It’s good to have some active friends around you. You know, the kind that get ideas and then head out to just make them happen. This was exactly the case last week when my friend Karl was visiting from Wales and my flatmate Heli had the afternoon off. Me and Karl didn’t really have any touristy ideas for the afternoon, we decided to follow Heli’s lead and try out Stand Up Paddleboarding in Helsinki!
It was the first time for all of us, but we’d all wanted to try it for quite some time. What better place to do it than Helsinki? The city’s surrounded by the sea and all sorts of waterways, so there are plenty of places for watersports and beach activities.
Since we live quite close to the city centre, we started by looking up the nearest SUP rentals and ended up trying our luck with the closest one: the Hakuna Matata SUP Rental in Töölönlahti. Their SUP rental spot is located right behind Finlandiatalo, so it’s pretty easy to find and very close to things like Kiasma, Kamppi and Lasipalatsi.
To be honest, I was hesitant all the way there: I’m not a fan of falling into waters that I’m not familiar with (because fishes and weeds touching my legs ewwww!!!!) so I considered staying on solid ground while the two more active people went supping.
But when I saw the wide boards and the happy colors of the rental booth, I decided to just go for it. Surely I’d survive a little plunge into the cool waters, right? Or maybe I’d actually manage to stay on top of the board. I felt hopeful and brave.
(Besides, the two cute Hakuna Matata staff members were friendly, encouraging and helpful, which made me just a tiny bit less worried about getting on the board and in the water.)
After asking a few basic questions about outfits and all, we took a few minutes to change into proper SUPping gear, which for me basically meant just taking my shoes off. Barefeet, a t-shirt, a light windbreaker jacket and (longish) shorts were just fine. We left our bags and other things for safekeeping, but I brought along my phone in a waterproof pouch that the rental place provided free of charge.
The SUP board rental itself cost 15€ for the first hour. For 25€ one gets two hours and from there on extra hours cost 5€ each.
It was a pretty windy day, but the guys assured us we’d be find if we just followed their instructions. They weren’t that complicated: stand in the middle to keep the balance, use the paddle in a certain (easy) way, get down on your knees if you need to fix your position and remember to attach the safety cord to your ankle. All pretty easy to learn and to remember.
After a few minutes of listening to instructions and the Hakuna Matata dudes showing us the ropes, we were gently pushed away from the safety of the shore and towards the windy waters of Töölönlahti.
We paddled along the shore for a little bit and although I felt unsure and wobbly, it was going pretty ok… until the wind picked up speed and hit us just before we were about to cross the narrow waterway on the other side of the bridge, close to Tokoinranta and Hakaniemi.
My board started floating towards the bridge and some of the dark corners underneath it. Heli’s too. We both struggled a bit, trying to get away from places we really didn’t want to end up in (a bed of long reeds, ropes tied to the bridge pillars and other super scary stuff).
We survived by kneeling down to catch less wind with our bodies, in the end, but I decided to just stick to “sitting down paddling” from thereon. The soles of my feet were starting to hurt anyway — I’m guessing due to nervous tension — and I was sitting pretty comfortably in the middle of the board, so eh? Who needs to SUP when you can SDP!
It was pretty smooth sailing after that: we managed to get to the other side of the bridge, paddled along the shores, enjoyed the scenery and stopped for a little break when we felt like it.
After a little floating about enjoying the calmness of Hakaniemi, we decided to just head back to the beach and keep our first SUPping experience a short one. We saw some pretty dark grey skies approaching, so we hurried back to safety without lingering too much.
Good thing we did, too: by the time we reached a nearby lunch restaurant, it started raining aggressively. It felt like the skies of Helsinki opened up and poured out all the extra water they’d been storing for days.
In conclusion: SUPping is fun and you can easily do it sitting down if you’re nervous about keeping your balance. We’ve already talked about going again and taking Satu with us, but I think I’ll need a few more hours of practice before I’m willing to face the summer storms of Finland while on the water…
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