Stand Up Paddleboarding was something I had promised myself I would master during my trip to Southeast Asia, but I had no idea how prevalent it would be out here or whereabouts I would find it. Little did I know it would be in the backwaters of sleepy Kampot that I would find a professional and fun school, solely dedicated to the sport and to help the local community.
SUP is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world right now due to its accessibility, its flexibility and its fun. Part of its wide appeal is that it can be anything from a wave-crashing adrenaline rush to a serene meander around a still lake; where you paddle is up to you and it means you don’t need to live near the sea to get started. Beginners don’t need to spend hours mastering the basics either; learning to stand on a starter board is surprisingly easy and you may even avoid a dunking altogether if you follow your instructor’s advice and are good at maintaining your balance. Balance is the name of the game here, which means that SUP provides a good core workout as you shift your weight, as well as toning your legs as you move around.
Anne Pizey set up SUP Asia to provide an authentic cultural experience on the river, with low impact on the environment while supporting the local economy. A portion of her proceeds goes to providing environmental education and recreational therapy to Cambodian youth through paddle boarding, which is really an original social enterprise model for the area. The school somehow fits perfectly in its location on the river north of Kampot and was an easy enough cycle out of town. At one point I thought I may have gone too far and so mimed paddling to a Khmer lady on the side of the road, who grinned and pointed onwards saying ‘Annie is that way!’ – Clearly she is a much-loved part of the community.
SUP Asia offers a smorgasbord of customizable trips for you to choose from and will be happy to accommodate whatever it is that you fancy involving in your experience. The Kampot river offers stunning scenery and a tranquil route through the area – you can see mangroves, mountains, villages and floating gardens along the way and outings can range from a 2-hour starter trip for $20 to an overnight stay on an island for $160. If you are staying with Annie or nearby, you can now even wake up to an invigorating yoga and fitness class out on the boards with an expert instructor, which will help you to feel centred and balanced for the rest of the day.
Whether you spend a morning zipping through the mangroves at pace or end the day floating on your board and watching the sunset, a visit to SUP Asia will definitely leave you feeling inspired to pursue the sport as a way of exploring a community in other places you visit along the way.
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