Paddle Surfing in Calpe

I don’t know what I was more afraid of – the translucent jellyfish that floated near the surface of the water, or the fact that pictures of me in a bikini were circulating around twitter and instagram. Malditos blogueros.

Patricia was quick to offer up the switch: “No, no. You take my spot in the paddle surfing class. I prefer to stay on dry land, or at least sail.”

I was in Calpe on a blog trip, rubbing away the early morning goosebumps on my legs as I agreed to give her my spot in the sailing class for hers in the stand up paddle class, known locally as SUP. Calpe’s location in the northern region of Alicante is planted right on the water, its enormous Peñón de Ifach splitting the old fisherman’s city into two bays. That morning, I’d be learning how to surf standing up.

My legs already ached thinking about the six-hour ride back to Seville and the inability to stretch out after a vigorous morning workout.

I’d tried surfing before in La Coruña, but the lack of waves meant that as soon as I’d paddled out to the middle of the Riazor and stood up on the board, I’d sink. I was thankful that the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean were calm that day.

Chris from Gravity Cartel Surf Shop met us with a dozen boards. Resembling those used commonly for surf, the SUP boards were wider, sturdier and easier to get on, meant not for speed but for stability. He breezed through an explanation on how to correctly use the oars, how to stabilize a board and how to make turns. His abbreviated monologue was due to the calm waters – we had no need to learn how to battle waves nor how to pick up speed for the hour we’d be on the water.

I watched as Miguel Angel, Carolina and Fabio all paddled out, made it to their knees and then stood up without so much as rocking the boat. I cautiously waded out until the water reached the top of my bikini bottoms. Too cold to stay in the water, I climbed on top of the board, gingerly getting to my feet. The others were all paddling quickly through

The day ended up beautiful, the sun already high in the sky and reflecting off of the sea. The other instructors from Gravity Cartel helped me perfect my skills, talking about the village and how long they’d been there – they were all adopted calpinos, drawn to the villa for its sand and surf. Calpe seemed to be a city that has been able to retain its fishing village charm while meeting the demands of the tourism that fuels the local economy.

As Fabio and I began paddling back onto shore nearly an hour, I asked Laura to take our picture. Once she’d done it, a small wave rippled behind my board, knocking me right into the water as Fabio laughed. Turns out I should have stuck around to listen for how to deal with waves.

Have you ever paddle surfed? Are you as deathly afraid as jellyfish as me?!

Major thanks to both the Calpe Tourism Board and the instructors at Gravity Cartel for the lessons and not laughing too hard when  I fell off my board. My opinions, as always, are all my own.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Oh this looks like so much fun. I have wanted to try it, as everyone makes it look so easy. I guess it is work after all. :-) I will have to give it a go sometime.
    Heidi Wagoner recently posted..La Cascetta della MarmoreMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      I’m sure you could find somewhere along the Costa Tropical or the Costa del Sol – I’ll be waiting to hear about it!

  2. We call this paddle boarding where I’m from. I’ve always wanted to try it, it looks like fun. Just this past July 4th when I was out on my boat in the channel leading to the Long Island Sound, I saw a woman paddle boarding with her golden retriever aboard! He had a life jacket on (I noticed you aren’t wearing one in the picture, just another cultural difference between the US and Spain haha because I’m pretty sure you have to wear one for a paddle boarding class in the States) and he was doing an amazing job of balancing on the board as she paddled. I wish my dog was half as smart (and liked getting wet).
    amelie88 recently posted..Welcome to Quintessential New England: NewburyportMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      I loved going to the Long Island sounds and boating and waterskiing. I may have the Great Lakes close, but it was a totally different experience getting in that murky water! I was offered a wetsuit, but the water wasn’t very deep and I’m a pretty decent swimmer!

  3. I love SUP, and I think I’m good at it. I never fell once, at least. But I’m scared TO DEATH of jellyfish! I think I’m allergic to their stings. :(
    Aleah | recently posted..Batanes—The Beautiful North BatanMy Profile

  4. It’s been big here for the last year or so too (El Médano, Tenerife) – I guess it means the hire companies aren’t losing money on the days when they can’t hire out windsurf boards or kiteboard stuff! My son was doing it all winter. He’s a surfer and there is no surf here. He tried to teach me once, but I was hopeless…but best fun EVER! The next time I sat on the board and he paddled me around the bay, which was great,…..but not as much fun as keep falling off!
    Linda recently posted..Asturias Day One: An Utter Contrast: Getting off the IslandMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      You must have the lion’s share of activities out there on the islands! I even saw people doing pilates on their boads!

  5. That looks like so much fun, especially in calm waters!
    Sandra Foyt recently posted..Outdoor Adventures with Kids Strengthen FamiliesMy Profile

  6. Jellyfish have such a benign name and look so pretty — I love the big tanks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium — but yeah, they’re scary!
    Terry at Overnight New York recently posted..Ace Hotel: Music to Help Kids Get BetterMy Profile

  7. SUP seems like it would be a great way to spend an afternoon. I’m not particularly athletic, but you’ve inspired me to give it a try one day. Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..10 Ancient Archaeological Sites For Your World Travel Bucket ListMy Profile

  8. what fun!! there are a lot of stand up paddleboarders on our lake. it’s fun to watch them – they seem SO graceful!
    wanderingeducators recently posted..Far Off PlacesMy Profile

  9. Paddle Surfing, never try before but seem like it is perfect season to try it out! :) But surely be aware of the jellyfish 😀
    Lex @ Lex Paradise recently posted..Win a trip to Busan, Korea this season with LeX Paradise!My Profile

  10. Urgh jellyfish. I encounter them regularly and despise them!!
    Ourjourneytothesea recently posted..Weekly photo challenge: freshMy Profile

  11. Oh, I’m dying to try this out this summer! I’m a terrible surfer, but I think I’d be able to do this okay. I have pretty good balance, but I’m also afraid of those damn jelly fish!

  12. So glad you had a good time with us Cat, we´ll be visiting you sometime this year when we´re down your part of España :-)

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Will be waiting for you all with open arms! Sending besitos from the other corner of Spain.

  13. That looks fun! I think I’d fall over the place though….
    Travelogged recently posted..Geneva and the South of France: My 10-Day IntineraryMy Profile

  14. Lol, love the story, yes I also don’t like it when I see those jellyfish hovering around. But I do love getting on my paddleboard, I got into it just like you, through a random lesson, and now I cannot get enough. It’s so much fun. I hope you end up doing some more paddleboarding at some point!
    Kate | Paddleboarding Central recently posted..5 Paddleboard Yoga Poses to TryMy Profile

  15. Sunshine and Siestas says:

    We definitely did, and are making plans to walk the Francés in two legs.

  16. …and next week it will take place de swimming marathon in Calpe. Really stunning.

  17. ¡Great!
    Calpe is beautiful!


  1. […] Sunshine and Siestas | An American Girl in Spain | Spain Travel and Culture Blog As a guest of the Calpe Tourism board, I got to try Stand Up Paddle Surfing. And I didn't embarrass myself too much either.  […]

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