Riding the Waves of Popularity: Paddleboarding Experience in Cardiff

Paddle boarding has become the latest craze to sweep the UK. How difficult is it to stand up and get paddling? We sign up for a course in Cardiff to find out. 

Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs have a number of water sports activities

Located on the fringes of Cardiff, where the urban landscape merges with the tranquil countryside, lie the unique Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs. These reservoirs, now a hub for water sports enthusiasts, have witnessed a surge in the popularity of water-based activities across the UK.

As I arrive, the early morning mist still clings to the surface of the water, while the vibrant community that gathers here welcomes me. The reservoirs, once solely providers of drinking water, now come alive every day with the sounds of paddleboards, kayaks, and open water swimmers moving through the water with a steady rhythm.

Debi Keepfer, a seasoned lifeguard at the site, shares her enthusiasm as she surveys the area, “It’s incredible, really. Each morning, you can see the transformation as the mist clears; suddenly.”

Paddleboarding is a water sport in which participants stand on a large, stable board and use a paddle to move through the water. This sport combines elements of surfing and kayaking, and it can be done on various bodies of water, including oceans, lakes, and rivers.

A variety of waterfowl can be seen on the calm waters

Dave Roberts, a coach who has witnessed the explosive growth of water sports here. “When we started introducing paddleboarding sessions, I knew it would be popular, but the uptake has been phenomenal,” he explains, his voice animated with excitement. “People love the freedom, the connection with nature.”

Soon after I started my first attempt at paddle boarding under Dave’s tutelage, I stepped onto the board with one foot and proceeded to wobble from side to side like a circus bear performing acrobatics, unable to keep my balance and then falling into the water.

“Stepping on the water with your feet is completely different from stepping on the ground…” said Dave, “When you get used to the feeling, you’ll pass the beginner stage.”

Dave will patiently guide you from the shore

I carefully raise myself to a standing position, one foot at a time, keeping my feet where my knees were. Balance comes from keeping my feet parallel, about hip-width apart, and I always keep a slight bend in my knees to absorb any shifts in water. Finally, I stood up for the first time, and Dave and Debi cheered me on.

I hold the paddle with one hand on the top of the handle and the other a few feet down the shaft. I learned essential skills like the forward stroke, reverse stroke, and sweep stroke for turning. Managing to keep the board straight and controlling its direction were my first big wins.

The hardest bits of paddleboarding involve dealing with wind and waves. When the water isn’t flat, maintaining balance and controlling the board can be tough. It’s also challenging to keep going for a long time at first because it requires good core strength and stamina.

Despite these challenges, the most rewarding aspects of SUP are incredible. Gliding smoothly over the water early in the morning, when everything is peaceful, is just magical. It’s also incredibly rewarding to explore areas of lakes and coastlines that aren’t accessible by foot. Plus, it’s a fantastic full-body workout that improves balance, strength, and endurance