Paddle boards for young and old

Roger Saunders with student Tara Hanchard.
Roger Saunders with student Tara Hanchard.

ACCORDING to the best stand-up paddle boarder in NSW, the sport is no longer restricted to ‘old crusty long boarders’.

NSW champ Roger Saunders, of Minnie Water, said since he started riding stand-up paddle boards (SUP) two years ago he’s seen the sport take-off.

“The sport has exploded,” Roger said.

“It’s been massive and there’s a lot more people into it now.”

One of the biggest changes to the sport was the age of participants.

Roger said when he started the sport was dominated by middle-aged men who rode mals.

But now young riders have discovered the sport and embraced its concept.

“The grommets are so much better at it because they are smaller and lighter on the board,” Roger said.

At the first Australian SUP championships in August at Port Macquarie, a 16-year-old took out third place, while a frustrated Roger came fifth.

“I was really confident I was going to get a good place but the surf conditions were small and messy,” he said.

“I prefer big waves, putting my guts into it and weight on the rail.”

But Roger’s too busy teaching to get hung up on his national ranking.

He and his partner, Renee Bridge, have been building up their surf school business in the Valley.

They offer stand-up paddle board lessons across the Valley, have a regular group they train in Yamba on Sundays and they’ve just started teaching the sport to schools.

“The kids are living it because it’s a cool sport and it’s something different,” Roger said.

St Andrews Christian School (STACS) student Tara Hanchard, 16, had no idea what the sport was a few weeks ago.

“All I knew was that it was like surfing but with a paddle,” she said.

But after two school lessons with Roger she’s got the swing of it and can’t wait to do it again.

“It’s easier than it looks and so much fun,” she said. “You just have to have good balance and build up your skills.”

Roger and Renee are gearing up for a big summer of lessons at Minnie Water and Yamba.

Roger hasn’t given up competing either and is surfing in a Gold Coast competition today.

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