Paddleboarding in Dorset

Paddle Boarding

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Stand up paddle boarding (abbreviated to SUP and sometimes known as Stand up paddle surfing) originates from Hawaii but has become very popular in Dorset in recent years. SUP can be done out in the waves in various locations off the Dorset coast. Dorset’s sheltered harbours at Poole, Portland and Christchurch are great for flat water SUP while more exposed locations such as Bournemouth and Weymouth can offer more waves.  There are three local SUP clubs in Dorset and plenty of places to hire your paddle and board and get some tuition.

What is SUP and what do I need?

SUP is similar to surfing except you use a canoe type paddle to move through the water whilst standing on a big surf board. The longer board and paddle mean that you can catch waves a lot earlier than traditional surfers and, because you are standing up on the board, you get to enjoy more views of the beautiful Dorset coast while you’re having fun in the water.

Basic equipment includes a board and paddle but it is also essential that attached yourself to your board with a leash that is the same length as your board. Having a leash prevents you from losing your board and it hitting another sea users and it keeps you afloat if you get into difficulties on the water.

When is the best time to do it?

Paddleboarding in Dorset can be done all year round on the Dorset coast because having the paddle means you can have a good time when there is good surf and also when the water is flat. Always check the weather, tides and currents on iCoast map and remember during winter months the water is colder, winds stronger, there are rougher seas and less hours of daylight. iCoast has a great water sports weather forecast and links to webcams along the Dorset coast which makes it easy for you see when and where you will be able to get the best conditions for SUP.


Planning Your Trip

What to look out for

The Dorset coast is a water sports hotspot but it is also fantastic for seeing wildlife such as seabirds and seals, and dolphins in their natural environment and to see the spectacular geology along the Jurassic Coast. The waters can get busy, especially close to amenity beaches, so it is important to respect wildlife, other users and the environment while out on the water.

  • The Dorset coast has many areas that are important for wildlife and birds.  These areas have restrictions at certain times of the year to help to protect the wildlife.  On iCoast please turn on the restricted areas icon to show these areas when planning your activity. 
  • If near wildlife don’t linger for too long – by all means look, but then move on.
  • Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to RSPCA 0300 1234 999
Watch out for other users

Some SUP spots in Dorset are also popular beaches for swimmers, kite surfers, wind surfers, surfers, jet skiers and more. To make sure that everyone enjoys their time on the Dorset coast please:

  • Do not SUP between the red and yellow flags– these indicate the safest areas to swim, bodyboard and use inflatables. These areas are not for Stand up paddle boarding.
  • SUP between the black and white flags– These areas are for surfboards, stand up paddleboards, kayaks, and other non-powered craft. This means that the lifeguards can still keep a safe eye on you and there shouldn’t be any swimmers in this area. Find out which beaches have surf lifeguards on iCoast map.
  • Respect other Stand up paddle boarders and surfers– If on a stand up paddle board out in the surf  then there is likely to be surfers in the same area so you need to follow surf etiquette: You also need to:
    • Consider that SUP’s allow you to catch waves a lot earlier than surfers can, so don’t steal all the waves in crowded areas.
    • Consider that surfers cannot see as much as you because they are down at water level so be responsible, use your height advantage to watch out for other sea users and help avoid collisions.
    • Always wear a leash to prevent you from losing your board and it hitting another sea users. 
    • Be considerate of other beach users especially when carrying your board to and from the water.
Watch out for the environment
  • Take home all rubbish – do not discard rubbish at sea or on the beach. Marine and beach litter spoils peoples experience of the Dorset coast, can harm marine wildlife and can disrupt commercial industries such as by litter getting tangled up in fishermen’s nets. Find out more about marine litter in Dorset.

Staying Safe

  • Wherever possible, always SUP at a lifeguarded beach and follow the advice of the lifeguards.
  • Always wear your leash and if you get into trouble never abandon your board – it will keep you afloat.
  • Keep in touch with someone on the shore– Always tell somebody responsible where you are going and when you will be back. They will be able to raise the alarm by calling 999 and asking for the Coastguard if they get worried and you are not back on time
  • Follow the advice above on how to respect other users – this will help avoid any collisions
  • Check your board for damage before use
  • Know your limits – do not get in the water in conditions above your limits
  • Check the weather and tides and be aware of local hazards – Learn to interpret tide tables and weather forecasts
  • Be sun smart
    • Always wear SPF factor 30 and above waterproof sun cream. Reapply frequently
    • Drink plenty of fluids as you dehydrate faster while exercising
    • Consider taking a rest and seeking shade during the hottest part of the day
  • Look out for rip currents– You can spot a rip current by looking out for:
    • discoloured, brown water (caused by sand being stirred up from the seabed)
    • foam on the water’s surface
    • debris floating out to sea
    • a rippled patch of sea, when the water around is generally calm

For more information about how to stay safe when stand up paddle boarding follow this link.

If you are caught in a rip or strong current, obey the three Rs:

  • Relax– Stay calm and float. Do not swim against the current, swim across it.
  • Raise– Raise an arm to signal for help. If possible shout to shore for help.
  • Rescue– Float and wait for assistance. Do not panic, people drown in rips because they panic. Obey directions from the lifeguard.
    • Never SUP without a signalling or communication device
    • Avoid going out alone
    • Never paddle in offshore winds without safety boat cover


Help, I’ve been stung!
  • Weever-fish – If you feel a sharp scratch on your foot while in the water that becomes more painful you may have stood on a weever-fish. Don’t panic but find a lifeguard for treatment. If there’s no lifeguard, place the affected area in water as hot as is comfortable. Test the water first so you don’t cause scalding.
  • Jellyfish – Do not rub a jellyfish sting, as this will cause the pain to intensify. Lightly spray the area with seawater and apply a cold compress if available.

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