Paddle-boarding in Linlithgow

Reporter Gavin Campbell out on the water with Emma Hepplewhite, being shown the basic techniques for stand-up paddleboarding
Reporter Gavin Campbell out on the water with Emma Hepplewhite, being shown the basic techniques for stand-up paddleboarding

Stand up paddle-boarding is sailing its way to Scotland and I was invited to give it a go in Linlithgow.

In October, Emma Hepplewhite (35) and her husband Duncan (36) launched their website paddlefast.co.uk hoping to anchor themselves down as the leading voice on Britain’s fastest growing watersport.

Emma Hepplewhite showing all the equipment her website has on offer, including paddles, boards and pumps

Emma Hepplewhite showing all the equipment her website has on offer, including paddles, boards and pumps

Emma said: “When a supplier told us they had seen 70 per cent growth in SUP sales south of the border we saw a golden opportunity to become the go-to supplier based in Scotland.”

On sale are a variety of boards from the Red Paddle Co SURF STAR, for beginners like me, to the BIC SUP Air board for people who are far more skilled, fast and brave.

The company held an open day in the canal next to the Park Bistro in Linlithgow and I was invited to test out some of the equipment.

I had no idea what to expect, except maybe falling in the water!

Before setting sail, Emma went through the important health and safety aspects of the sport.

She explained to me how vital the leash, a velcro ankle attachment, is in keeping you safe out on the water. Emma said: “No matter the conditions, calm or choppy, this should always be worn. It keeps you attached to the board if you fall off and these boards are more buoyant than life jackets.”

With the safety talk over, I took my first venture onto the water.

A bit shaky, but following instructions I knelt down on the centre of the board, one knee either side of the handle, as I slowly drifted out to the centre of the canal thanks to a push off the dock from Emma.

She said: “Move your weight from side to side to test how stable the board actually is.”
I did so and was surprised at how little it shifted. Feeling a little bit more confident I slowly stood up and began paddling gently up the canal.

My early expectations of myself to be resembling Bambi on ice were wiped out very quickly as it is not as difficult as many people may think it is to stay on your feet.

Pretty soon I was strolling up the water able to enjoy the fantastic scenery on display.

Having found my sea legs and confidence I moved up a board to the race board, a faster more advanced piece of kit.

Soon I was swooshing my way down the river and realised that I was far too warm in all my layers.

It may not look like it but paddle-boarding is a lot of work. Your arms are constantly moving while your legs are firmly planted on the board, using muscles you never knew existed.

Returning to land, Emma showed me the ins and outs of the boards. I was surprised to discover they were simply pumped up full of air. Emma demonstrated how simple it is to pump up a board and that it takes no time at all to deflate, meaning the boards can be easily stored in the house and do not take up a lot of room when travelling.

Emma said: “It is that easy. The board is so simple to look after but do not be fooled, even though it is just air inside them they are incredibly tough and durable.”

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent paddle-boarding and believe that Scotland is the perfect place for a sport like this to really take off.

More information is available at paddlefast.co.uk and scottishcanals.co.uk.