Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Qatar
Qatar is blessed with good weather for the majority of each year, and, while for some sports, the heat during the summer months can be too hot for outside activities, the myriad of water sports offered by the country do not suffer the same fate. Indeed, of Qatar’s perimeter, only 60 km is a land border, and the rest (563 km) is coastal, providing plenty of opportunities for water-based activities. In addition, the types of watery terrain along the coast, shallow waters, deep waters, bays, mangrove forests and an inland sea provide ideal settings for exploring, learning, and trying out specific water sports skills. One popular water sport in Qatar that benefits from the climate and coastal topography, and is relatively new to the scene, is Stand-Up Paddleboarding, also known as SUP.
What is Stand-Up Paddleboarding?
If you don't know already, SUPing is the sport by which SUPers propel themselves across bodies of water using a paddle while standing on a board similar to a surfboard. However, while SUP boards may have origins tied to surfing (as well as traditional paddle boarding and kayaking), they are much more versatile. SUPs can be used to surf, though by using the paddle as the main component of the board's manoeuvrability, but they can also be used to navigate just about any body of water, from coastal beaches (flat or surf zones), bays and estuaries to inland waterways, lakes, rivers and canals. Plus, SUPs can be used in various ways, including flat-water paddling, adventuring, touring, racing, surfing, whitewater rafting, yoga, and fishing.
The only equipment you need for SUPing is a board, a paddle and a leash used to attach you to the board. SUP boards are lightweight, long boards (between 10-12 ft) that are relatively wide (approx. 30 inches), though advanced SUPers usually use longer-length, slimmer boards. The paddle, similar to, but longer than, traditional canoe paddles, consists of a handle, shaft and blade and is generally taller than the user. While most paddle boards are made from fibreglass and epoxy resin layers over hollow wood or foam cores, or carbon fibre for high-end boards, and paddles can be constructed from plastic, aluminium, fibreglass, carbon fibre, and wood, these days, you can purchase inflatable PVC paddle boards. These bits of kit fit into a backpack, making access to the sport a whole lot easier! But that's not the only benefit of SUPing…
The Benefits of Stand-Up Paddleboarding
While paddleboarding, as a means of moving oneself across a body of water, is not a new concept (paddleboarding has been recorded in many forms for thousands of years), in its modern-day format, Stand-Up Paddleboarding has been swiftly gathering popularity since the early 2000s. Why? Because of the many benefits of this type of water sport, including:
- SUPing is a great full-body workout, improving core strength, balance and cardio fitness.
- The sport is super accessible; you can take a SUP board on practically any body of water (providing you are sensible and heed water safety warnings) and use the board in various ways, from surfing to touring.
- SUPing has a steep learning curve. In fact, it is said that you can learn the basics in a day.
- SUPing is open to everyone; it's relatively easy and safe. As a low-impact sport, it is also suitable for older generations, especially those who surf or have injuries preventing them from participating in higher-impact sports.
- Like many sports, SUPing is a great way to get outdoors into the fresh air.
- Once you have invested the initial outlay for equipment, SUPing is an affordable sport.
- And SUPing is immensely popular and so, highly sociable.
With so many benefits, it is worth giving this fast-growing sport a go…
Where to Stand-Up Paddleboard in Qatar?
As one of the most rapidly growing sports in the world currently, it will come as no surprise that SUPing is as popular in Qatar as elsewhere. But where to try it out? As we mentioned earlier, you can take your SUP board practically anywhere. But, if you're new to the sport and have yet to buy equipment, we recommend heading out with a professional body in the first instance. Try these water sports schools and adventure companies as a starting point:
Blue Pearl Experience
The Blue Pearl Experience, opened in 2012, is an outdoor activities centre for adventure, watersports, and outdoor education. With its HQ at The Pearl's marina, Blue Pearl is ideally located to offer SUP sessions. The flat water around the marina, protected from the wind by Porto Arabia's residential towers, is the perfect place for beginners to learn the basics. Plus, the marina offers easy access to open waters around Katara, West Bay, and Safliya Island for intermediate and advanced SUPers.
The Blue Pearl offers beginners SUP sessions and SUP Level 2 programmes for intermediates and advanced paddlers who want to improve their skills. Generally, sessions are 60 minutes in length. However, 90-minute sessions are also offered for SUPers who wish to relax and cruise the waters around Katara and West Bay. And, if you are looking for something more long-distance, the trip to Safliya Island is 150 minutes for a 9 km round-trip. The outdoor adventure group also facilitates SUP cruises at sunrise, sunset and nighttime, as well as SUP Yoga sessions and ladies-only programmes.
Fees for SUP lessons and cruises range from QAR 150 to QAR 250 (long-distance) and include equipment hire, including board, paddle and life jacket, and changing facilities. The Blue Pearl follows strict British Safety Standards, and its instructors are trained according to those standards. The group also offers various additional activities to adventurous souls, including wing surfing, kite surfing, foiling, kayaking, fat biking and surf skating.
Location: Marina Gate 22, Porto Arabia, The Pearl - Doha
Location Map: Blue Pearl Experience
Nearest Metro: Legtaifiya Metro Station on the Red Line
(use the Metrolink shuttle bus to reach Porto Arabia from the station)
Contact: +974 6660 2830
Email: [email protected]
Aqua Sports Qatar
Aqua Sports Qatar offers kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding tours in Doha and along Qatar's north-eastern coastline at Purple Island at Al Khor and Al Thakhira. At Purple Island, the piece-de-resistance is the group's heritage eco-camp. The waterside camp is arranged like a typical Bedouin campsite, with Sadu woven tents and a Majlis set around a campfire. The site also incorporates WC and shower facilities and a viewing deck with immense views across the mangroves, a particular delight at sunset and sunrise. The Aqua Sports team recommends spending an hour or two at the camp, pre or post-Purple Island SUP tour to maximise your session.
SUPing sessions in Doha launch from the Museum of Islamic Art and cruise around the protected Dhow Harbour, making these sessions safe and easy for all. Tours around the mangroves start at the Purple Island camp and Al Thakhira beach and offer a fantastic view of the mangrove ecosystem and the various birds and sea life residing there at different times of the year.
Kayaking and SUPing tours are available with Aqua Sports morning, noon and night all year round. Every tour begins with a safety briefing and paddling instruction and is conducted by experienced guides and lifeguards. Each tour package includes paddle equipment and a life vest. SUPing around MIA and Dhow Harbour with an instructor costs QAR 220 per 60 minutes; board hire only costs QAR 100 for 30 minutes. Heading further afield to the mangroves, packages start from QAR 240 per two-hour session - some packages include a BBQ meal at the Purple Island camp.
Location: MIA Park, Al Corniche, Doha
Purple Island Eco Camp, Al Khor
Location Map: Aquasports- MIA Park Doha
Nearest Metro: MIA Park - Souq Waqif Metro Station on the Gold Line
Purple Island - N/A
Contact: +974 3319 4445
Email: [email protected]
365 Adventures is a tour company offering organised tours, experiences and adventures throughout Qatar. The tour group's packages range from cultural and heritage excursions, including museum, mosque and souq walking tours, majlis experiences and Dhow cruises, to luxury programmes on yachts and high-end eateries, and sports and adventure tours, including desert activities, such as camping, dune bashing and monster bus tours, camel racing, horse racing, fishing, speed boating, scuba diving, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
SUPing experiences with 365 Adventures generally kick off from The Pearl. However, the group also offers kayaking and SUPing tours of Qatar's mangrove forests on the north-east coast at Purple Island, Al Khor and Al Thakhira. Excursions from The Pearl are generally for beginners, though Full Moon tours are offered for mixed levels of an evening. Tours are usually 90 minutes long, including briefing and training.
SUP experiences cost QAR 180 for tours starting at The Pearl and QAR 240 for sessions through the mangroves. All tours include appropriate equipment, briefings, training, insurance and water.
Location: HQ @ Al Aaliya Street, Doha
Location Map: 365 Adventures - Qatar
Nearest Metro: Souq Waqif Metro Station on the Gold Line
Contact: +974 3339 3323
Email: [email protected]
Out on the water in the sunlight, you not only soak up direct rays, but also the reflected beams. So, remember to take a sun hat and slather on the SPF. Taking a bottle of water to keep hydrated is also well worth doing!
If you want to get involved in Qatar’s SUP community, check out the SUP Qatar Facebook page. The group shares information on SUP trips and excursions in Qatar and further afield, useful information regarding SUP paddling routes along Qatar’s coast, practical SUPing tips, and information about SUP races and competitions. The group also advertises SUP boards, equipment and apparel for sale.
Main image: Songaboutsummer/Shutterstock.com
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