Recently I took a couple weeks off the Canadian winter to not only explore another part of the world altogether, but did so in a completely different way from my skis. I ventured into the islands of El Nido on SUP.
El Nido is a busy beachside town on the island province of Palawan in the Philippines. It's a few decades behind the overdeveloped resorts found in popular holiday destinations like Thailand and Mexico, but El Nido still has it's fair share of tourists climbing aboard boats to explore nearby islands and beaches. But after trying all the usual methods available in town, I found the best way to explore these hidden locales is with a stand up paddleboard (SUP).
Exploring one of the thousands of beautiful island bays in the Phillipine islands
Pass the SUP
There's a few reasons why SUPs have the advantage of over traditional water craft like kayaks and canoes. The biggest is the vantage point. By standing (not sitting) on your board you have an extra five to six feet of height which gives a better view of the surrounding landscape, perfect for taking photos.
You also have your own portable deck, ideal for sunbathing or diving from when in need of a cool plunge. Suiting up for snorkeling is easy with a comfortable bench to sit on. With a quality dry bag you can also bring food, water extra clothing and your non-waterproof camera without worrying about the board tipping over. If you have the skill, you can even surf on a SUP.
Freedom of movement and an excellent vantage. Lagoon exploring on SUP
A big attraction of the islands around El Nido are the lagoons. These bodies of shallow salt water are home to thousands of species of marine life, and reflect a beautiful array of blue-green colours. These lagoons are frequented by tour boats, but only at high tide when they can pass through the shallow waters. Time your visit at low tide and you can whisk past all the boats at the entrance to a quiet corner of the island. If it's jellyfish season, you also have a safe haven to retreat to if you happen to come across a swath of stingers.
SUPs make great air mattresses when camping overnight
And great food serving tables!
Bringing your own equipment to explore El Nido on SUP is possible (and even somewhat practical) with an inflatable board. But with airlines becoming more and more stringent on excess baggage fees it's probably easiest to rent boards as part of a guided tour. SUPxplore operates in El Nido during the high season (December to March) and have access to boat support. That means the hard work of paddling between the islands over choppy seas is taken care of and you have all the energy you need to paddle at each destination.
Just another sunset in El Nido
SUPs are not just for beach destinations, either. British Columbians enjoy paddling their boards over lakes, down rivers and even through white water rapids. The versatility and utility of inflatable SUPs are unmatched by other water craft, but different SUPs are shaped and built for various applications. We'll be publishing a buyer's guide to SUPs in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for the latest in technology for 2016.
Keepdreaming of those summer vibes!