Paddleboarding on the Palm

Well, I moved to Dubai. Temporarily. Don’t worry, I’ll be back, up in your face telling you about rainy runs along the Southbank, but for six months I’ve swapped London for the burning hot desert in the Middle East. I’m on secondment with my law firm, working in the same firm but in our Dubai office. Same job, different continent!

Being in Dubai has had quite a big impact on my fitness routine. Firstly, it’s way too hot to run any substantial distance. Even in winter, I’ll need to be up and running by 6am to get a long run in and all the running clubs meet at 6am. I am not a morning person so this is bad news. Also, the roads are built for cars, not pedestrians, so running routes are in scarce supply and not particularly picturesque (side of a 5 lane motorway, anyone?). So, my fitness routine has been gym focussed, with quite a lot of strength training and plyometrics and (much) less running. In my gym, all the treadmills face a big mirror, so not only is it tediously boring but you can also watch yourself get all red and gurn. Delightful.

The good news is that Dubai is a bit of a hot spot for sports and fitness and, thanks to the year round ace weather, there’s a load of water sports too. I had my sights set on learning to surf but that’s been banned by the authorities recently (something to do with the high winds in the desert apparently) and so I had to look elsewhere. Enter…the stand up paddleboard! SUP for cool dudes.

SUPs are a bit like surfboards. You get big wide ones for noobs like me and then they get progressively smaller as you get progressively better. The idea is that you stand up and er paddle! You get a big oar that’s taller than you and use it to navigate your way around the high seas. I went down to a beach club called Riva on the Palm to try it out with Surf UAE. I managed to gather some pals to come too!

We had an express lesson which consisted of 15 minutes tuition and 45 minutes free paddle. We went around 4pm which was a bit unfortunate as the wind picks up across the water in the afternoon so it was bit of a battle against the breeze. All the better the workout I say! It looks like a piece of piss and, to an extent it is, but it’s also a nifty little workout if you do it right.

You start off on your knees and pick up a little speed before hopping up to your feet. It felt a bit strange at first but after a couple of minutes it actually felt completely natural! Thanks to the wind it was quite hard work to get going on our way out and I found myself feeling quite out of breath trying to get any kind of momentum up!


It’s also quite a strain on your arms the more you do it and I definitely felt it in my shoulders towards the end of our paddle session. It was also great for your core, as you had to completely brace to turn and your whole body was working constantly to keep your balance, especially when the wind picked up and you were faced with an onslaught of waves. I managed to stay on my board and had so much I didn’t want to give my board back. I really enjoyed it and I’ll definitely be back.

I’d definitely recommend giving SUP a go if you get the chance! Have you ever tried SUP? What did you think?

Perfect way to end the weekend!