If you’re ever on the beach at West Bay and cast your eyes out to sea, the chances are you’ll spot Sally Newman, standing up on a paddle board and skimming along the water.
Her silhouette is distinctive because, invariably, at the front of the board stands Tally the Jack Russell, riding the waves and wearing her own little lifejacket.
Sally (53) took up standup paddle boarding (SUP) about five years ago after being introduced to it by a friend.
‘I used to like canoeing but it was hurting my back,’ she says.
‘A friend had a board and I had a go and I just fell in love with it. On clear days, when I go out, I can see right down to the bottom of the sea bed. In the summer I’ve seen spider crabs between West Bay and Eype. It’s incredibly relaxing, always different and the colours on the cliffs change constantly.
‘There’s something very magical about paddling into the sunset. No-one else around except me and a couple of fish jumping. I think that’s what I love about paddleboarding, the feeling of space, I love the immenseness. It’s very Zen. I look at the light on the cliffs and am in awe of the beauty of the natural world. It’s so calming.’
Sally, a former nurse and a mother to two grown-up sons, moved to Bridport from Somerset over eight years ago, having spent time living and working in London. Her father is from Dorset and she remembers happy childhood holidays on the coast.
‘I’ve always swum in the sea—some years doing it all year round— now I’ve got my paddle board I try to get out most nights after work. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining—I’d rather be out on my board and cheer up than be sitting indoors in the rain.
‘I love the water. Wherever I go, I always take a bathing costume in my hand luggage. Now when ever possible I pack my inflatable board too. I’m taking the boards to Greece this summer and last year it was the Isles of Scilly.’
She began paddle boarding a few years ago and then, for her 50th, treated herself to a decent board and added a patch of rubber deck grip to the front for Tally to stand on and entered her first eight-mile race, The Exehammer race.
‘I have now entered twice, both times with Tally, and shall be doing it again this September,’ Sally says.
This year, Sally, who is box office manager at Bridport Electric Palace, is a rider in the UK Naish NISCO Race team, taking part in events in the Veterans category. N1SCO stands for Naish International SUP Class Organisation which is a one-design racing class where all riders compete exclusively on the Naish ONE 12’6” board. N1SCO competitions include sprint, intermediate distance and long distance racing, as well as team relays that are accessible for any level rider.
Says Sally: ‘I’m not in it because I’m a brilliantly fast rider, because against the youngsters I am not, although I am winning medals as a Veteran. N1SCO is more about getting people involved. It’s about encouraging people to get out onto the water in a friendly way.
‘I have to enter six UK SUP club race events (without Tally). It’s a great way to focus the mind on getting fit and a great way to meet other paddle boarders. They’re a friendly bunch of people and even the best of paddle boarders fall off their boards sometimes for no obvious reason and it always deserves a laugh. Quite slapstick.
N1SCO is an organisation open to all.
‘There are some really competitive people involved and also complete beginners—everyone gets on.’
‘Paddle boarding as a sport has expanded over the last few years. It looks difficult but it isn’t really. You get a real sense of achievement when you get to stand up on the board and that feels so good.
‘All ages are doing it. Boards can be expensive but once you know what you’re doing you can go anywhere to catch some waves, or go out on the river.’
‘The big appeal as a sport for me is that paddle boarding is so simple. Find some water and go. All I need is a board, paddle and a leash (and a picnic). Nothing much goes wrong. I used to cycle race but there was always the hassle of punctures, gears slipping or chains breaking.’
As well as giving the participant a feeling of space and being at one with nature, Sally says paddle boarding is also ‘brilliant’ for core strength.
“And it’s great if you want to get rid of your bingo wings.’
Sally says if anyone spots her on the shore with her board at West Bay and she’s not in a rush, she’s happy to show people how it’s done.