Written by root. Posted in BEST OF BRUNEI


Published on January 18, 2018 with No Comments

Discover urban nature with a paddle, a board, and a group of enthusiastic weekenders.


On most Saturday mornings, a group of excited – some apprehensive – Bruneians follow Stephen Officer as he hops on a board at Lugu Lake as if he were the Pied Piper. They are not out to catch a wave, but catching a workout by standing on a paddle board. For the next 80 minutes, they will learn to balance, discover what a core muscle is, and more importantly, get the best total body workout in the outdoors.

This urban fitness trend, called stand up paddle boarding, is gaining popularity among city dwellers for its workout on water, though no one really gets wet. Officer, who describes himself as a watersports enthusiast, chanced upon the activity while on vacation in Australia. And he was immediately hooked. “You don’t have to be an all-around athlete to do it. Nor do you need to have much experience, either,” he says. “Anyone, it seems, can learn to paddle board and before you know it, you’ll be covering a kilometre with very little effort.”

The languid pace of paddle boarding will endear it to those looking to have an outdoor physical activity without the burden of a competitive sport. Back at Lugu Lake, Officer has an admirable kind of humility and patience that comes from finding passion in what he does and eager to have others discover it. He is the first certified Stand Up Paddling Instructor trained by the Academy of Surfing Instructors in water rescue and river, lake and sea instruction. On this balmy Saturday morning, Officer guides today’s group of beginners as they first practice paddling on their knees before slowly rising to their feet and learning how to balance standing on the board and paddling. “Everyone does it at their own pace,” he says. What makes stand-up paddling explode the last couple of years is because the activity can be done anywhere where there’s a body of water. Form lakes to inlets and beaches, paddle boarding really is accessible, especially when you live in the city.

The present form of stand up paddling, commonly referred to as SUP, was thought to have originated with the Waikiki beach boys in Honolulu who used to stand upright on long paddle boards as they guided tourists on surfing lessons. But, earlier forms of SUP and its recurrence have been documented in various civilisations, spanning from Asia to South America and the Western regions. For Officer, bringing SUP to Brunei has allowed him to discover the lesser known areas of the country and share it with others. “Because everyone’s at their own pace, it allows them to take in the surroundings. The sheltered areas along Brunei’s coastlines, such as Tungku Beach, are beautiful and calm. We occasionally see wildlife such as large sea turtles and dolphins. We also conduct lessons in beautiful fresh water lakes surrounded by the forest and though we can’t cue it, it is possible to sight the native hornbills.”

As the trend grows, stand up paddle boarding has proven to be a fun social activity. Some enthusiasts have taken the concept even further to incorporate fitness and low-impact core strengthening, making this a great total body workout for body, mind and soul. While the possibilities are endless, at SUP-Surfari, the company run by Officer, he still remains committed to introduce the sport to those wishing to discover their wonderful backyard they never knew they had in a relaxed and leisurely pace.

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