What SUP?

Paddleboarding at Manly’s Q station is the perfect holiday activity.

Photography by WIll Salkeld Photography

08 December 2022


“It’s the only sport I’ve ever come across that you can try for the first time and master on the same day,” announces paddleboarding instructor George to our group of never-evers gathered for a lesson on Manly Q Station’s Quarantine Beach.

Given George is also an executive with the world’s leading inflatable paddleboard company Red Paddle Co, it’s a brave call to make to mostly rank beginners. But all of us are eager to see if he is right.

What’s more, we get to do so on Red Paddle Co’s latest 2023 boards. Ours is the 10’ 6” long model from the company’s Ride range, described on the website as offering “the ideal combination of stability, manoeuvrability, and tracking.. the perfect board for anyone to jump on and learn how to paddle.”

Sounds good.

On a glorious blue-sky morning, George quickly runs through the basics of how to launch into the water, stand on and ride a paddleboard.


We will be aiming to paddle only a short way to the crystal-clear cove adjacent left Quarantine Beach. It’s an idyllic little pocket sheltered from the main part of Sydney Harbour by a rocky headland. The only thing that looks like it may challenge our bid to master this sport in one day is a strong morning breeze that is sending the occasional set of ripples through the glassy smooth cove.

Paddleboards are generally far longer and wider than the average surfboards. For someone who has never seen one up close, it can look intimidating to handle. But the Red models prove to be lighter than they look and surprisingly easy to lift and carry thanks to sturdy carry handles affixed to the middle of the boards.

We pop the leg ropes around our ankles, grab our paddles and boards, march en masse across the sand, and are soon on our knees floating in the sea.

Red Paddle Co’s managing director James is already in the water in front of us to reiterate the basics and demonstrate paddleboarding 101 techniques: how to hold the paddle and how to use it to propel you forward, not around in circles. Then we’re away.

The boards move surprisingly fast and within moments we are all in the protected cove. As promised, the boards feel solid, not rocky, and one by one we hop to our feet and paddle around with remarkable ease. George’s bold claim looks to be coming true.

But there are a few tricks for newcomers: I end up falling in the water after venturing too far into the harbour where the swell tips my board enough to push me off balance. Even so, the board is so wide and stable I easily clamber back on, hop up and get going again in seconds. By the end of our almost half-hour session, there’s no doubt everyone feels quite comfortable and confident on a paddleboard, and George is vindicated.

After experiencing the stability and ease of Red Paddle Co’s boards, it is easy to understand why the company sells more inflatable paddleboards than any other in the world, with outlets in more than 50 countries.

The night prior to our introduction to paddleboarding, we hear the story behind Red Paddle Co’s pioneering creation over a lavish dinner prepared by the Q Station’s upscale Boilerhouse Restaurant. The company started in the UK in 2008, when its founders tasked themselves with making an inflatable alternative to hard paddleboards. They were determined to make the sport more accessible to the broader market – namely those put off by the challenge of storing as well as transporting a hard 10-foot-plus long paddleboard.

“The number one goal became to make an inflatable board that performed like a hard board,” George explains. At the same time, Red Paddle Co’s pioneers wanted a board that could be inflated with a pump in under 10 minutes, and when deflated be about the size of a large backpack.

“The boards also had to be safe and up to paddling hundreds of kilometres,” George says. “That’s why we have the world’s most rigorous testing procedures – 10 times the industry average.

“Our boards are also ultra-durable and can withstand extremes of heat and cold. Red SUPs have even been paddled in the Antarctic.”

In 2016 Red kicked off an accessories line featuring all manner of handy items and gadgets as well as waterproof gear, from valuables cases to backpacks, bags and coats.

Red Paddle Co’s 2023 range of paddleboards is now available.



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