I had never tried Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP). Being from the West Coast of Canada, I had always seen cool people doing it, and thought, “I can stand. I can paddle. I could do that”. But like many niche pursuits that I’m just generally not cool enough to do, I never got my act together to figure out the logistics of renting the gear and getting out on the water.
But when I started looking at Curacao tours, I saw that there is a Curacao Stand Up Paddle boarding company, SUP Curacao, which gave beginners tours… SOLD! They would instruct me on the art of SUP, supply the gear AND tour me around a neat part of the island? Is there a better deal than this?
Curacao excursions are aplenty to be sure, but not many of them involve getting a tan and trying a new adventure sport at the same time. So for my first time, I tried out stand-up paddle boarding in Curacao and was very glad I did!
Oh and I made my friends Jeremy and Mark come too!
Paddle Boarding in Curacao
Curacao is a decently big island, for a small island state that is. This means that Curacao is more than just beaches and reefs, but that it also has some fantastic sights inland too. The Spanish Waters lagoon is in the Eastern part of Curacao and is where the SUP Curacao office is. And when I say office, I mean gear sheds.
Due to some development restrictions, the office can’t build actual buildings. So, ladies… use the facilities before you leave your hotel or else you will be referred to either the ocean or the bushes.
I chose the bushes. So did the iguanas.
Spanish Waters Tour, SUP Curacao
Jeremy, Mark and I were picked up by Derek; a super cute Curacao native who is passionate about the water and the island. He explained where we were going and what our tour was going to be like, since naturally I had asked very few questions before getting my friends and me into this. We trusted Derek.
Upon arrival at the office, we slathered on sunscreen (standing on a paddle board provides very little shade), bought some super awesome sunglass straps (we bought matching ones and decided they would be our new friendship bracelets. We wore them the rest of the time in Curacao), and listened to the instructional demo on paddling techniques from our tour leaders Jar and Stan.
Three paddling techniques: one to go straight, one to turn, and one to turn quickly.
Ok, I think I can remember that. Though… I was reminded of the last time someone tried to teach me basic paddling techniques and how that canoe ended up at the bottom of the River of Golden Dreams. Onwards!
Fresh with sunglass straps and paddle skills, we all (me, the boys, and about 8 Dutch women) all hopped onto a yellow motor boat that had been bought for cheap at a police auction (she had a drug trafficky kind of youth!), and took the quick trip to the far Eastern end of Spanish Waters lagoon.
My First Time Paddle Boarding in the Caribbean
Once we arrived at the starting point, near Table Mountain, we each climbed out of the boat and onto one of the paddle boards that were all lined up and tied together.
And I found out how shaky my legs are. So shaky. Like airplane turbulence, but on a 3-foot wide board atop water.
The first boards in the line were supposedly wider and more stable, so I subtly got myself onto one of those. Know your limits kids.
Kneeling on the board during my first time paddle boarding, I regretted not doing more stability yoga. I also made bets with myself to how fast I would be sliding off the side of this board.
After everyone was on his or her paddle boards, Jar instructed us to unclip from each other, stand up, and start practicing those paddling techniques.
In my case, I mainly focused on standing. Without shaking.
Mark floated away, supposedly he was practicing the turn technique too much, while Jeremy cruised around even more gracefully than he is normally. I shook. And I do not have thin, nubile legs, so my shaking sleds standing on a floating vessel make for a wake in and of themselves.
After a few minutes of practice, wherein my legs did stop shaking quite so much, we all made to follow Jar along the edge of the mangroves.
Jar told us all about mangroves, how they actually drink the salt water and have their own filtration system, which I’m guessing make them fairly resilient to climate change! Fish use the mangroves as homes and places to lay their eggs. All of those roots make for easy escape routes when bigger fishies come along hunting.
Table Mountain, Curacao
Curacao’s Table Mountain is a striking island landmark, and while unoriginally named, it is apt in its description. Apparently the look of Table Mountain has changed and diminished due to a major rock quarry and mining of the mountain. So it’s more like Nightstand Mountain now.
As we paddled along the edges of the mangroves gazing up at Table Mountain, we took breaks to jump in and out of the water to cool off while giving our feet a break. Jeremy, Mark, and I all found our feet getting pretty stiff, using those stability muscles whose jobs are so often outsourced to shoes on firm ground.
I had gotten my sea legs by this point and was feeling pretty impressive, but let’s be real, if I could have had someone drag me while I laid sunbathing on the board, I would have been thrilled! I may do very active things and be fit, but if I can be lazy… I will be.
We each took turns paddling in and out of a few nooks in the mangroves to get even closer look at the trees and spot more fish in the water. The sun was blazing down on us the whole time (hence the true need for sunscreen) so we all took a solid break and refreshed with some water and snacks before the paddle board back to the office.
Paddle Boarding Spanish Waters in Curacao
Luckily, the wind in Curacao is often going in the right direction to push us paddle boarders in the correct way for the return trip! We cruised across the lagoon and into the office, landing on the beach and being caught by Jar and Stan.
One final group shot back on dry land wrapped up our tour of the Spanish Waters and we were so glad that we did it. I loved my intro to stand-up paddle boarding and definitely would love to do it again, though preferably with more awkward friends than Jeremy and Mark. Then I’ll be the graceful one!
The stand-up paddle board tour of Spanish Waters was a really cool outdoors activity in Curacao! Totally different than your typical Caribbean island day trip, we took in more of the island than just the beaches and we got to glide around on boards on top of water.
I could add a biblical reference, but I won’t.
Plus, I look super cool rocking the paddle board! As you can see…
Where to Stay in Curacao
There are a ton of different great places to stay in Curacao, but obviously most of us want to stay right on one of those perfect Curacao beaches! We stayed at the Avila Beach Resort, a beautiful beach front resort in Curacao, that is well beyond my typical price range. But because I was with Jeremy and Mark, who are big time fancy hotel guys, and we just got a cot for me in the living room, I went for it!
The Avila Beach Resort is one of many places to stay on the southern end of Curacao. Most of the hotels in this area, all within easy walking distance to many amazing restaurants, and about 15 minutes walk to downtown Willemstad, are boutique style as opposed to all-inclusives.
Luckily for us budget types, there are some pretty great hostels in Curacao, like the Bed and Bike Curacao located an easy walk from downtown and to all those wicked restaurants. The First Curacao Hostel is further from the beach, but does have a gorgeous pool that will easily do that job!
Things to Know about Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Curacao
Wear sunscreen, tons of it. A hat wouldn’t hurt.
I wore a bikini and shorts. The boys wore just swim trunks. Some of the other ladies were wearing thigh-length beach cover-ups. Wear whatever can get wet and that you can move in.
Buy the sunglasses straps. Not only will you look like David Hasselhoff, but you won’t lose your sunnies!
It is for days like this that waterproof cameras are the best, hence the vast amount of pictures of Jeremy and Mark topless. If you don’t have a waterproof camera, the tour guides take pictures and then send you the zip file and Facebook album link later that afternoon.
The Spanish Waters tour is excellent for beginner paddle boarders. SUP Curacao also offers ocean paddle boarding tours and rentals for those who know what they’re doing. And presumably have less shaky legs.
Again, there are no toilets at SUP Curacao as of October 2016. ‘Go’ before you go.
This really is an all abilities activity. There is no pressure, and the guides are there for you 100%. My Mom and Dad could totally do this tour, and they’re like, super old. 🙂
Huge thank you to SUP Curacao for putting on such a great day tour. Jeremy, Mark and I all had a great time and we were really psyched we had torn ourselves from the beach loungers to “be active”! I will definitely be looking for more paddle boarding shops when I travel, now that I’m a seasoned pro and all!
Have you been stand up paddle boarding? Did you fall in?
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