Stand up paddleboarding or SUP has recently seen a rise in popularity in Thailand. In fact, the number of people taking up the sport has increased three folds compared to previous years. What might be the reason behind its sudden popularity? EQ thinks it may have something to do with the sport’s uniqueness, the fact that you’re required to stand up on a floating board, and how it allows you to be among nature. While the appeal of SUP has definitely charmed the younger generation, 41-year-old Thanutkhan “Aom” Soonthonwong told us that she’s also discovering its many layers and found that challenging activities like SUP are not reserved only for teenagers.
Be Mentally Prepared
For most people, the first step before taking on any sport is to get over that initial fear. That fear increases when age enters the equation. A lot of people are afraid to try new things because they think that it might be too difficult. As someone who got into SUP later in the game, Aom told us that “Age has nothing to do with sports. The most important thing is to be prepared both mentally and physically. You want to see if your physical strength is up to the challenge of taking up a new sport. Will you be happier or getting stronger? Ask yourself these questions, but don’t get so carried away by fear that you miss out on the fun in life.”
Contrary to common perception, SUP is a sport accessible to pretty much everyone from kids to people in their 70s or 80s. It’s entirely safe because you’ll be wearing a life vest and a security leash while doing it. As for speed, it’s up to the participant to control how fast they want to go. Some people love a speedy ride while others prefer to go easy and take in the scenery along the way. The main thing is to conquer your fear and try not to freak out when you fall off the board. Even an absolute beginner can get paddling in only 15 minutes.
Aom got into SUP around four years ago, but she only just got back into it after an accident that led to her having to undergo a surgery. When her body began to recover, the first thing she wanted to do was getting back up on the board. After the first day back, she noticed that the swelling on her leg went down. Using her ankle to balance herself on the board was like a form physiotherapy that helped her heal faster.
Apart from the physical benefit, SUP is a great mental therapy. The sport helps you stay focused and relieve fatigue. Plus, the fact that it’s suitable for people of all ages also makes it a perfect bonding activity for families. And since there’s no engine involved, SUP creates no pollution which means that it’s also environmentally friendly.
When you’re doing something out of passion, you’re likely to thrive. Aom never thought that one day she’d become a brand ambassador for Starboard SUP and We SUP Thailand. “They saw my dedication to the sport and how much fun I had doing it,” she said. At the time, SUP was still very new in Thailand. Part of her job was to appear and promote the sport at events nationwide. People then started to become interested, which led to small contests and tournaments being organized. Aom herself competed both in those events as well as the ones abroad. After the sport was recognized by the Sports Authority of Thailand, she was chosen to represent the national team. Turning pro came as a change for her. She has to stay fit and maintain a training schedule that would prepare her for a rigorous 18-km event.
“I enjoyed every event that I entered because I always gave it my all. My goal is to do my best, not necessarily a medal. I mean, I’ve won some of those in my time, but it’s the experience that counts. I once had to paddle in the rainstorm with high waves and in the 10°C weather, it was fun and challenging. There’s a lot of events happening this year like KOH CHANG SUP RACE 2021, Bangsaen SUP Fun Fest 2021, and Laguna Thailand SUP Championship 2020. I plan to do them all.”
Talking about her future plans, Aom told us that she wanted to continue doing SUP until she couldn’t anymore. She wants to spread the joy and knowledge of SUP to the new generations and local communities. “I always take a SUP board with me wherever I go. I want to make sure that I use it for the good of society.”
More than a Sport
SUP is not restricted to only contests and leisure. The sport is also incorporated into a wide range of activities — cultural, educational or otherwise — such as a waterway cleanup campaign regularly organized by Starboard and Trash Hero Bangkok, robe offering to monks, sightseeing SUP trips where we learn about the environment and natural resources. There’s also SUP yoga, where you swap the yoga mat for the SUP board. It allows you to develop mindfulness and strengthen your core muscles, all among nature. Even those who can’t swim can rest assured that they will be safe as the board is secured to a buoy and they’ll be supervised by a team of professionals. If you’re interested in giving it a try, SUP can be enjoyed at Taco Lake, SUP Station Thailand, and LET'S SUP BUDDY in Sattahip, with more locations soon to follow.
Words of Wisdom
“Sports make us stronger. They open us up to new experiences, allowing us to make new friends and be in a new environment. Taking care of our bodies and health through sports is great for people of all ages. It helps me deal with health issues like when I had an accident and a thyroid issue. It's a good therapy for both body and mind."