The list of reasons why West Sussex is the ideal place to learn stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is as long as the county’s beautiful coastline. The passionate and welcoming local paddleboarding community put the variety of SUP-friendly spots to good use all year round. Join them for a serene paddle along the canal, a river trip via the pub, or ride the waves with other paddleboard surfers. Or do all three!
Thanks to recent innovations such as top-quality inflatable boards that don’t compromise on toughness, it’s never been easier to learn stand-up paddleboarding. The world’s fastest growing sport is relatively simple to get the hang of and you won’t need loads of practice before you’re able to set out on your own, but it’s definitely worth having a lesson or two to kick things off.
West Sussex’s waters are home to heaps of excellent paddleboarding schools, each ready and waiting to help guide you on a learning journey from getting started safely to sharpening specific skills further down the line.
In your first SUP session, expect to learn all about the equipment, how to stand up, basic paddling and turning techniques, as well as safety tips. Depending on where your lesson takes place, you could also cover tides, currents, bad weather and the differences between river, lake and sea paddling.
As well as their expertise, your school will fix you up with all the equipment you need, including a board, paddle, leash and buoyancy aid. Some will also include a wetsuit as standard, whilst others offer it as an optional extra, giving you the choice of wearing your own or going without if the weather is warm. Where necessary, your school will also sort out a license to paddle.
Choose from a range of SUP sessions that steer you along the path from beginner to paddleboarding pro. If you’re just starting out, look for introduction to SUP sessions, whilst more experienced paddleboarders can join longer tours. As you start to discover what floats your boat in the SUP world, you might want to have a go at the various paddleboarding disciplines, such as paddleboard racing (on a longer, thinner, faster board) and paddleboard surfing (like surfing but with a paddle).
Most of these sessions are available as private/bespoke lessons, scheduled group classes, or private group experiences with games and waterside pubs that make them perfect fodder for families, groups of friends and hen or stag parties. Some instructors even do SUP yoga, or you could mix paddleboarding into a longer day or weekend of outdoor activities.
Whatever approach you choose, your paddleboarding instructor will adapt each lesson and location to suit your needs, the weather and the tides. Think of your teacher as a direct line into the local paddleboarding community and pick their brains for upcoming SUP events that you could join, as well as the best places to go paddleboarding in West Sussex.
There’s a paddleboarding location in West Sussex for every ability – and weather. West Sussex’s varied shoreline presents opportunities for a calm paddle, an adrenaline-fuelled paddleboard surf and everything in between.
The sheltered Chichester Ship Canal is the perfect spot for beginners to get to grips with the sport. Experienced paddlers often head here when they need a reliable all-weather option, or simply to soak up the canal’s tranquil scenery and wildlife. It’s usually calm, even when the wind is whipping up waves at sea. However, Bracklesham and East Wittering are both good for wave paddleboarding if there is some swell about, while West Wittering’s sandy beach, minimal shore break and tidal pools tend to draw first-timers.
The beaches along Worthing host several hire centres – and the town’s Purple Award-winning nightlife make it a great base for a weekend break. Littlehampton’s mile-long gently shelving beach is another popular spot, as are the beaches just along the coast at busier Bognor Regis and Felpham (top tip: bag a beach-front table at Felpham’s Lobster Pot café for a post-paddle cup of coffee or glass of wine).
River paddling is a whole other wonderful world of SUP. Tidal rivers can make a journey through West Sussex’s beautiful countryside a breeze – if you time it right. Do be careful though, an understanding of tidal flow and currents is essential, meaning lower river paddles are usually territory for more experienced paddlers. Many SUP schools run river trips, often stopping at a pub along the way, so try building your confidence on one of these. Pub paddles and SUP tours are a novel way to get up close to the wildlife in the maze of watery channels in Chichester Harbour AONB.
The lower River Arun has one of the strongest tides in the UK, and a paddle from Littlehampton inland to Arundel rewards you with views of spectacular Arundel Castle and the South Downs. The upper stretch from Arundel through the Arundel Wetland Centre to finish at the Riverside Tea Rooms in Amberley is just as charming.
The River Adur has some prime paddleboarding spots too, from its mouth at Shoreham to a beautiful (and convenient) stretch with seasonal SUP hire and a school next to a pop-up campsite.