Who makes up the SUPxscape team and which areas do each of you cover?
A good question. Although I am at the forefront of SUPxscape it is actually a partnership with myself and Sally Brown and we work jointly on most of our projects together. We are both ASI SUP instructors and share the teaching of clients between us. Back in the office we both have very different roles. Sally is great on the marketing side of things, working on new packages and dealing with enquiries, whilst I tend to take care of new business ventures, equipment and product sales.
How did you both get into SUP; you’ve been involved since the beginning more or less?
Well I’m not sure we can claim that we have been involved right from the beginning but we have certainly put in the hours since 2009. We first saw SUP through all the usual channels on the internet and magazines but it wasn’t until we arrived here in Portugal that we first stood on a board with paddle in hand.
Where did you start paddling and what are your favourite UK spots?
We first started paddling here in Portugal at a place called Baleal in 2009. Back in the UK I surfed and windsurfed at Pagham, the Witterings, Hayling and KBay – North Devon and Cornwall for surf. I SUPed at Bracklesham last winter and actually scored good surf but it was cold. Sally’s interest in watersports literally first started with SUP, which makes her a great ambassador for introducing others to the sport. She has also gone on to start up SUP Divas UK which is a Facebook page dedicated to women paddlers. It’s starting to bring lots of ladies together and get them enthusiastic about SUP and getting out on the water.
How did you find out about the area you’re based and what makes it so special?
Google! And the search term Sally used was ‘cheap property surf’. Joking aside we’d spent many years looking for the perfect spot, starting in New Zealand and working backwards. When we came here it ticked all boxes and we instantly knew it was where we wanted to be. The surf here is world class.
Any plans to expand to other areas of Portugal (or other countries)?
We’re always looking at ways to expand and geography is always on our radar. I’m now a SUP training manager with the Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI) and SUPxscape is the instructor training centre here. We’re concentrating hard on this side of the business with off water facilities and a shop coming soon.
Is SUP a big sport in Portugal and what do the locals think of a bunch of sweepers turning up at their breaks?
SUP in Portugal is still in its infancy although we are seeing steady growth year on year, however, compared to surfing, stand up paddleboarding is an expensive sport and with the quality of waves here many people will go down the surf route. We avoid the busier areas mostly and are discovering new spots that are more suited to SUP surf than prone surfing.
Why should stand up paddlers visit Portugal for a spot of SUP?
Great weather, easy access and amazing scenery plus good value for money.
Do you ever run into issues with operating as a UK business in a foreign country?
We’re actually a Portuguese company – Adventure Begin LDA – which is equivalent to a UK LTD company. It’s really the only way to legally operate in Portugal with the required licences, insurances and the mountains of paperwork. It’s not easy setting up a new business in a foreign country but we have had great support from various partners here who have smoothed the way.
What’s the flat water paddling potential like?
Coastal wise, and locally, depends on the time of year but there are many amazing paddles within a short drive. We also have the Obidos Lagoon on our doorstep which is a great flat water location where a lot of our lessons and clinics take place.
Do you have many river routes or inland SUP areas or is it all about the coast?
Yes we have plenty of both and we are always looking at new and interesting routes and places to SUP as the surf isn’t for everyone. Last year we paddled the 220km length of the Rio Tejo from the Spanish border to the Lisbon Estuary. We had a small team and camped along the way and on average SUPed 40-50km a day. It was the first time anyone had ever paddled this on a SUP and I think we can safely say that we know every inch of it now!
Stand up paddle travel is still a very niche area, and yet SUPxscape seem to attract large numbers of SUPers every year – what’s your secret?
Simple business model really. We love SUP, we love introducing people to SUP, we love SUPing with others and we are a 100% only SUP Company.
What type of guests do you get visiting – hard core SUP surfers, long distance tourers, recreational paddlers or a complete mix?
A complete mix from first timers to guys who want to get barrelled and now we have seasoned SUPers coming to us to complete their instructor training and take up the sport professionally.
Have you made any changes or added anything extra to the SUPxscape product for the coming 2014 season?
Becoming a training centre for the ASI is the biggest addition this year but we are also working on some interesting downwinding and distance paddling that will come online once everything is checked, double checked and then checked some more.
We’ve had an unprecedented big wave season in Northern Europe and Portugal has taken a battering. Describe what it’s like looking down on the big wave spot of Nazare from the cliffs above.
It’s just unreal and so consistently massive. Seeing the guys out there getting towed in is spectacular but the risk factor is huge as there is just so much water moving about. We were watching from the lighthouse with the guys from Irish SUP Dublin the day Maya drowned and had to be resuscitated on the beach (Google this – Ed). We have seen first hand how dangerous it can be.
Ever tempted to get out there yourself?
Nope! The ride length is where it’s at for me not the height. Ten foot is pretty much big enough as getting hurt isn’t an option.
What does the SUPxscape crew do for holidays? Where do you escape to?
Our holidays are usually travelling around Portugal SUPing new areas but this year we are taking a week out to get married in Gibraltar and have some chill time in Tarifa. We’re also both snowboarders and the Pyrenees are only an eight hour drive from here so in the winter we have one eye on the snow reports.
Sum up the SUPxscape experience in three words.
SUP, sardines and Superbock!
Any final shout outs, thanks or mentions?
Tania Nesbitt and Will Anido from the Academy of Surfing Instructors John Hibbard @ Tushingham UK Adam Stiling @ Stylo Sports for supplying us with ZRE paddles Xavi Masde @ Coreban Boards Paul @ Irish SUP Dublin Chris and Stacey from Central SUP Rik Garratt @ Whasup.co.uk And all the clients, suppliers, friends and family who have believed in what we do.