2016 Mountain activities
Stand-up paddle boarding, which involves moving along the water whilst stood on a large surf board using a paddle, is the most accessible of the new trendy watersports. Gentle and fun, it’s becoming more and more popular on mountain lakes.
Very popular on the French coast, stand-up paddle boarding, or SUP for those in the know, arrived in France in the mid-2000s in the wake of surf legend Laird Hamilton. For the last three summers, this Hawaiian ancestral sport has really started to catch on in the mountains, especially on lakes, where the calm waters are perfect for beginners of all ages. “It’s a very similar leisure activity to cycling”, explains Benoit Mouren, president of the first stand-up paddle club in Annecy, and organiser of the Alpine Lakes Tour (a promotional SUP tour on a dozen Alpine lakes). “Like cycling, stand-up paddle boarding is accessible to practically everyone, and is also excellent for fitness and health”.
Easy and good for the figure
Unlike other fashionable water sports such as kitesurfing and wakeboarding, paddle boarding is very easy to learn and when enjoyed as a leisure activity, doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion. "It takes no longer than about 30 minutes for a beginner to learn how to keep their balance on the board and use the paddle properly”, assures Gwendal Duchet, who manages the kayak section at the Lake Gérardmer water leisure centre, where SUP has been available for the over 7s for the last 2 summers. You can experience real watersports thrills in just an hour.
An outdoor sport carried out in the heart of nature, SUP combines quiet reflection with fitness. “It’s an all-round sport. Stood up on the board, you’re using your abdomen, back and thighs. It’s both a core-strengthening and cardio workout,” says Jean-Louis Monjo, manager of Tignes Development’s sports and leisure service. The Savoie resort has already been offering paddle boarding for 3 seasons at their watersports centre. “There’s a real passion for it. We used to have 4 boards available to hire when we started offering it. For our 4th summer season, we’re going to have 14!”.
Standing directly above the water, paddle riders have a 360° view of their surroundings. “Stood up, the bottom of the lake is much more visible than when seated. You see so much more aquatic plant life and wildlife than in a canoe, which is something else that makes SUP so enjoyable”, says Michel Delcor, who hires out boards and canoes at Lake Génos in Loudenvielle, near Peyragudes.
A very safe lake watersport
SUP can be challenging in white waters but it’s a very safe activity on lakes. The long, wide boards are very stable, as well as being unsinkable. Unlike at sea, on lakes there’s no problem with wind changing your direction or causing small watercraft to drift, as can happen on open water. "The only recommendations we make to our customers, all of whom are equipped with life jackets, is to pay attention to other people using the lake, notably swimmers, and of course, not to enter protected areas”, explains Gwendal Duchet.
The last but certainly not the least advantage of SUP in this age of tight budgets is its affordability. Expect to pay around 10€ an hour to hire a beginner’s board, 15€ for an accompanied group session and around 25€ for an individual lesson. Rates generally include wetsuit hire, which is essential in some high-altitude lakes where the temperature doesn’t reach higher than 10°c, even in the height of summer.
Where can you do it?
All summer long, on Serre-Ponçon Lake near Les Orres, in Tignes, at Lake Matemale near Les Angles, at the Mercus Garrabet watersports centre near Ax-les-Thermes, at Gérardmer, on Saint-Point Lake in Métabief, on Lake Génos, between Peyragudes and Superbagnères, and even in Annecy. In terms of events, at Lake Roselend in Arêches-Beaufort on the 16th and 17th of August, on Lake Léman in Sciez on the 30th of August, and in Artouste in the Pyrenees on the 24th of August as part of the Artouste Sup Mountain Xperience, the highest altitude SUP race in Europe!
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©Andy Parant/Tignes Développement