Stand Up Paddle Boarding, or SUP is fast becoming a mainstream sport in the UK, thanks to many coastal locations offering boards for hire at a reasonable price and the reduction in cost for brand new boards.
In Dorset we’re very lucky to live in a county surrounded by so many beautiful beaches, meandering rivers and tranquil lakes making paddle boarding a perfect hobby for the weekends or summer evenings after work.
Last summer I caught up with some Dorset SUP enthusiasts to find out where their favourite spots are in Dorset and some top tips to help make the most of your time on the water.
Paddle Boarding on the Sea
- Lyme Bay recommended by Linzie Freek
Very early morning sessions in Lyme at low tide and flat sea are perfect and allows you to see the Cobb from a different angle. Make sure you paddle out towards Charmouth and stop off at the Victorian dump to search for treasure. Don’t forget to take your snorkel!
Top tip: Park in Monmouth car park and it’s a short walk over the pebbles. Sadly, it’s not free, but you can’t have it all the time. Head out before breakfast to beat the tourists.
Rating: Great for beginners as the water is nice and gentle, safe to paddle and easy to launch.
Hamm Beach recommended by Michelle Glover
Shallow water and when there’s no wind it becomes like a mill pond, perfect for beginners like me!
Top Tip: Park at Billy Winters pay and display and grab a coffee and something to eat afterwards. If that car park is busy, you can park and launch the other end of the Beach Road.
Rating: Perfect for beginners and easy to access the water.
Sandsfoot Castle recommended by Michelle Glover
Great in high or low tide and there’s not many places in the UK where you can paddle board near a castle!
Top Tip: Get to the beach early to get a parking space as it gets very busy in the summer with the tourists.
Rating: The calm water and beautiful scenery make this an idyllic spot for all levels of paddle boarding.
Eype recommended by Rachel Heywood
Stunning views and amazingly clear deep water positioned between West Bay and Seatown, so perfect for even more adventures.
Top tip: The beach is down quite a long thin country lane, but don’t let that put you off.
Rating: Suitable for beginners and great for all the family – even the dog!
Mupe Bay recommended by Lynn Boakes
If the Lulworth Ranges are open, you can turn left out of Lulworth Cove and head towards Mupe Bay. Approaching the rocks is a fantastic sight.
Top tip: The down side is that the car park is expensive and a long walk down to the sea, so make sure you go in numbers to help carry the boards and keep car parking fees down.
Rating: Although it can get a bit choppy as you head out of the bay, beginners would be fine.
Sandbanks and Brownsea Island, recommended by Laura Bond and Marie Buchanan
Sandbanks is spot on for the sunsets and Brownsea Island is beautiful to explore.
Top tip: The car parking is expensive, so park on a side road or find a friend who has a driveway in Sandbanks.
Rating: Suitable for all levels, just make sure you avoid the jet skis.
Brownsea photo from SUP Explorer and more info on Brownsea.
Paddle Boarding on a Lake
Kingston Maurward lake recommended by Jez Culley
Paddle board yoga takes place during the summer months on a Wednesday and Thursday at Kingston Maurward College. It’s a peaceful spot for practicing your downward dog as the swans gracefully swim by.
Top tip: It’s a private lake, so make sure you book a slot onto Jez’s classes. Search for Helios Colour Yoga on Facebook to book a session.
Rating: Even if you haven’t tried yoga or paddle boarded before, beginners will be in safe hands with Jez.
Paddle Boarding Up and Down the River
River Stour recommended by Tessa Rose
The River Stour upstream from Blandford is a great spot to paddle when the sea is too rough. The mix of beauty, lack of tide, easy access, free parking, wildlife and swimmable waters makes it a winning paddle boarding location.
Tip top: Easy access from the car park and a couple of weirs to play on. Just watch out for the angry swans and the privately-owned sections of the river.
Rating: Best for intermediates with a bit of paddle boarding know how. The weirs will dictate how far you can go, as it does get shallow in sections. Avoid paddling too close to the reeds if you don’t want to scratch your board.
Avon River recommended by Charlotte Reed
Avon River at Christchurch is fantastic, you’ll see marshes, jumping fish, galloping horses and views of the Priory.
Top tip: Start from the Captain’s Club Hotel and you’ll find a gorgeous 45-minute loop.
Rating: Always flat and perfect for beginners.
Wareham River recommended by Alan Ashmore
Great for wildlife or fish and chips and a pint on the Quayside.
Top tip: Park at Red Cliff Farm and use the slip for launching. Edit [21.08.19] Thanks to fellow SUPer Dan Barnett who has feedback that as Red Cliff is private property they’re now charging £5 per car with a SUP. However, you can launch from the Quay in the town centre near the hut where you can also rent SUPs & kayaks & will happily give local advice.
Rating: Wareham River is lovely, but as it’s tidal you need to time it right as it’s no fun paddling against the tide, so best for those with some paddle boarding experience.
More info on this route over at SUP Explorer
Have you SUPed in any of these locations and where’s your favourite place to SUP?
Note: before you decide to head out SUPing please check if your location needs a permit to launch & of course be careful of the weather & respect the water.
A few wise notes before you head out SUPing:
- Wear a leash
- Check the weather before heading out as it can change quickly
- Tell someone your paddling route & timings
- Check if you need a permit to launch
- Understand your paddling environment
- Have a way of being able to self-rescue
- Know your limits & respect the water
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