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With summer on the horizon, and longer warmer days ahead, we caught up with Jordan from Active Adventures NI for his expert advice on everything Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) related. Here's what he says...

Originating in the 18th century as a method for Polynesian tribes to travel between islands, SUPing has evolved into a multi-faceted sport with tons of applications from yoga to whitewater rapids, as well as a great way to stay active and become more connected to the water which has for so long been an integral part of Northern Ireland's history and folklore.

At Active Adventures NI we love it so much, we’ve pulled together a bit of information for those looking to get started and spread the stoke!

Getting the right board

There are so many boards to choose from that the SUP market might seem like a daunting place to start so we’ll boil it down to 2 main categories - rigid boards and inflatable boards. Rigid boards come in many different types and are generally a little more specialised to their intended use for example surfing, racing and touring and whilst they are fantastic pieces of kit, for the casual SUP enthusiast they can be expensive and take up lots of space. Travelling with a rigid board can be difficult if you don't have a large vehicle or roof rack so the costs can mount up but once you’ve found your niche in the paddleboarding world, rigid boards are definitely something worth looking at to progress.

Inflatable boards are a great introduction into SUP as they are versatile, stable and easily transportable as they back down into a rucksack type bag. Don't let the term ‘inflatable’ fool you - quality inflatables are really robust with quality brands making their products out of at least 2 layers of ‘hypalon’ - the same material used for whitewater rafts. Most kits will come with everything you need - board, adjustable paddle, fins, leash, patch kits, pump and travel bag. It’s worth noting that the price of SUP boards can seem high, but as with everything, cheaper versions are available but generally end up in the landfill before long. If you're not sure which board is right for you, try booking onto a guided session with the guys at Active Adventures NI and they can point you in the right direction with various makes and models to try.

Essential Equipment

Some additional pieces of kit are essential to keep you safe and have you exploring with confidence.  

  •  A wetsuit will provide warmth and buoyancy as it is likely that during your first few outings you may spend a considerable amount of time in the water - don't let the idyllic scenery fool you - even in summer the water can be baltic. A quality wetsuit will enable you to paddle for longer and greatly improve your enjoyment.
  • Footwear is something to consider also - bare feet allow you to feel the board a little more but it's worth considering the type of terrain you'll be navigating to and from the water, the temperature and anything below the surface which you might stand on. Neoprene booties have a semi rigid sole and are made of wetsuit material so they provide warmth and protection but old trainers are fine too.
  • Buoyancy aids are incredibly important especially for beginners and those who don't swim regularly. Nobody likes to think about the worst case scenario when starting a new sport but should something happen you’ll be glad of it. They save countless lives every year and come in a range of bright colours so that you can be spotted easily when on the water. 
  • Helmets are worth considering when starting out - some environments can have shallow spots, rocks, narrow channels and a fall at the wrong time could turn nasty. When starting out it is best to avoid these places and stick to calm, well sheltered and obstacle-free environments - if it looks like it hurts, it probably does!
  • Dry bag - these waterproof bags come in hundreds of shapes and sizes and do exactly what you’d expect - keeping all of your bits and bobs dry and can be clipped to your board or worn on your back. They are great for storing phones, water, sunscreen, small first aid kits and extra clothing.

There are tons of additional extras that are great to take with you on longer trips in more remote areas or more challenging environments but it's best to speak to a qualified or experienced SUPer for more information. Active Adventures NI can help with this!

Knowledge and technique

As with any sport, the more you know, the greater your potential. Paddleboarding involves a range of skills and techniques that are best demonstrated by a professional coach to get the most out of your newfound hobby. These techniques are best practiced in well sheltered, flatwater environments until you are confident in pushing your boundaries for example loughs, harbours or sheltered beaches with lifeguard supervision. Similarly, knowledge of your environment can be the key to connecting more deeply with your surroundings and also crucial in keeping you safe. When going out for the first time it is important that you are with someone experienced and in an area well suited to your abilities. Researching wind, tides, currents and weather conditions can be daunting but are absolutely essential in keeping safe and having a good experience. Active Adventures NI have a fantastic beginners SUP course which teaches a comprehensive curriculum designed for those looking to start out covering paddle techniques, rescue techniques, environmental factors, emergency procedures and equipment needed to become a proficient SUPer. For more details visit


Northern Ireland has almost limitless locations to explore using your paddleboard. Here are some of Active Adaventure NI's favourites.

Ballintoy Harbour: Located on the historic Antrim coast, Ballintoy Harbour has some of the most stunning scenery with views of Rathlin Island, Sheep Island, Elephant Rock and on a clear day you can even spot the Mull of Kintyre in neighbouring Scotland. It is not unusual to spot dolphins, seals and many varieties of coastal birds. The unique rock formations scattered off the coast can make for slightly more technical paddling but when the conditions are right, it is truly magnificent.

Lough Neagh: The UK’s largest freshwater lake is heaven for beginners or those looking for a relaxing easy paddle. Wildlife is abundant and includes eels, blue herron and otters. There are many access points to the lough depending on where you are located but we recommend Craigavon for its toilet facilities, easy parking and the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre and Nature Reserve and Antrim Lough Shore Park where parking, toilet and changing facilities and plenty of options for a post SUP bite are right on hand as well as a WW2 torpedo tower and views of Antrim Castle Gardens.

Strangford Lough: County Down is home to one of the most diverse waterways in Northern Ireland - a haven of bays, inlets, islands and ancient monastic sites as well as an abundance of marine life including seals, dolphins, porpoises and the occasional orca(!). So much to explore and many access points in the various towns either side of the strangford peninsula you’ll never run out of new features to explorer - a word of caution - the name ‘Strangford’ comes from the old Norse ‘Strong Fjord’ which hints at the strong currents and often changing conditions on the lough so its best to do some research before heading out.

Narrow Water / Carlingford Lough: Starting on the Newry river you can paddle past Narrow Water Keep, a 16th century tower house whilst testing your skills in moving water. Float down river as it empties into the majestic Carlingford Lough with its lush forestry environment and views of the Mourne Mountains. From here you can pick and choose where to have a picnic in - you'll be spoilt for choice!  And there's an abundance of forest parks nearby to visit including nearby forests and parks like Kilbroney Park, Tollymore Forest Park, Castlewellan Forest Park and Slieve Gullion Forest Park

Castlewellan Forest Park: Staying in County Down, here you can hire a board from local providers, or bring your own at no additional cost to Castlewellan Forest Park (a nominal car parking fee applies). You can glide across the magnificent lake and enjoy a leisurely paddle on sheltered waters. It's a different experience to the open ocean! But as always, do check the weather conditions before setting out. Your SUP experience will be set against the beautiful leafy backdrop of Castlewellan Forest. It's a truly stunning location, so make sure to grab a few pictures too.

South Lakes Leisure Centre, Craigavon: Over in County Armagh is another beautiful SUP location, the Craigavon Lakes. You can either hire a board from the local South Lakes Leisure Centre, or bring your own. If you're bringing your own, for a small fee, you can get access to the changing and showering facilities in the centre.  There's also a cafe in the centre too so you can refuel after a beautiful morning of paddling, before heading off to enjoy the nearby shopping centre, walking trails, or stay the night at Ballydougan Pottery Courtyard Cottages.

County Fermanagh: As it's known as the lakelands, it is no surprise that Fermanagh offers an abundance of water activities including stand-up paddle boarding.  Check out the Share Discovery Village, Erne Paddlers, Castle Archdale Boat Hire and Blue Green Yonder to get you started at a variety of locations across the county including Lough Erne Resort, Lisnaskea and around the waters of the island town, Enniskillen.  Check in advance with the suppliers to find out what they provide as part of your SUP package.  Some may provide wetsuit hire and paddle board as part of your experience, but it is best to check ahead to make sure.  And Fermanagh offers a lot more than water-based activities to enjoy – why not check out some of the three National Trust properties there – Castle Coole, Crom Estate or Florence Court.

County Londonderry: More experienced paddlers might enjoy going down the River Foyle as it goes right through the city, below three dramatic bridges.  If you're lucky enough to be on the water at sunset you are in for a treat with the impressive views.  Care needs to be taken with the strength of the currents flowing thorough the city so do speak to your experienced provider beforehand.

Alternatively lessons are available on the River Roe at Swann's Bridge where you get to learn the basics and techniques on the flat water.  Trails are available for all standards and all levels, but minimum ages apply.

These are just a few of Active Adventure NI's favourites but our wee country is brimming with many more magnificent spots to test your SUPing skills, so get out there and get exploring!

Intrigued? Check out the full list of Stand-Up Paddleboarding providers in Northern Ireland >>>

As with all water activities, we recommend you follow safety advice and enjoy stand-up paddleboarding safely. Visit the RNLI website for tips and advice relating to stand-up paddleboarding.