Frequently Asked Questions

We hope to answer most of your SUP related questions here.

What should I wear?

Please dress for the weather. If it’s chilly we’ll provide wetsuits and splash jackets. Wetsuits are optional during the summer and you’ll probably overheat wearing one. We recommend bringing quick drying clothing and advise avoiding cotton and jeans that are cold and uncomfortable when wet.

Do you provide wetsuits

Yes, we have a stock of excellent brand new wetsuits and wind proof jackets that we use through the winter months and on chilly days. If you catch cold easily you may want to wear one but for most of the summer they’re optional.

Do you wear buoyancy aids?

For stand up paddleboarding, common practise is to be attached to your board with a leash at all times. The board is your buoyancy aid, as with surfing. If you find yourself in the water, then you are still attached to a giant floating object, which will be by your side ready for you to hop back onto.

Buoyancy aids are optional for over 18s when out on an SUP but we do ask people who are not confident swimmers to wear one for extra water confidence.

Do I need to be able to swim

Stand up paddleboarding is a water sport and all we ask is that you’d be comfortable if you were to take a dip. You’ll be attached to your board by a leash at all times so you don’t need to be a champion swimmer. We’ll check if you’re a confident in water before we set off and ask you to wear a buoyancy aid if you’re unsure. Our rescue trained instructors will be on hand to help you get back onto the board if you’re struggling.

Are there changing rooms?

Yes, we have changing rooms on site and a secure place to store valuables whilst we’re on the water.

Where can I leave my stuff?

Valuables will be locked away securely while we’re on the water.

What happens if I fall in?

The beauty of stand up paddleboarding is that you just climb back on again! We’ll go through this before we get on the water for the first time too. You’ll be attached to your board by a leash so just pull the board towards yourself and clamber back on.

Can I paddle if I’m pregnant?

It’s up to you – just let us know before hand so we can put you in a buoyancy aid for extra reassurance. We can also offer you a larger board if you feel like you’re going to be a little wobbly. You’re welcome to spend as much time on your knees as you like before standing up, or indeed spend the whole session on your knees.

We’ve taken plenty of pregnant ladies paddling, all of whom have loved it. If you’re unsure why not give us a call on 07434 807 408 or check out this blog about stand up paddleboaring and pregnancy.

Do you hire boards?

Yes, we can hire boards out for longer trips away. More information here. We don’t currently hire on Bristol harbour. It’s a busy stretch of water and as the smallest craft on the water we give way to everyone. Until you’re confident paddling on the harbour we ask that you join an organised group. Once you’ve done a taster session or harbourside adventure you’re welcome to join any of our regular SUP sessions.

Is the water clean?

If you’ve grown up in Bristol you’ll have heard tales of the water quality being terrible. Things have changed!

Bristol Triathlon Club run their annual triathon here and every weekend sees hundreds of kids taking to the water in all manner of craft for a dunking.

The water we paddle in is predominantly fresh water from the River Avon. The Floating Harbour is not a designated European Bathing Water (like beaches are) and water quality varies, particularly after heavy rain. We check the water quality prior to every session and would cancel the session if water quality didn’t meet our standards. As with all river  water, it is advisable to:
  • always cover exposed cuts and wounds with a water proof dressing.
  • it is inadvisable to ingest the water
  • it is good practice not to ingest food or drink with wet hands. We recommend washing your hands prior to eating.

Bristol Council have published this week’s water quality results on their site and fans of graphs and tables will love the government’s water quality data (updated weekly and dating back to ’94).

What if it’s raining

We go out in all weathers. The only reason we’d call a session off is in severe winds or thunder storm. Some of our best sessions have been in the rain and we provide waterproof jackets and wetsuits if required.

Is there a weight limit?

We have a variety of boards for different sized paddlers and aim to be as inclusive as possible. We’ve found larger people can struggle to stand up straight away but you’re also welcome to stay on your knees as long as you like.

Having said this, our boards have a maximum rider weight of 120 kg. If you weigh over this you may still be able to take part but we’d suggest booking onto a private session first, and contacting us first so we can make sure our larger boards are available.

Email us if you’re really worried but we think you’ll be fine!

Do we wear shoes to paddle in?

We like to paddle barefoot and think you will too. You’re welcome to wear shoes if you’d like to though and we wear shoes at all times whist on the river bank.

How many people can you take?

We can take a maximum of 20 people in one session.

What are your staff ratios?

Our normal ratio is 1:8.

How do I book a group session?

Simply book online. If you’d like to discuss a bespoke session please get in touch and we can put together a quote for you.

What if I can’t make it?

If you can’t attend the session you’ve booked and give us plenty of warning we’ll make every effort to accommodate you on a future session. Because we book freelance instructors for every session we can’t refund or reschedule you if you can’t make it and don’t let us know. Deposits for group bookings are non-refundable.

 

Do you accept cash on the day

No, we only accept card or PayPal payment in advance through our website. For group bookings we can also accept BACS payment. Group bookings are confirmed on receipt of deposit.

Where should we meet?

Our usual meeting place is the Cottage Inn, Baltic Wharf, Cumberland Road, Bristol BS1 6XG. We’ll meet you by the slipway and you’ll probably see a row of paddleboards. We’re a 30 minute walk from the city centre or a short ferry journey.

What should I bring with me?

Please bring clothes you don’t mind getting wet and footwear to wear on the riverside. Please dress for the weather and try to avoid cotton and jeans that are wet when cold. Bring a change of clothes and a towel if you fancy a shower afterwards. If it’s warm, bring a waterbottle, suncream and a hat.

Where should I park?

There is free car parking on site (sat nav BS1 6XG). There are generally spaces but we can’t guarantee you one. If you’re driving please be sure to leave plenty of time for Bristol traffic and to find a parking space.

What time should we arrive?

We aim to start on time so please arrive five minutes early for your session.

Can I buy a paddleboard from you?

Yes! Although we don’t have a shop we are a Red Paddle Co, Fanatic and Starboard dealer and can normally deliver new equipment to you within 48 hours. Let us know what you’re after and we’ll try and help you out.

Where’s good to eat and drink nearby?

We thoroughly recommend the following:
Nova Scotia: Really close, generous hearty pub food and sandwiches with great atmosphere and nice outside space on the water

The Cottage: Right where we launch. Great for a sunny pint on the dockside after a session

Pumphouse: On the water, gastro pub with top quality restaurant upstairs. Housed in an old Victorian pumping station

The Grain Barge: As the name suggests, this is a converted historic barge with an open deck for drinking on the top and huge window so the great panoramic views of the water can continue inside. Food is hearty and beer is local.

Olive Shed: Waterside tapas restaurant with organic wines and fresh Mediterranean food

Further into town (on on the water, but would be a longer walk)

Spyglass: Delicious burgers on a boat. Space for large groups. Craft beers and ciders

Spitfire: Offering BBQ and beers in a relaxed harbourside environment

What are your rules on alcohol?

Stags, take note. Alcohol and water don’t mix. No-one under the influence of alcohol is to go stand up paddleboarding. If you arrive drunk for your session we will not be able to take you paddleboarding and no refund can be issued.

Do you need a licence to paddle in Bristol Harbour

Yes. If you have your own SUP and want to bring it to Bristol you can buy a licence from Bristol Harbour Office.

More info

Can you take photos?

Yes! We’ll carry a camera with us to capture your session.

We enjoy taking photos but since some people (us included) don’t like a lens in our faces we aren’t pushy with it (and will never try to sell you shots). If you’d like particular photos though please do let your instructor know and we’ll be happy to help!

High quality photos from our intro sessions are uploaded to photos.supbristol.com within 48 hours, often much sooner. Feel free to download and share.

Can I join member’s sessions if I haven’t been on a taster session?

Whilst we appreciate you may have paddled before, you must have been on a SUP Bristol taster session, harbourside adventure, or group session before attending our regular member’s SUP sessions. This is so that we are sure that you understand the safety aspects of paddling, and paddling in Bristol harbour. There isn’t time in an hour’s session to brief people or check your experience and it isn’t fair on the rest of the group to keep them waiting. If you’re keen to get involved regularly, please book onto a taster session first. From then on it’s just £12 per week to hire a board on one of our SUP sessions.

What should I wear for winter SUP?

Winter shouldn’t stop you getting on the water and you have several options for paddling in the colder months depending on your skill and the likelihood of going in the water. Here are a few things to consider when kitting out for winter.

Footwear
A pair of wetsuit booties is the warmest option. Look for thick neoprene and snug, cozy lining. It won’t matter if you get slightly wet feet – the water will warm up inside and keep your toes lovely and warm. If you can guarantee keeping your feet dry a pair of hiking socks and trainers will also be warm. Get them wet though and you’ll feel it. A nice compromise might be something like SealSkin socks over your hiking socks, and under your shoes.

Wetsuits

Wetsuits are designed to keep you warm when you’re wet. They trap a layer of water between you and the suit that warms up over time. They’re great if your surfing and immersed in the water but less so if you’re stood on a paddleboard in the wind. Sweat is also a problem in wetsuits. If you plan to paddle pretty hard you’re going to sweat. When the sweat chills you’re in danger of getting pretty cold.

That said, if you’re taking it easy, you’re unsure whether you’re going to stay dry, or you just want the reassurance that you won’t freeze if you do fall in, a wetsuit could be the best option for you. We suggest pairing it with a windproof jacket to keep the chill off when you’re standing up. We have a range of good quality wetsuits and jackets to use at no additional charge. If you’re still cold a thin polypro thermal layer under your suit will help.

Dry suits

A dry suit is a waterproof suit with rubber seals at the wrists and neck to keep the water out. You wear thermal layers underneath the same as you would if you were hiking. The advantage is that you’ll stay 100% dry if you fall in the water. The disadvantage is that unless it’s freezing outside, you’ll probably be far too warm as the suits tend not to breathe very well.

Jacket and trousers

If you’re getting into paddleboarding seriously and want to paddle flat water year round, we recommend getting hold of a waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers and a few polypro thermal layers. The key to being active outdoors in the winter is the ability to add and remove layers as you need to – and so avoiding sweating. Palm Equipment design a range of excellent jackets perfect for paddleboarding year round.  If you’re on a budget your rain jacket and trousers, combined with some good thermal layers, will work perfectly well. Just remember to wash them out properly afterwards if you take them on salty water. The major disadvantage of this set up is that you’re going to get pretty cold if you do take a swim. Consider a few dry layers in a drybag and a buoyancy aid for added reassurance.

Gloves

We don’t like paddling in gloves as it ruins the feel of the paddle. If you’re keen to wear them though we recommend open palm mitts like the Palm Equipment Talon. That way you still get the feel of the paddle whilst keeping the chill off you fingers.

Back to FAQs

 Still got questions? Contact us.