Get out on the water with Kate and Tim from SUP Bristol

In the latest in the series telling the stories behind some of our amazing Yuup hosts, small business journalist Dan Martin speaks to Kate from SUP Bristol.

If you’ve ever had a stroll around Bristol’s wonderful harbour, you’ve probably spotted a stand up paddleboarder. They are as much a part of the river community as the SS Great Britain and the many seagulls! 

Paddleboarding with SUP Bristol

The paddleboarders you’ve seen are enjoying the services of SUP Bristol, the award winning stand up paddleboarding company founded in 2014 by Kate Ingham and Tim Trew. When it comes to water sports, these two certainly know their stuff. Tim competed for Great Britain in freestyle kayaking and Kate trained with the British whitewater rafting team.

Tim and Kate are passionate about sharing their love for the water and making it easier for people to enjoy the harbour without having to commit to a membership or regular training. You can give paddleboarding a go by booking a stand up paddleboarding taster or paddleboarding harbourside adventure through Yuup. 

I had a chat with Kate about the story behind her brilliant business and what you can look forward to if you take to the water with SUP Bristol.

Stand up paddleboarding taster
How did SUP Bristol come about?

We were living in Bristol and enjoyed being on the water with Bristol Canoe Club. When we went to New Zealand we got into standup paddleboarding and on returning to Bristol, we thought we'd like to open a business.

Initially the plan was to run a canoeing company on the harbour but having tried paddleboarding and the sport being a little bit ahead in New Zealand, we thought we’d do something a bit different and provide another way for people to explore and enjoy the city. We met with Red Paddle Co, the biggest international seller of inflatable paddleboards, and said we wanted to start a stand up paddleboarding school in Bristol. They were really supportive and encouraged us to do it. 

At first it was just Tim and I and some paddleboards but we were lucky that people agreed that it was a good idea! Bristol is a vibrant city in the way that people are game for trying something new. That was good for our business as it meant that there was a real appetite for it. Paddleboarding schools have since popped up in lots of cities across the UK but we were ahead. Bristol likes to do stuff before other places!

We now have a team of instructors and other staff who work with us. What we offer and where we offer it has grown and evolved. We still do our introductory experiences plus we have lots of family sessions, we take out businesses, we get involved in litter picks and we run skills courses for people who want to improve their paddling on their own. 

We have a hub of people who have got into paddleboarding as a regular activity. Some of our members have been paddling since 2015 and they come up to 12 times a week. People access it the same as they would a gym so they come down, grab a board and go out with an instructor. There’s a real community, which is exciting and lovely to be part of. 

Stand up paddlebaording taster with SUP Bristol
When SUP Bristol first opened for business, how did you spread the word?

We worked with the harbour to get the necessary permissions in place so that we could open and operate. We did a little bit of marketing but predominantly our best asset was being seen. We also got our friends involved and my brother-in-law and his mates were our first stag do!

I must give some credit to the Bristol Post. To this day, we don't know who tipped them off but somebody told them we were opening. They ran a fantastic full-page article and we got a lot of interest from that.

"People benefited physically and mentally from being able to get out on the water. There was a real appetite for developing a positive feeling that something was changing and moving."
How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted on your business?

Two weeks after the first lockdown started we had a baby. It was a real challenge because we had put plans in place to enable our business to carry on functioning whilst we looked after the baby but that was completely blown out of the water on 23 March. It was really shocking! 

After the first lockdown though, we were able to start opening for one-to-one sessions and then with small groups. We had a lot of support from people who wanted to be outside. Paddleboarding was the perfect activity for 2020 as you’re outside in fresh air and you’re on a massive board that distances you from people whether you want to or not!

It gave people an opportunity to feel a bit more normal because they weren't wearing a mask and were joining in with something with other people. I think lots of people enjoyed our sessions because they could get out of their house and go and meet a stranger. We lost the opportunity to meet strangers in 2020. Paddleboarding gave people a space to do that or meet someone they hadn’t seen in a while.

People benefited physically and mentally from being able to get out on the water. There was a real appetite for developing a positive feeling that something was changing and moving.

"Yuup is Bristol-focused and it celebrates and recognises great things people are doing across the city... It’s a platform that says “look how great the city is”. That really resonates with us because we are passionate about Bristol and all the myriad of things you can do here."
You ran the ‘Our River’ series of online events during lockdown. Tell us more about that.

We wanted to give people the opportunity to learn more about the outdoor spaces that they’ve spent so much time in during the lockdowns. We had some fascinating organisations from across the city such as Clean Up Bristol Harbour and Bristol Avon Rivers Trust. They chatted about what they do to protect the water that we all enjoy and what we can do to protect it too.

It was really interesting to bring those people together and create a space for people to ask questions. If you've got into enjoying something, you are more passionate about protecting it. There's a real motivation for people to keep the outdoors beautiful because they’ve spent so much more time outside in their local area over the past year. People want a shared sense of togetherness. This is our river and we all enjoy it in different ways.

SUP Bristol paddleboarding
Why did you decide to start offering your experiences through Yuup?

Yuup is Bristol-focused and it celebrates and recognises great things people are doing across the city. It’s not like a massive international stag and hen company; it’s a platform that says “look how great the city is”. That really resonates with us because we are passionate about Bristol and all the myriad of things you can do here. It’s great to be appreciated and to be part of the vibrancy that shows the breadth of all the activities available in the city.

There are lots of things that people might want to try but not everyone has the confidence to do it themselves and they want a bit of support and guidance. Yuup is providing a platform for people to do that.

If someone books a SUP Bristol experience through Yuup, what can they look forward to?

They can expect a super friendly welcome to the harbour. We’ll start at the very beginning and teach them the basics of paddleboarding. If you’ve got previous experience that's fab too as we’ve got different boards so you can challenge yourself.

We want everyone to feel welcome. Come with a friend, come with your family and enjoy being outdoors. Our experiences include a tour and we aim to get to the SS Great Britain or a bit further.

We take a lead from people during the sessions so if you want to play lots of games, push yourself and fall in the water a lot, we can do that. If you want more of a mellow paddle and to enjoy the sights, we can do that as well. 

We’ve also followed all COVID-secure guidelines for operating as a business. Equipment is cleaned regularly and we provide hand sanitiser. The whole experience is outside and naturally socially distanced so it’s super safe. 

Enjoy a SUP Bristol experience for yourself by booking a paddleboarding experience on Yuup.

Want to find out more about our hosts? Read Alice from Trylla's story.


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