Canal pleasures – SUP touring Venice

Words & pics: Mark Rose

Is Venice the most romantic city in the world, or a SUPers paradise? Grab your paddle and a partner to find out which. Mark Rose did and this is what he discovered.

Venice is made up of 118 islands, surrounded by 26 miles of canals. To access the numerous islands there are over 400 bridges, or you can use the water taxis – vaporetto’s and traghetto’s. Venice has over 1000 hotels and restaurants – this is the romantic part.

Whilst I am the first person to sing the praises of how SUPs open up our world just think about this before you show up and blow up in Venice. Would you arrive in Germany, not speaking any German, with your skateboard under your arm thinking this is a nice piece of tarmac only to find you are on an autobahn in the fast lane going the wrong way? The Grand Canal in Venice is the equivalent of the German autobahn, full of waterborne traffic all traveling at different speeds in different lanes from buses (vaporetto’s ), lorries (barges), taxis (gondolas), police launches, ambulances, fire boats and so on. The Grand Canal unless you are very very lucky is not a SUPers paradise. It can be a maelstrom of random waves and swells. If you fancy a Bellini at Harry’s Bar you are already in the equivalent of the cocktail shaker SUPing on the Grand Canal, it is not one of the easiest of paddles.

Do not worry though as help is at hand in the shape of Eliana Argine who is the founder of SUP in Venice. She can be reached on or via her website  Eliana is also the organiser of SURFIN’VENICE. Eliana will guide you through Venice’s numerous rules for waterborne craft and make your SUP experience one that you will never forget.

Swimming is totally forbidden in the canals so no jumping in, no step back turns and no bare chests. T-shirts and rash vests are OK. SUP rentals are NOT allowed in Venice, you have to be on a guided excursion.

On the water everyone keeps to the lefthand side. All water users call out to other craft on their intentions on approaching junctions. Gondolas are fast, silent and expensive to ding. €40,000 buys you a nice gondola in case you feel like trading in your SUP?

I emailed Eliana and planned a SUP tour with her around Venice. I also asked if we could tweak the trip to include the new installation art that had just been erected in the Grand Canal until November. Two gigantic arms rising out of the water apparently supporting the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. The art is designed by Lorenzo Quinn showing Venice’s possible fate with rising sea levels. Eliana agreed to my request and we could stop for a small beer on the way back too. If you look at Eliana’s reviews on Trip Advisor she has 92 reviews, all excellent – and it certainly is.

We met her at: Fondamenta Contarini 3535. Location 30121 Venezia, which is in the northern part of Venice. Her door only has a small calling card on it, as in Venice she is not allowed to put up flags or banners to identify the building. The best way to find her is locate the Madonna dell’ Orto Church and her door is 30m to the right (looking at the church).

She has a good range of SUPs to play on, a place to change and leave any valuables. After the safety briefing it was time to hit the water. It really is a great way to see Venice plus having a running commentary from Eliana on some of the landmarks and history that we paddled past. At all the junctions of the canals you have to listen out for other craft calling out, plus Eliana calling out our intentions. I did not expect when paddling in the narrow canals that some would be very still and flat yet in the next canal you would be suddenly zooming along with the current.

The Grand Canal is as I described above, fantastic but a bit of a challenge especially when you hear the sirens of an ambulance and then see the 1 metre wave it’s kicking out. Photos were taken of the giant arms by the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel then as promised a cool beer en route back. Eliana also took a camera and will email you the photos on your return. It really was a brilliant SUP experience and I would recommend Eliana and SUPing in Venice to anyone. She can cater for all levels from beginners to full time SUPers. So as I read somewhere else: plan it, book it, live it!








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