The watery middle-distance off the beaches of Zona Sul and Barra da Tijuca are no longer the sole preserve of surfers and the occasional hardcore swimmer thanks to the calm, zen-like paddling of an ever-increasing army of erect sea-farers. The stand up paddle (SUP) phenomenon is the latest craze to catch on among the ever-alert carioca beach boys and girls, following fast in the footsteps of slacklining but offering an easier-to-grasp route to some ultra-healthy beach sport.
If surfing’s downfall for the casual enthusiast is its ability to crush the pleasure out of something that looks like it should be so much fun, then SUP just may be the perfect antidote. With its beginnings in Hawaii back in the 1960s, the sport’s new wave of popularity has zeroed in on the calm waters by Copacabana’s Posto 6 area, where, in the lee of the fort’s long wall, a series of buoys has been set up for novices to navigate.
Those with a little more balance and adventure in their bones can scoop their way gently around the headland, past Praia do Diabo to the Arpoador rocks, popping out behind the gnarly surfers who inhabit this stretch. Don’t go getting involved in any wave-stealing if you’re not sure what you are doing, but rather take in the rare and exquisite view back on to the Ipanema beaching masses.
Eduardo Laucas from SUP Copa was the first of the three schools now set up at the end of the famous stretch of beach back in 2007, but Ipanema and the Lagoa also host classes. The latter run in partnership with Palaphita Kitch bar, and carry out weekly water quality tests to allay any fears of falling in to the lake’s occasionally murky depths, whilst the Ipanema schools only operate when the often-rowdier seas turn calm. As well as booking in advance, all three schools will take walk-in enthusiasts from the age of four and older (as long as boards are available), but beware, the weekends can get very busy.
- Classes with Eduardo at SUP Copa (21 9828 2566) cost R$50/hour, with packages of 8 classes from R$200-$300. Posto 6 kiosk, Copacabana. Daily 7am-4pm.
- Classes with João Paulo at Experiências (21 3164 1992) cost R$70/hour, or hire just the board for R$40/hour. Palaphita Kitch kiosk, Avenida Epitácio Pessoa, Parque Cantagalo, Lagoa. Mon-Fri 8-11am and 2-7pm; Sat-Sun 8am-7pm.
- Classes with Fabio at Surf Rio (21 9180 2287) cost R$60/hour. Ipanema Beach between Rua Maria Quitéria and Rua Garcia D’Avila. Daily 8am-5pm (wave conditions permitting).