How To Plan Your Own SUP Tour: Part 1

Dan Wynn is no stranger to adventure. He’s logged hundreds of miles in difficult, remote locales on his paddleboard and knows first hand how to plan a SUP tour. In this 2 part series Dan will take us through his process for preparing and executing a long distance paddling trip. In his first post, Dan shares his recipe for training success and gives us valuable insight into how much paddling you can expect in a single day. Check out post 2 for practical tips on provisions, budgeting, route planning and more!

It’s an odd thing being on a paddleboard for 8 hours straight eating and drinking at sea. Never touching land until sunset to set camp. Your legs carry the water motion onto dry-land so you suffer a mild, short-lived case of MdDS (‘sickness of disembarkment’), or land-sickness. I would often find myself swaying, feeling dizzy and disorientated in the evenings from the hours spent at sea.

A few weeks ago I attempted a SUP tour circumnavigation of Sicily. Over the course of 31 days I paddled 440 miles before a broken hand made continuing impossible, approximately 160 miles from completing my journey. This trip was my hardest yet and taught me many lessons about long-distance touring.

Why go on a long distance SUP tour?

Well, in a nutshell, for moments like these. All of the hidden spots and secret, isolated coves will be exclusively yours. True adventure is found in places like these.

As paddleboarding is still a fairly new discipline, it really exists on the fringe of pop culture. In many countries, they may never have seen a SUP before. Your arrival will be of great interest. It is a wonderful way to meet people, share experiences, open up dialogues and engage with communities.

This type of trip no doubt appeals to individuals with an adventurous heart who may be aching for a unique adventure. Anyone wanting to see a country from a different perspective, this is for you.

A weekend SUP/camp adventure will give you a taste of what SUP touring has to offer. However there is much more involved in a long-distance trip. In this article I hope to draw on personal experience to answer questions related to planning your own adventure.

3 part Recipe for SUP TRAINING 

Paddleboarding tests your body in ways you least expect. It’s no secret – you have to be slightly masochistic to undertake a long journey. Hours on a SUP take an enormous toll on the body. The prolonged periods of quiet also play tricks on the mind and force you to confront extended periods of isolation.

The reality is, after weeks of endless paddling your feet will generally be in a bad way. Expect them to be sore and swollen simply from the continued feat of standing and balancing on a floating board. Your body will ache in places you never knew muscles existed. Blisters will form on your hands making everyday paddling painful – it’s a difficult task but you can prepare yourself for it.

1. Spend time on your board

Ultimately there is no substitute for hours spent on the paddleboard tackling a variety of conditions. Don’t just paddle when the sun is out and the water is flat. Paddle when there is swell and wind. The reason for this is a mental one as much as physical. Not only does it train your body but it will strengthen your mind to be resilient to the environment. Stay within your capabilities and push the boundaries gradually.

2. SUP focused training on land

If you’re a gym-bunny and want to use the time indoors, any core body exercises are great – planks, burpees and crunches. I highly recommend time on the balance board because this works all the muscles you’ll use on the SUP. Rowing machine are effective at building back muscles at the same time as building your stamina and endurance.

3. Get Grit

Any long distance trip of any discipline boils down to the same fundamental factor: mental strength. When the going gets tough, you have to endure the bad moments especially if you don’t have an alternative plan.

Inevitably you’ll have to paddle in bad weather like I did in Sicily.  In one instance it rained so hard the sea took on a silvery sheen from the displaced water.

The air itself changed, developing a metallic taste – I could literally taste the electric charge.  

The hairs on my arms stood erect. Lightning flashed and hit the surface about 5 meters to my left. At this point I lost my nerve and dove into the sea. I didn’t want to be the tallest object in the vicinity so I opted to float out the storm. It was quite a breath-taking and unnerving experience.

Training quick take:

  • Use time in the gym to strengthen your core & back + improve balance & endurance
  • Prepare both your body & mind to handle periods of isolation & discomfort
  • Paddle in a range of settings & conditions, the more varied & challenging the better

How far can you paddle in 1 day?

This is dependant on a range of individual factors. To give you an idea, the average paddle boarder travels at ~3 to 4  km/hour. This speed varies depending on the board type. On a purpose-built racing SUP like the Sprint I was able to reach 4.5km/hr but had I been using an all around SUP like the Cruise, it might have been closer to 3.5km/hr.

In total I could comfortably paddle 20 miles/day over 8 hours, possibly even 25 miles on a good day.

I believe a good target for the hobby-paddler would be 10-15 miles/day allowing plenty of time for rest and sight-seeing.

Factor in conditions on the water

Your pace also depends on environmental conditions such as wind speed & direction, sea state, and currents. Of these the wind and sea state are the most critical and will affect you almost daily. Personally I never paddled in winds stronger than 15 km/hr. The only exception to this would be if that wind was blowing me in a favourable direction but never if it was offshore. I found that in wind speeds greater than this I had very little control.

Reading next