Stand-Up Paddleboarding, or SUP for short, has been growing in popularity over the last few years, and in Japan some small pockets of watersport lovers are catching on. I got to try out this new sport last weekend with a small crew of Yokkaichi SUP enthusiasts.
SUP is almost like a cross between surfing and kayaking. You essentially stand on a large, wide surfboard, but instead of relying on waves to get around, you have a paddle. The use of a paddle gives SUP more versatility than other sports, such as surfing or windsurfing, because you are not subject to the whim of waves, wind or tidal conditions. No wind, no waves, no problem!
Everyone is surprised when I tell I went to the beach in Yokkaichi. “You mean Suzuka, right?” They say, referring to the next city south with a semi-decent beach. Yokkaichi is a port city, and thus its shores have been conquered almost in entirety by factories and concrete. Almost, except for a small inlet on the edge of a quiet coastal neighbourhood in southern Yokkaichi, where the government had the concrete cleared and a soft sandy beach cultivated to replace it.
It was here, at Isozu Beach, that I met a group of local watersports enthusiasts, SUPers as well as a sizeable contingent of windsurfers, to clean the beach before hitting the water. The group regularly gets together to clean the beach, raking up the debris the tide brought in and picking up the trash and spent fireworks that less responsible beach users left behind. After we cleaned the local neighbourhood leader came by to thank us for our volunteer service. I was happy to be able to do something to give back!
Finally we hit the water to SUP it up. Thankfully I wasn’t a complete rookie: I tried SUP once last year so I already had the hang of it, and so I wasn’t dumping myself into the ocean every 10 seconds. One guy who was trying it for the first time was a surfer, so he picked it up pretty quick, but I still saw him bail on numerous occasions. The youngest SUPer there was a two year old boy in a tiny lifejacket, whose dad took him for a few spins. The second youngest was this super cute little girl, who was at first terrified of the water, but simultaneously fascinated… we broke her in over the course of the morning.
There was no wind so the windsurfers just hung out on shore watching us have a blast without them. Some of them tried to get going, but without enough wind to catch their sails, they just ended up amusing everyone with their antics. I spent a couple hours on the water, intermittently, until I was too tired to stand. I went home in the afternoon happy, sandy and – as I later discovered – terribly sunburned on the tops of my feet. All the signs of a good day at the beach!