Review: Stand Up Paddleboarding Adventures in Cornwall

    As one of Cornwall’s most popular and family friendly activities, Wersha Bharadwa hops on board for fun day of Stand Up Paddleboarding with Ocean Sports Centre in Carbis Bay.


    There could hardly be a better location for a water sports centre than that of Carbis Bay Hotel and Spa’s affiliated Ocean Sports Centre. Tucked cleverly behind the dunes of the mile-long white sandy beach, this is your go-to spot when you and the kids are hankering for an afternoon or two of fun aquatic adventures while in Cornwall.

    The fastest growing water sport and biggest family craze here of course, is Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP). Although it’s been around well before the days of Orlando Bloom getting papped paddleboarding in Sardinia wearing nothing but his birthday suit or even Hailey Bieber, Eva Longoria and Rihanna getting in on the action, SUP has now evolved into the top choice water activity for families looking to enjoy open seas and rivers, while challenging each other not to fall in.

    Owned and founded by water enthusiasts, Sarah and Mark in 2004, and with a roster of expert tutors including Elle who has represented Great Britain at the Stand Up Paddle board World Championships in China, Ocean Sports Centre is regularly hailed as one of the most established SUP schools in Cornwall having also won the coveted ‘Best Water Sports School’ award in 2019.

    Ocean Sports Centre, Carbis Bay
    Ocean Sports Centre, Carbis Bay

    The centre’s strategic location on Carbis Bay isn’t mere happenstance either. Unlike the towering waves of neighbouring surfer hotspots Newquay and Gwithian, the bay here is cradled within a protective cove, which insulates it from bracing winds, resulting in sea conditions that remain largely calm and flat—an ideal setting for SUP, whether you’re a seasoned pro or, like us, total novices.

    Getting Started

    Once inside and after you’re all signed up, you’ll be equipped with paddleboards and high-quality wetsuit hire. You can also book additional activities including kayaking, Hawaiian canoeing, mega SUPs (paddleboards for up to eight people) body and surf boarding and coasteering. Group lessons, by design, beckon exclusively to those aged 13 and beyond. But if you’re rolling with twelve-year-olds or even sprightly eight-year-olds, don’t worry – this is where affordable private lessons have you covered. Offering exclusive tickets to fun in the sea for the whole family or just your youngest aspiring adventurers, you’ve the choice to book one or two-hour tailor-made options focus specifically on everyone’s needs, ability and progress.

    Ready for Action

    After getting changed into our thick, hyperthermal and santised wetsuits, we’re ready for the first leg of our aquatic adventure. We dutifully follow our friendly instructor, Isla, by traipsing across the sun-kissed sands towards our designated boards. Carrying them a short distance, we settle them onto the sand. Here, Isla informs us we’ll be undertaking a comprehensive land-based tutorial to acquaint us with the essentials of paddleboarding before we actually hit the water. These essential land lessons create a safe, controlled space for families to learn everything from foot positioning to posture.

    Ocean Sports Stand Up Paddleboarding
    Ocean Sports Stand Up Paddleboarding

    We’re shown the boards rails and tail – both allies in maintaining stability in the water before we’re given a quick demonstration on the art of perfect paddleboarding stance. The idea is to stand feet slightly apart with your core fully engaged. On land, this seems an easy feat as we swiftly locate our balance sweet spot. Then, we’re handed our paddles and taught how to grip them along with the nuanced manoeuvring techniques needed to navigate around the coast.

    Gliding in the Deep

    Fifteen minutes later and filled with newfound mojo, its sand to surf and we’re off. We brush off the bite of the cold Atlantic (it’s surprisingly invigorating) from our toes and propel ourselves forward into the water with the boards safety strap securely fastened to our ankles.

    As someone who believes ‘less is more’, I adjust to the board first by adopting the kneeling position. This choice demands less balancing finesse compared to standing up, and proves to be an unexpectedly smooth start. Unlike rowing – which requires a bit more brute strength – here the idea is to maintain a steady rhythm with the paddle angled to cut into the water.

    Carbis Bay

    Paddle by paddle, we conquer the paddleboard and the gentle sway of the pristine turquoise waters beneath us as our movements grow in confidence and fluidity. They say practice makes perfect and soon enough, once I’ve got the hang of the rowing motions, I glide on the water near enough swan-like under Isla’s expert eye – albeit, still kneeling. She’s patient and friendly but determined to get us all standing up as soon as possible for the full body SUP experience. And lifting myself up to stand on the board isn’t the graceful, single movement I’d seemingly mastered on land. No, it’s more of a fumbling thrown-in-the deep end masterclass in weight shifting.

    After stumbling through the initial wobbliness, I miraculously find myself up and standing tall on my board. Although staying upright and paddling simultaneously turns out to be a bigger challenge than I’d anticipated. As I wobble, it becomes clear how badly I’ve neglected my core muscles. While they protest inside me about the sudden workload, a couple of jellyfish decide to crash the party. They silently observe my unsteady jiggles and shakes, daring me to take a plunge into the sea and avoid their sting. I paddle away backwards faster than a speeding bullet and find myself thankfully navigating calm waters once again with the sun’s rays now gently warming my back.

    Ocean Sports Stand Up Paddleboarding
    Ocean Sports Stand Up Paddleboarding

    Isla’s undivided attention boosts our confidence as she continues to provide immediate feedback and targeted coaching that helps accelerate our ability to stay mostly on boards and out of the sea too. A quick word here about aqua shoes or footwear: the general rule is to forgo any type. Paddleboarding involves a unique blend of balance, movement, and connection with the board, requiring direct contact between your feet and the board’s surface.

    The flexible soles in aqua shoes and their potential for water accumulation can disrupt the tactile feedback needed for stability and control. Opting for barefoot balance allows for a better understanding of the board’s movements and water conditions where you can quickly respond by shifting your balance.

    Time escapes us as we continue picture perfect moments of exploring coves together and watching tiny fish swimming in unison. We watch kids playing beach games as we roll by and wave cheerfully to fellow paddleboarders and kayaking families as they glide past us in opposite directions. Towards the end, a lot of time is spent catching each other off guard and with our competitive streaks in full flow, we playfully overtake and outpace one another in impromptu races.

    Our SUP lesson and sea safari style experience is by far, one of our summer highlights. Filled with newfound skills and water confidence, kids will love exploring the stunning coastline and learning about the area’s marine wildlife. Plus, it’s the best alibi for getting them connected with nature in the open air. There are also the spectacular views to Godrevy Lighthouse to enjoy from Carbis Bay, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot seals and dolphins playing in the distance too. And despite all attempts not to, every single one of us inevitably takes a splashy, salty plunge into the water at some point.

    Those unexpected dips not only ramp up the fun, but they also make up some of the day’s most lasting memories too. After our solid two hour stint, we’ve worked up an appetite and our sea legs have earned a well-deserved rest. We flop onto the sand, devour snacks from Carbis Bay Hotel’s Deli Café and finish off the perfect afternoon building sandcastles.

    How to Book

    Visit Ocean Sports Centre online to book or call the team on 01736 794782 or 07533 695 03. Ocean Sports Centre, Carbis Bay Beach, St Ives, TR26 2NP

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