Department of Health & Human Services
Premiers Active April

Robyn is standing up for Active April

For many Victorians getting in chilly water may seem no fun at all, but Surfing Victoria has a fresh activity to encourage females to be more active this April.

It’s called Coasting and it’s a Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) program designed especially for women and girls. Coasting is funded by VicHealth and is part of their Growing Participation in Sports Initiative to increase teenage girls participation in sport. It’s delivered via Surfing Victoria’s network of affiliated SUP Schools and is designed to encourage females to become more active by offering an alternative to more commonly performed exercise routines.

Surfing Victoria is offering all registered Premier’s Active April Participants a 15% discount for a Coasting: Stand Up Paddleboarding session!

Robyn McKenzie from San Remo is getting Active this April with Stand Up Paddleboarding …

We asked her some questions on how it’s made a difference….

Why should Active April participants try Stand Up Paddleboarding?

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) feels like flying and floating at the same time. It’s relaxing and yet it’s active. It gives you a sense of mastery of yourself and nature. It strengthens your core and your arms and legs without you noticing it. And it is heaps of fun.

How did you find out about Stand Up Paddleboarding?

Before moving to the area I had always thought I’d like to try out SUP and had planned to look into it once I was settled in after the winter. I literally was walking down the street and got chatting to a passer-by, Jen. We were chatting about all sorts of things and I mentioned that I’d like to try out SUP. As it turned out she was looking into SUP lessons for herself and her daughter. We exchanged numbers and a couple of weeks later we were both at our first SUP lesson.

So I not only got to try out a new activity, but I’ve also made a new friend.

Why did you give Coasting: SUP a go (what inspired you)?

I love the sea and I love quieter, more gentle activities. Years ago I tried out waterskiing. Whilst I thought it was fun, I found it a bit too jarring on the joints. I also thought it required too many elements to put together in order to participate (ie. A boat, waterskis, a wet suit, travel to and from the boat ramp) so I didn’t continue with it.

SUP requires fewer components to be in place than other water sports. It’s relatively simple and yet it is a great exercise where you can be in nature. It doesn’t require electricity or petrol or motors. It just requires you and the sea and your energy.

I went to my first lesson on my own. I met Jen and her friend there.

Do you know someone who has already tried it?

No, not personally. One time when I was walking along Cape Woolamai beach with my sister and brother in law, there was a man with his dog coming into shore on his SUP. Glen pointed it out because we are all dog lovers. We were so amazed at how cool it was that the dog was standing on the board behind his owner and loving it. It was so beautiful. I thought I’d love to try it but I didn’t think I’d be able to because it would require outstanding abdominal strength and balance. I have reasonably good abdominal strength and balance but I’ve never tried standing up on a surfboard so I didn’t think I’d be able to do SUP.

What was running through your head before getting out on the water?

I was a bit anxious before getting out on the water. I was totally out of my comfort zone. But Max, the trainer, was really good at what he does. He assured me on the phone when we spoke a couple of times before the day that his job was to focus on what I can do not what I can’t do. He also said his job was to make sure I had fun.

I felt reassured by Max right from the start because he asked me questions about my level of vision. He didn’t care about the name of my eye condition. He just wanted a basic understanding of what I can and can’t see.

My biggest fear was I am very glare sensitive and I don’t have depth perception. So I thought that once I was in the water, I wouldn’t be able to see waves or obstacles and I wouldn’t be able to see the shoreline, and that would detract from the experience. Apart from my vision impairment, I was also nervous about not being able to stand up or that I would keep losing my balance and might keep falling off. I told Max before I got there that I would be able to tell on my first day whether or not I would want to continue with SUP.

I’m okay with being a bit wobbly or not being very competent at a new task, but there’s a difference between being a novice at something regardless of ability or disability and just plain not having fun.

I realise that this attitude is partly a self-preservation strategy. None of us wants to fail or have things that are out of our control like a disability get in the way of participating in activities. But it’s also a fact that sometimes, some activities are out of our reach, and it’s a wise person that knows when they should find other things to do. And that’s okay.

Before we got into the water, Max oriented me to all sides of the board. I was surprised at how long the board is. I’m not able to see which the flat side of the paddle is so he showed me how I could feel which way the paddle is facing by the flat edge on the handle. He showed me how to use the paddle and most importantly he showed me how to get on and off the board. I didn’t realise that you kneel on the board and paddle out a bit and then you stand up. So that gave me confidence that even if I couldn’t stand up, I could still enjoy the experience by just kneeling.

It’s amazing how much information you can gain about the sea through feel. You don’t just rely on sight to do SUP.

I pretty much enjoyed it instantly. I love the feeling of being in and on the sea. That floaty, gliding feeling is so calming and so freeing. It feels like when I was a child and I fell asleep on the couch, and my Dad picked me up to carry me to bed. You just hand over to the universe and go with the flow and it feels right.

I was totally amazed that I was able to stand up on my first attempt and didn’t fall off once. In fact, the only time I got into the sea was to have a pee!

Top 3 must haves for Coasting: SUP for someone who wants to give it a go?

Trust that you can have fun learning a new activity and be completely terrible at it, and know that with practice and application you will gain skills and get better at it or find ways around the things you can’t do.

Give yourself permission to be nervous about it, and give it a go anyway.

Find a trainer who makes you feel safe by understanding your needs and who focuses on what you can do, not what you can’t do.

Be gentle with yourself – you can try something out, and be pretty good at it but not have fun doing it. And then sometimes, you try things out and you just don’t like it, and that’s okay.

What did you love the most about Coasting: SUP?

The feeling of being in nature and letting go. I also felt very supported by Max and Paul the volunteer and Jen and her friend.

I also loved the meditative aspect of it. There’s a lot of talk lately about mindfulness practice. SUP is the ultimate mindfulness activity because you put your thoughts into the immediacy of 3 paddle strokes to the right, 3 paddle strokes to the left, keep your knees slightly bent, feel the current, feel the waves, move a little to the left so you don’t bump into the shore, feel the wind against your skin, breathe in the sea air, look at the view, smell the smells around you and feel the board glide across the sea.

When you fully immerse yourself in an activity, you are rarely thinking about the shopping list or what’s for dinner or the project deadline that is looming.

Are you hooked?
I am totally hooked. I am definitely booking in for more Coasting SUP lessons.


SUP is a relaxing, low impact and easy to learn activity that is a fun way to enjoy the outdoors. It is a great social activity encouraging women to paddle in groups, meet new people, and enjoy the beautiful views from out on the water.

Stand Up Paddle surfboards are much longer, wider and more buoyant than ‘normal’ surfboards, allowing you to effortlessly balance on them and propel yourself along the water with the paddle. While you might take an unexpected dip every once in a while, it’s all part of the experience.

The Coasting: Stand Up Paddleboarding sessions consist of an introduction to equipment, how to use the paddle and how to correctly stand on the board. It also teaches you skills such as paddling, turning, water safety and much more!

The program is delivered around Victoria until April 30 2019 including the following locations: Melbourne, Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and the Surf Coast, Gippsland and the Mornington Peninsula.

For more information and to find a Surfing Victoria Coasting SUP program near you, head to the website.

Make sure you check out the Active April Facebook page to enter the Surfing Victoria social comp between 26 March 2019 and 1 April 2019!

Last updated: March 29, 2019 at: 12:30 pm

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