| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Paddleboarding in Dubai

We make a splash with Surf Shop Dubai and Puma

© ITP Images

The conditions are perfect when Time Out Kids and our four willing volunteers hit the free beach next to Burj Al Arab for our paddleboarding session with Surf Shop Dubai. We’re here ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race, which is taking place from December 30 to January 14 on the Abu Dhabi corniche: as well as the arrival of the yachts and crews from one of the world’s toughest sea races, there’s a fun packed programme at the specially-built Destination Village, that all the family can enjoy, from yacht simulators, movies and story telling sessions, to free paddleboarding classes, courtesy of Puma and Surf Shop Dubai.

Our volunteers, Megan, 14, and Megna, 15, and Bethan, 12, and Maddy, 11, don rash vests as the surf shop’s Mohammed Rahma Ali and Carl De Villiers collect consent forms and run through the basics on the beach.

‘With beginners we start by explaining about safety on the beach and in the sea,’ explains Mohammed, the Emirati co-owner of Surf Shop Dubai who is taking today’s lesson. ‘The first thing we ask is if they can swim, because it’s obviously really important that they are safe in the water. We then explain a little bit about how the current and the rip works, just to give them a proper understanding about how to stay safe while they’re having fun.’ He goes on to instruct the girls on how to keep their distance from other paddleboarders and swimmers, and how to deal with different conditions in the water. Class sizes are small, with a maximum of six kids per coach depending on their skill level, and Surf Shop Dubai teaches paddleboarding to kids from the age of five all the way up to adults (they’re particularly popular with mums, apparently), as long as they are competent swimmers.

‘Unlike other watersports such as surfing, paddleboarding is really easygoing, great for chilling out – it’s not about the adrenaline so much,’ says Mohammed. ‘But it’s great for days when the water is really flat, and people get so into it. It’s fantastic for overall fitness, and strengthening your core. Paddleboarding took off so quickly in the UAE, it’s especially popular in Dubai because there aren’t that many waves and the sea is generally fairly flat.’

After practicing the basic paddling moves on the sand, and the correct way to balance on the board, the girls set off – looking like they’d been doing it for years (and showing up a class of novice adult paddleboarders who are wobbling around and falling into the water further along the shoreline). Skimming across the water, they paddle in formation, following Mohammed’s instructions to the letter, watched by some very impressed mums and dads back on the beach.

When they arrive back on the beach half an hour or so later, they are brimming with enthusiasm – not to mention starving. ‘It was so much fun,’ says Megna. ‘Once you get used to standing on the board, it’s not that difficult. Mohammed showed us how to turn and keep our balance. I’d definitely do it again.’

‘When you get up on the board it’s fine, but you have to keep your feet in the correct position to stay on the board and not fall off,’ agrees Megan.

Puma is holding free paddleboarding sessions daily between January 1 and 14, between 11am and 5pm at the Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village at Abu Dhabi Corniche. Lessons are on a first-come, first-served basis, kids should wear normal swimming attire (rash vests will be provided), and Puma will be providing lifejackets. All small children must be accompanied by a parent.
To find out more about paddle-boarding lessons in Dubai, visit www.surfshopdubai.com.

Time Out Dubai,

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