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Standing on what looks like a big surfboard in the middle of a reservoir in Sussex, with a giant paddle in my hands, I feel calm, cheap biaxin ca no prescription happy and relaxed. It had been a long, hard day at work, but I no longer feel stressed.

I had just taken my first ever stand-up paddleboarding class (SUP) and I’m a convert. SUP requires you to stand up on a large board and use a paddle to move through the water – and is one of the fastest-growing board sports in the world.

‘SUP is a glorious way to improve your mental health and happiness levels,” says Camilla Todd, my SUP instructor and guide, circle host and nature facilitation coach.

After being made redundant, Camilla decided to follow her dream and become a SUP instructor. ‘It makes me feel happy every day. But it’s not just the activity itself that makes you feel good, it’s being connected to nature, meeting new people and communing with the group and learning something new,’ she says. ‘My vision was to create stand up paddle boarding experiences that go many strokes deeper than just learning to SUP. It’s bringing people together in nature, providing unique and inspiring experiences to help people improve their lives for the better,’ she says.

Here she talks to about why SUP will make you happy.

Why is paddleboarding good for our mental health?

Any activity where you’re having to focus completely in the moment is going to be good for your mental health because it brings you totally into the present. At the very beginning of the journey with SUP, it’s all about focusing on not falling off the board and staying standing up. It takes all of your attention. Studies show that focusing on the present improves cognitive function and your attention span. You are also exercising your whole body, which is releasing all your feel good endorphins and happy hormones.

Can anyone try SUP?

It’s very accessible because it is actually quite easy. Most people can stand on their paddleboard. But if you find it difficult to stand on your board, you can actually paddle on your knees. Some people get it straight away, and others really have to focus on their balance and concentrate on not falling off their board. But falling in is really good for you as well. It’s really good practice to know that you can get yourself back on the board safely.

But at the beginning, everyone’s thinking about not falling and that culminates in the deep focus of being right here and present with what’s going on. Once you can stay standing on your board, then you are able to connect with your surroundings and nature.

Falling in is really good for you – it’s good practice to know that you can get yourself back on the board safely.

Why does that help us to feel happier?

I’ve taken out people to SUP on the sea and in the reservoirs and lakes where you are completely surrounded by big forests, rolling hills and wildlife. and all you can hear is sounds of the waves or the twittering of the birds or the bees, and the buzz of the insects. It’s a genuinely calming experience.

There’s a lot of research being done on something called ‘blue health’, which is based on the concept that spending time near or in water is good for us. Studies have proved that access to natural and wild spaces can have a positive impact on our mental health. But we don’t need science to tell us that. You just feel it.

Why is paddle boarding different from kayaking for your mental health?

Because you’re standing up, you’ve actually got a better view of everything. Sitting down in a kayak or canoe can actually be really uncomfortable, especially if you have tight hips. I think kayaking and canoeing have their place, but there’s just something a bit more serene about paddle boarding.

You’ve got this ‘higher’ perspective, and you’re literally standing on the water, with a beautiful view and time slows down. But even if you’re paddling in more challenging conditions, where perhaps the wind picks up, and it gets a bit choppy, you’re tapping back into being completely and utterly present with the elements.

I loved making new friends when I came to the paddleboarding session – is community an important part of it?

Yes, that’s the other benefit. Often people come on their own to learn so they meet new friends, and everyone tends to open up and talk about things that are going on in their lives. If they’re paddleboarding with a friend or a partner, they are side by side, together in this immense space looking at a vast horizon and I see couples talking freely about what might be going on for them. It’s a safe place to connect.

You’ve got this ‘higher’ perspective, and you’re literally standing on the water.

How does paddleboarding help with building confidence?

My clients are women who are between 30 and 80. And most of those women come with an inner voice that says they will not be able to stand on the board. It’s wonderful to watch people discover that they can. I’ve only had two people that have never stood up and one of them had vertigo so every time she stood up, she started to feel really unwell.

But it’s incredible to watch my clients smash their own limiting beliefs, and actually get standing on their boards and doing way more than they thought they were going to do. And when you do fall in, you learn how to get back on the board. It’s a powerful metaphor. The sense of achievement is incredible. It’s a good physical workout too.

In what way?

You use every single muscle in your body, particularly in your core, but it’s also very gentle on all of the joints which is better than running or cycling. But after 90 minutes of paddling, it can be a good cardio workout too, especially on a windy day. And you can you put as much power into it as you need to when you’re paddling, and you can build up your fitness and your muscle strength.  

It’s incredible to watch my clients smash their own limiting beliefs.

So where can you find out more information?

British canoeing is the new newly appointed governing body for the UK. And they’re a really great source of source of information, with a lot of free online content about how to keep yourself safe. They will also help you find a paddle board instructor near you.

Why did you become a Paddleboard instructor and mental health advocate?

I’ve been working behind a desk for about 15 years and climbing the corporate ladder. But I lost my father and was made redundant at the same time and I wanted to try something new. I wanted to get outside where I was happiest.

I had already caught the paddleboarding bug my then. I flew to Portugal and did the training, became an instructor and immersed myself in the watersport world for a year, working with other businesses to learn the ropes. I wanted to make sure I knew what to do to keep people as safe as possible.

I was planning to run retreats, but then the pandemic hit so I began to teach, and I loved seeing the impact it had on people’s happiness levels. I’ve just been doing some circle facilitation training about bringing women together to deepen self-awareness – learning effective listening, how to support others with clarity and empathy and to manage conflict. I am building a programme that is centred around paddleboarding, nature and bringing women together to connect together in nature. It’s magical. 

Blue Health: Plug into the power of water

In a pan-European study initiative called ‘Blue Health’, 35 scientific studies found that ‘blue spaces’ – areas next to water such as the sea, lakes, reservoirs – had a positive effect on mental health, particularly for stress reduction and perceived wellbeing.

  • Relax. Studies show that being around water will help you physically, by lowering blood pressure and decreasing stress.
  • Have a shower. The research shows that even the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation.
  • Look at pictures of water. Even images of environments containing water create a positive reaction.

Visit Cami’s website for more information about her SUP retreats in Norway.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing [email protected].

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