FAQs
Stand up paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world.

People are paddling on rivers, lakes, and oceans all over the world. Stand up paddle surfing is just one small discipline of the sport with the fastest growing areas being on lakes, estuaries and rivers with individuals paddling recreationally, downwind or racing. Although stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is pretty new in the UK, it has a long and fascinating history. The sport has origins in Africa and in Polynesia where it was adopted by surf school instructors in Hawaii as it allowed them to keep an eye on surfers from a stable vantage point.

The Scottish rivers, lochs, coastlines and canals are one of the best locations to discover this new exhilarating experience. Well, Stand up paddle boarding involves standing on a super wide, long board and propelling yourself through the water using a long paddle. This great new activity is healthy, invigorating and promotes balance, strength and general fitness when performed correctly. SUP can be low impact and is attainable for everyone, suitable for individuals, couples and families (min age for children is 10)

No experience is necessary, just a basic level of fitness. You don’t have to be a surfer or adrenaline junkie to learn the newest and fastest growing adventure sport around. Stand up paddle boarding is also a great way to escape the crowds as you can cruise along gently while taking in the stunning views . SUP has many different disciplines ranging from recreational paddling, SUP distance racing, downwind paddling and SUP surfing. There is a natural progression in the learning stage and it is absolutely key that individuals learn paddling skills, technique and familiarity of the board in a FLAT WATER environment before venturing into the ocean and surf conditions

What’s more, stand up paddle boarding is a great alternative to surfing. For experienced surfers, stand up paddle boarding can be a way to enjoy the surf on days when there is little surf and it can also be a fantastic cross training exercise.

1. Bookings for just 1 individual for our group lesson 2.How big are your groups? 3. Individual coaching 4. Wetsuits and all equipment included 5. Start and end location 6. What shall I bring with me? 7. Arrive early 8. You only wear the wetsuit on water and not on land 9. Standing up balance on a Stand Up Paddle board 10. Falling into the water 11. Buoyancy aids 12. Getting cold / staying warm in a wetsuit 13. Seasons of operation 14. Cancellations on windy days 15. Refunds/return policy 16. Mininimum swimming ability to swim for 50 metres 17. What do I learn/what do you teach? 18. Stand Up Paddle Boarding is fun 19. We will “tour and travel around” on the water 20. Wildlife watching 21. Different Stand Up Paddle Student Levels 22. On your trips, are you going to the same or new and different places each time? 23. Surfing? 24. Kayaking/canoeing? 25. Compared to Stand Up Paddle Boarding 26. Full one day trips and tours for first time SUP students 27. Medical condition 28. English language ability 29. Weak bladder 30. I would like to have a look at the SUP board, paddle and get a feel for it, do you offer an “office dry demo”? 31. Any more questions – just ask? 32. I don’t like the idea of wearing a rucksack on the water? 33. Can I wear glasses / contact lenses while being on the (likely somewhat polluted un-hygienic) water ? 34: Destinations in 2014? 35: Do you hire out SUP boards? 36: Any more questions? 1. I am just on my own, one person only and interested in giving stand up paddle boarding a try. I see you offer 1:1 tuition, but as this appears to be more expensive, how could I join your trips and still get the group discount?

We suggest that you contact us and put your name on our participant list for your chosen day as there are likely to be other individuals or pairs of 2 people or 3 or 4 together and you will then be of course allowed to join in with the rest (unless they are booked as an exclusive group which is very rare).

2. How many people are going to join our Stand Up Paddle Lesson/Tour?

If the lesson/tour is fully booked, the maximum number is 8 which is 8 students and 1 instructor and there maybe a smaller instructor to student ratio in certain conditions.

3. Individual coaching

Due to our small numbers coaching sessions, these are personalised lessons and tours and as much as time, conditions and group composition allowing tailored to your particular level, wishes, expectations, locations which you should mention to your instructor at the time of booking.

4. Do you have a wetsuit, wet boots, etc. for my size and when do I try those on?

Yes, we offer wetsuits, wet boots, gloves, hoods (and buoyancy aids on request) for all students to fit all sizes. All wetsuit equipment is included as part of your Stand Up Paddle (=SUP) lesson/tour price. We put on the wetsuits on the shore before we have our dry-land instructions before entering the water. Large towels and poncho towels for extra decency are available on request. Our 8 seater van is large, spacious and tall so you can stand up right and get changed in it as well protected and out of the elements.

5. Where do we start and finish?

Every trip is different depending at which location we are paddling and where you are staying and would like to be picked up from. Possible pick up locations include Alloa railway station, Stirling University, Balloch railway station and many more, i.e. any other obvious quick and easy pick up place along the route to our paddle location.

6. What shall I bring with me?

Mostly we are entering and exiting the water from the same point and return back to our 8 seater van. If we do point to point downstream, -tidal or -wind SUPing, wear light clothes and shoes as you will be carrying those in 100% (guaranteed!) waterproof triple dry bags in a rucksack. We provide the dry bags and the rucksack for you for when we are paddling on the water. Bring a snack, drink and a large towel – we also offer 2 sets of “poncho-surf-towels” for extra decency to cover yourself up when getting changed – a spare change of underwear/swim suit (to wear underneath the wetsuit) plus sun cream, waterproof camera, etc. Anything that you won’t need on your trip leave at home.

7. Do I need to be early?

Yes, please ensure to arrive early at the agreed starting/pick up location. Especially if we are going paddling in tidal conditions as for example much of the River Forth our trip will be timed to make best use of the tidal conditions. Unfortunately due to the arranged group transport and tide times, we will have to be on time.

8. On the day of the paddle lesson/tour, at what stage do we change into the wetsuit?

You will wear your normal dry clothes travelling to our paddle location and you will be wearing your normal dry clothes returning from your water paddle location. You will only need to change into your wetsuit just before we get into the water and you will change back into your dry clothes after we have finished our lessons and exit the water. This is the reason, why you should bring a large towel.

9. I am not sure if my balance is good enough to be able to keep standing up on the SUP board?

You do not have to worry, as our boards are massive up to 10 foot 8 inches long and 36 inches wide, this is called “the mega board and extremely stable”. You will be surprised how easy it is to get yourself standing up and keeping upright. Even in the unlikely event that you are unable to stand up, you just “kneel paddle”, which we teach all students and everyone throughout the lesson will practice as well. It is perfectly fine to keep kneel paddling. The board that we display in the shop window is for space reasons by the way our very smallest board. So the SUP board you are looking at in the shop window is just a 9 foot 4 inches long and 30 inches wide SUP board and the one that you will be using will be significantly bigger.

10.  Am I likely to fall into the water?

Unlike with kayaking or canoeing where falling into the water is an emergency incident, with Stand Up Paddle boarding as with surfing is normal and part of the sport. As (a) you are wearing your wetsuit that is adding to your body’s buoyancy and (b) you have your SUP board as a floating rescue “vessel/device” falling into the water when supping or surfing is also not a critical/emergency incident. As your leg is firmly attached to the SUP board by a leg leash you can never lose your board when falling into the water. Falling into the water and swimming for short periods next to your board or holding on to your board while in the water is part of the Stand Up Paddle Sport. For most participants this is part of the fun and we practise safe falling and board remounting techniques. You will for the very most part of your lesson/tour be on your board.

11.  Why do some students wear buoyancy devices and others don’t?

As in surfing, you only go Stand Up Paddle boarding as a confident swimmer who can swim 50 m or more. As in surfing you wear a wetsuit, which adds to your body’s buoyancy. As in surfing you are wearing a leg leash and are at all times attached to and cannot lose your board. Your SUP/surf board is your ultimate floating rescue “vessel/device”. The same as with surfing the standard and norm is just to wear your wetsuit (and no buoyancy aid). The wetsuit also helps you to be able to swim better than with a buoyancy device and does allow you to swim under your board if so needed and just wearing a wetsuit without a buoyancy will enable a person who is an able swimmer in the water to help him/herself.

Unicorn Paddle, ASI accredited SUP school’s SUP student will provide a wetsuit to every student. We do however stock sufficient buoyancy aids and make every student aware that they are there for them to use.

  • If you wish to wear a buoyancy aid, we will be able to provide you with one, but you will need to let us know in advance.
  • We insist on wearing a buoyancy aid for any student who we judge to be in a “a higher risk” category which among other “higher risk” categories include to be a person who says he/she can swim 50m, but it does not sound very convincing and first time SUP students who are somewhat wary, afraid or indecisive of joining the lesson, but joins it nevertheless a person with a health or weight issue and so on.
12.  Will I get cold once I have been in the water and my wetsuit is wet?

Your wetsuit keeps the water trapped between your body and the wetsuit warm. Depending on the time of year and the water and air temperature we offer our students thicker and thinner wetsuits and or no additional baselayer wetsuits. You are active and moving and generally keep warm.

13.  In what seasons do you operate your trips?

In Scotland, on a warm later summer day/early autumn, the water tends to be at its warmest and on some days the outside air temperature is high enough, that you can go supping in wet-shorties and a wet-T-shirt. In later winter/early spring the water tends to be the coldest and we have extra thick wetsuits and offer you extra layers of wet under and over wet-trousers and wet-shirts plus thicker wet socks in your wet boots, wet gloves and a hood. We generally do no or very few trips from December to February, however the sea temperature won’t be as cold as inland water and there can be mild days even in mid-winter.

14.  Why do you cancel your trips on windy day?

Stand Up Paddle boarding is best done with wind speeds at less than 12 knots. Paddling into high winds is difficult as the wind is pushing your body backwards, so you kneel down and “kneel paddle” to be less exposed to the wind. Paddling with the wind coming from behind is easy, but then you hardly ever go in a straight line from just A to B with the wind just blowing steadily from the same direction, but the direction of the wind may be changing, you may have to go around and turn facing into different wind-directions at river winds and you may have to return back to where you have come from facing into the wind. It is unsafe to paddle with students at wind speeds higher than 12 knots, so we have to cancel planned trips on overtly windy days. For wind speeds between 8 to 12 knots the maximum permitted instructor to student ratio is just 1:4.

15.  What is your refund / returns procedure? Clients will obtain a refund or credit when:
  • The client notifies Unicorn Paddle Stand Up Paddle School (an ASI accredited SUP school) 24 hours prior to the time of activity
  • The instructor cancels the activity due to unsuitable or dangerous conditions (for example wind speeds of more than 12 knots, flooding and fast river flow, high swells over 2 ft beyond shore break)
  • No refund will be offered if it rains
  •  If water and weather conditions become unsafe during the activity, the instructor may modify the activity and undertake activities on the shore rather than in the water, or the activity may be rescheduled for another time.
  • No refund is offered if the client refuses to comply with the ASI accredited School policy and the Instructor determines the client cannot participate in the activity.
  • If the client advises the Instructor of a medical condition such that the Instructor decides, that it would be unsafe for the client to participate in the activity, a full refund will be offered.
  • If the Instructor becomes aware of a clients medical condition after the lesson has commenced, such that the Instructor determines it is unsafe for the client to continue in the activity, no refund will be offered.
Activity (more than 1 day) Tours: Clients can obtain a refund or credit when: (1)   the client notifies Unicorn Paddle Stand Up Paddle School, the ASI accredited School, 5 days prior to the time of the tour. An administration fee of 20% will be charged. (2)   Unicorn Paddle Stand Up Paddle School, the ASI accredited School, cancels the tour 16.  I can’t swim/I am not a good swimmer, can I still join your trip?

We are afraid, that you will not be able to join our SUP lessons. Even though we tend to stay close to shore and your instructor will be close to you and we offer buoyancy devices plus you have your SUP board to which you are attached with your leg leash as floating rescue device, you will need to be able to swim at least 50m and if you can’t we will have to ask you to leave the lesson. We suggest you take up some swimming lessons, for example at the Stirling University swimming pool and contact us again when you are a more confident swimmer.

17.  What will I learn / what will you teach us? There is a lot more points cover and to go through, but all lessons will consist of at least: (1) Meet and greet (2) Allocation of clothing and equipment (3) Travel from Stirling University to start location (4) Briefing on safety, location, conditions and detailed route (5) Hazards, risks (6) SUP clothing and equipment (7) SUP etiquette (8) Swimming ability (9) Water entry and exit (10)Prone paddling (you lie on the board and paddle in the water with your hands) and self-rescue technique (11) How to fall safely (12) Kneel paddling (13) Stand Up Paddling (14) Paddling left and right, turning, backwards (15) Correct paddling techniques (16) Correct stance and feet positioning (17) Pivoting techniques, etc. subject to student levels and progress (18) At the end of your session, we give you tips and advice and will review your skill levels  18.  Are we going to have any fun as well or is it all just teaching?

Learning these skills is great fun for most students and while practising we will be playing around so everyone is generally getting very comfortable with standing up on the board and moving around on the water quickly.  Stand Up Paddle boarding IS fun.

19.  Are we going to travel and tour around on the water?

All of our lessons/tours start with the safety and skill teaching and rehearsal and only then thereafter once everyone is comfortable we tend to tour around to different locations, explore very scenic river, loch, canal or sea locations. We even sometimes stop and have some breaks on some little “islands, islets or sand banks, etc.” and we normally end up at a different location, this is true in particular for our river trips as we tend to start upstream and end up downstream.

It is an amazing and relaxing feeling of freedom to paddle and move along in the water while watching the scenery go by.Most of our settings are very calm and peaceful and you will see familiar landmarks but from the water you get an entirely new perspective of places.

We will time the start and end of our trip on the water to coincide with a sufficiently high and safe water level and will only travel when the speed of the water flow (which among other factors could be tide dependent) is safe.

20.  Will we see any wildlife?

In April 2013 we paddled within a few hundred metres of a sperm-whale on our Oban tour. Downstream from the Stirling boathouse we had a family of 3 porpoises plus we had various otter and seal sightings.

We will most certainly see some wild life, usually quite a lot of species of waterfowl (water birds), leaping fish, wildlife along the banks, farm animals such as cows, sheep, horses and we regularly see wild animals such as rabbits, hares deer and even foxes. We have in fact spotted a wild otter on one of our trips and there are reports of some resident seals in the River Forth near Stirling (which is a tidal river flowing downstream to the sea).

Unicorn Paddle is a member of
Wild Scotland Activity Scotland
and we are passionate about the environment - wildlife watching is very much part of our tours.

21.  What do you do if you have students with different levels of stand up paddle boarding on one and the same trip together? The levels that we teach are:
  • Taster level
  • Beginner level
  • Enclosed water level
  • Exposed water level

We always go at the pace of the slowest and least experienced group member. We do however give more advanced students additional extra training exercises and have “games” to let them paddle back, forth and in safe groups together a short distance ahead, etc. and so on so that everyone in the group at every level will enjoy and benefit the trip while still sticking together closely.

22.  On your trips, are you going to the same or new and different places each time?

We love to explore Scotland and are mobile ( 8 seater van). Depending on the day to day conditions, your SUP level, the time available, your home location and preferences, we offer you a multitude of choices.

There is a sheer multitude of superb and fantastic loch, river, canal and even sea/beach locations with 1.5 to 2 hours radius around Stirling, including the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National park with loads of great lochs, one of them. From our 2nd Loch Lomond base at Portnellan Farm/Gartochan we offers fantastic island hopping trips, (including the Wallaby island) which is an absolute highlight!

On weekend “activity” trips (more then 1 day away) we tend to stay overnight in hostels, B&Bs on campsites or similar to explore more lochs, rivers, coastlines and and beaches and canals, especially along the west Coast of Scotland.

We are based in Alloa, just outside Stirling and also offer locally based trips

For first time beginners and on half day trips, we tend to start off with lessons near Cornton at a wide generally slow and gently flowing section of the River Forth , where we can also explore quite a variety of places including “wild river island with lots of wildlife”, views of a waterfall, gentle river winds with great views of nice views of Stirling castle and the Wallace Monument with Dumyat and the Ochils in the background and water level and tides permitting (usually 2 hours either side of high tide) and always a highlight to go underneath the Stirling “viaduct” foot, road and rail bridge (you are in the middle of Stirling on a surf board  and you know everything but it looks and feels so entirely different and absolutely amazing from the river level!) before finishing up the Stirling Rugby field.

There are many more local ½ day river and loch locations which we tend to go to and whenever possible we try to offer new places and vary our locations with repeat paddlers.

For our full one day tours, we prefer repeat SUP students or if first time they should be physically fit or be students with some other paddle sport related backgrounds. There is a sheer multitude of superb and fantastic loch, river, canal and even sea/beach locations with 1.5 to 2 hours radius around Stirling, including the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National park with loads of great lochs, one of them, Loch Lomond offers fantastic island hopping trips, (including the Wallaby island) which is an absolute highlight!

Depending on students, river levels, tides, winds and conditions we also have the option of a full day Stirling heading towards Alloa River Forth tour via Causewayhead, Cambuskenneth, Riverside, Springkerse, Manor Powis, Fallin, Cambus even all the way towards Alloa.  Along this part of the river, the  River Forth is winding its way through very rural wide river sections lined with trees, lots of wildlife, even a small nature reserve, some river tributaries and even 2 river islands.

On weekend “activity” trips (more then 1 day away) we tend to stay overnight in hostels, B&Bs on campsites or similar to explore more lochs, rivers, coastlines and and beaches and canals, especially along the west Coast of Scotland.

23.  Are we going to surf?

No, I am afraid not. Surfing is a “board sport” and related to Stand Up Paddling. There is surfing (without a paddle) and it is just you and the surfboard. Once you have been on any of our SUP-sessions you will have a “head start with surfing” as you should be more balanced standing on a surfboard which is a critical and key skill to have for surfing. Once you are at exposed water level stage, you could go move on to SUP-surfing (which is surfing with a SUP-paddle).

24.  Are we going to paddle as in a canoe or kayak?

No, I am afraid not. Canoeing and kayaking are “paddle sports” and related to Stand Up Paddling. When Canoeing and kayaking you generally do not want to capsize and fall into the water. Falling, swimming and being in the water for at least a few short moments is part of the Stand Up Paddle Board sport.

25.  Comparing to the above why should I go stand up paddle boarding?

In a canoe or kayak you are restricted to sit in a relatively small space. On a SUP paddle board you are can move around freely - can stand up paddle, kneel paddle, lay down flat prone paddling, sit, even lay flat on your back as if you were going to sleep – after a long hard paddle in the middle of a beautiful location, maybe a spectacular calm bay – let the world go by watch the sky resting on your paddle board for a few minutes with no care in the world – it is a heavenly feeling!

You can go paddling similar to being in a kayak and canoe. With the right student level and some wave swell, you can go surfing very similar as on a surf board. As with a body board (which is a very short small board) you can get yourself into the water. Half-way through our session by a scenic calm sheltered spot, sometimes on an island we sometimes take a short break just to relax, have a snack, drink and talk about our route or give you some skill-level training tips. Sometimes we have a couple minutes for anyone interested to try some wetsuit outdoor swimming and if you bring some swim goggles and there is a calm clear spell of water with good visibility you can even “pretend” to go snorkelling. With no disrespect to the great fantastic related water sports with Stand Up Paddle Boarding in my view, you have got a bit of and some of the best of everything.

26.  You advertise one day trips and tours, I would like to join, but I have never stand up paddled before?

If it is the first time you join our stand up paddle lessons, we prefer that you only join our ½ day trips, as during our full training session, we like to assess your fitness and skill-level at first. However as Stand Up Paddling is a relatively easy skill to learn, we would generally accept physically fit students or students with a water sports or paddling (i.e. kayaking or canoeing) background on our day trips as well.

For all our tours, including day trips we will do a full training lesson with safety briefing and step by step skill rehearsal before we start touring on the water.

Any weekend (more than 1 day) trips however are strictly for exposed water level repeat student paddlers only.

27.  I have a medical condition - can I join your SUP lesson/tour?

You will have to declare your medical condition on our indemnity/booking form. Subject to the nature and severity of your condition our instructor will make a judgment if you can join our tour or not.

28.  My native language is not English and sometimes I struggle understanding people, can I join your SUP lesson/tour?

Our ASI qualified instructor Mike is also working as a travel agent and has been dealing with international non-native English speaking students for many years. He will have to make a judgement about your level of English. You will need to be able to follow and understand all our instructions and the safety briefing. We are sorry, but due to strict ASI (Academy of Surf Instructor) regulations that we are bound by, we regret that in some rare cased, we may have to refuse those who cannot understand and follow our lessons/tours due to safety reasons.

29.  I have a weak bladder and don’t like to be stuck in a wetsuit for too long?

Please mention this to your instructor, as we can and generally do arrange a break halfway throughout our lesson/tour. We do also have a wetsuit with a pee-zip and can offer a separate long wet trousers (easy anytime pull down option) plus separate long wet shirt set up as well.

30. I would like to have a look at the SUP board, paddle and get a feel for it, do you offer an “office dry demo”?

We could arrange for dry-demo of our equipment from our van.

31.  Any more questions or unsure about anything?

If you have any questions about anything at any stage please speak to your ASI qualified Stand Up Paddle (SUP) instructor Mike at Unicorn Paddle who will be there before, during and after your lesson/tour at all times to help you. Tel: 07429251980  contact@unicornpaddle.co.uk.

Here’s to some great SUP lesson and a fun time on the water!

32. I don’t like the idea of wearing a rucksack on the water?

For most of our trips you will be starting/finishing at the same location (i.e. return to our 8 seater van) and you will just have a very small water proof day pack that we provide for your snack, drinks, camera, suncream, etc.

Only if we do point to point downstream, -tidal or -wind SUPing will you be wearing a rucksack and then during our initial training session you will not be wearing any rucksack as we would like to get you at ease with the board, the paddle, with standing up and the paddle techniques.Only once everyone is comfortable and we are then moving away from our start location and going to tour around the water, will you be wearing the rucksack that we provide you with. Your rucksack will only be small to medium-size. It is only the instructor who has a lot more gear to carry around “who is wearing that much larger backpack”, so there is no need to be afraid by the image of your Stand Up Paddling Instructor wearing a very heavy rucksack.

33. Can I wear glasses / contact lenses while being on the (likely somewhat polluted un-hygienic) water ?

It would be best not to wear your glasses, as in the event that you fall into the water which is likely to happen at some stage during our training session, you may lose your glasses "(unless you have them attached on a "safe" elastic string/band around your head)". Your optician will tell you not to wear your contact lenses as there is the risk of catching an eye-infection. If you insist on wearing contact lenses, try to close your eyes when falling into the water and take the contact lenses out once you are finished with the SUP-activity. In any case (unless we are training) on a “blue flag beach” try to close your mouth and not to swallow any water.

34. Destinations in 2014?
½ day tours:

River Teith, River Forth (various up and downstream sections around Stirling), Gartmorn Dam (again in late summer after all works complete), River Devon and more. 1 day tours: Arrochar (Loch Lomond and Loch Long), Carron Valley Reservoir (with North Third Trout and Loch Coulter option), Dunkeld (Loch of the Lowes, Loch of Butterstone and Loch of Craglush as of mid-August after the bird breeding season), Balloch (Loch Lomond island hopping), Balmaha (Loch Lomond Island hopping), Falkirk Wheel (Union and Forth/Clyde Canal), Garelochhead, Lochearn (Lochearnhead to St. Filians), Loch Katrine (with outbound boat drop off option at Inversnaid), Loch Leven, Kinross (and islands), Loch Rannoch (via Pitlochry), Loch Tay (Killin to Kenmore), Loch Tummel (via Pitlochry), Luss (Loch Lomond), Montrose Basin, Newburgh (north of Aberdeen), River Tay (various sections upstream from Perth, Perth, Perth to Dundee), Trossachs Nationalpark (Loch Lubnaig, Loch Venechar and more)

2 day tours:

Argyll trip (Knapdale, Crinan Canal and Loch Tarbert), Fort William area (Loch Leven, Kinlochleven, Glencoe, Loch Eil, Loch Linhe), Great Glen (Caledonian Canal, incl. Loch Ness), Oban area (Loch Awe, Loch Etive, Loch Creran, Lismore) Long weekend tours: Northern trip ( with the potential to include a few of these amazing locations: Kylestrome, Loch Maree island hopping, Dornoch, Cromarthy, Beauly, Moray Firth, Findhorn Bay, Loch Morlich and Loch Inch)

35. Do you hire out SUP boards?

Regrettably as we are not based at a beach or water location but drive to places to SUP, we would have no control over where to and in which wind and tide conditions you would be taking the boards out on your own. It is for safety reasons in mind for you and anyone inexperienced that you might wish to take out, that we do not offer SUP board hire, as wind and wave conditions can change within minutes from being flat and calm to dangerous high swells and winds that carry you away from shore

36. Any more questions?

Just give us a shout on 07429251980 or contact@unicornpaddle.co.uk and we are happy to assist.