. But over the past few years, its popularity has exploded. Paddle boarders are now an increasingly common sight at Australian beaches, rivers and lakes. And as it turns out, there are plenty of good reasons for the trend.

Down at Riverlife Brisbane, home for adventure activities along the beautiful Brisbane River, we spent an afternoon out on the water, giving paddle boarding a try. As beginners, it was a unique physical challenge. Paddling definitely gives your arms and upper body a workout, and you feel it in your core and legs too.

But with the leafy scenery, the gentle sound of the water, and the rhythmic movement of paddling, it’s more than just a fun outdoor workout. It’s a relaxing experience too. Paddling is an excellent way to be mindful out in nature, clearing your mind and focusing your attention on the feelings in your body and really being present in your surroundings.

Here, Riverlife paddle boarding instructor Emma shares why we should all get out on the water – and some tips for getting started.

Why do you think stand up paddle boarding has become so popular recently?

I think the popularity in Queensland is because we live in such a great place for it. Even in winter, the weather is usually so nice that it’s easy to be out on the water. It’s also good exercise, and once you’ve got a board and a paddle, you can jump on the water anywhere.

What makes it such good exercise?

One of the reasons it makes great exercise is that it’s also enjoyable and relaxing! Paddle boarding is also really an all-body workout. In addition to using the arm and shoulder muscles to paddle, the balance aspect really challenges your core. Your leg muscles even get a workout!


“The great thing about stand up paddle boarding is that it can be done at your own pace, so it doesn’t matter how fit you are.”


How fit and strong do you need to be?

Honestly, a little bit of upper body strength and coordination is beneficial. That being said, with a little bit of practice, it’s one of those things that’s easy to pick up. In terms of fitness, the great thing about stand up paddle boarding is that it can be done at your own pace, so it doesn’t matter how fit you are.

What happens during a paddle boarding session at Riverlife?

Our paddle boarding sessions travel along the Brisbane River, starting at Kangaroo Point, and heading towards either South Bank or the Story Bridge. We always head out against the tide so that the way back when you’re tired is a breeze! The sessions last an hour and a half, and include all equipment needed and a guide to help you at all times.

What tips can you share for beginners?

The number one thing people tend to worry about while paddle boarding is stability. My general tip to people is to keep paddling as much as you can. A little bit of forwards movement really helps you to stay stable. The second thing is not to be too afraid of falling off. The worst case scenario is that you’ll get wet – that’s really it!


“My general tip for beginners is to keep paddling as much as you can. A little bit of forwards movement really helps you to stay stable.”


How is paddle boarding on the river different to the ocean or a lake?

In comparison to the ocean, there are definitely fewer waves to contend with on the river, which is perfect for first timers. The main difference between a river and somewhere like a lake is that the river is tidal. That means the way up can be a bit of a workout, but the water does basically all the work for you on the way home!  

What should you wear and bring to a paddle boarding session?

We generally recommend that people wear clothes they don’t mind getting wet, and leave anything that isn’t waterproof on shore. The boards we have are fairly stable, but accidents do happen! Sun protection out on the river is also very important – we definitely recommend sunscreen and a hat to everyone going out.

What other activities can you do at Riverlife?

We also offer kayaking sessions – they run similarly to our paddle boarding sessions, but with a little less likelihood of getting wet! We also offer rock climbing and abseiling for those that wish to conquer the cliffs. The rock climbing sessions involve participants climbing the cliffs before abseiling back down, whereas the abseiling sessions start at the top.

If you’ve ever thought about having a ride on a Segway, we offer a bunch of guided tours around the Kangaroo Point and South Bank area. And if none of those sound like your cup of tea, you can explore the cliffs at your own pace by hiring some rollerskates or one of our bikes.

Get paddling and find out more at Riverlife Brisbane.


Travelling to Brisbane? Brisbane Airtrain gets you from the airport to the city in just 23 minutes – quick, cheap and convenient. (And also, there's free wi-fi...) Plan your trip online and get more inspiration for exploring this beautiful city.

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Tags   Exercise Lifestyle Reviews Sports Surfing Stand up paddle boarding
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