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Originating from the shores of Hawaii, Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) has become increasingly popular in recent years. Having heard a lot about it, I took the opportunity to give it a try myself during an inspection trip to Cusco. I went to Laguna Huacarpay, just 40 minutes outside of the city.
While not quite as tropical as Waikiki, the lakes around Cusco offer a beautiful and tranquil setting, ideal for first-timers like me to learn the ropes. After pushing off from shore I took to my feet, carefully gaining my balance and gently paddling forward. "This is easy," I thought, tempting fate to shove me into the glistening waters below. Luckily I didn’t fall in, although, dangling my foot into the lake, I was pleasantly surprised to find the water at a manageable temperature.
Joining me on the lake was a friend and his two daughters, aged 5 and 7. They were both excited to be involved and, as it turned out, proved expert paddlers themselves. The popularity of stand up paddleboarding is undoubtedly in part down to how quick it is to learn. Anyone, of any age, can give it a go, and it is an ideal activity for families looking for a little adventure. Unlike many activities in the Cusco area, SUP is not one that requires a great deal of physical exertion, therefore it can be gentle option to take on while acclimatising to altitude or when unwinding on the days after a long trek.
The lakes also serve as natural habitats to a wealth of native birds and wildlife species such as herons, egrets and ibis. These can all be seen nesting and patrolling the banks of the lake within the abundant bushes of Totora reeds that grow in the marshlands close to shore. These same Totora reeds have been used for centuries by the locals to make their very own traditional version of the SUP, an example of which we saw in use by a local fisherman who was busy making a living by catching trout and hunting for ducks around the lake.
Away from the lakes, Peru has played host to the World Stand Up Paddle Board championships as recently as 2012. The event was hosted on the Pacific coast in the Miraflores district of Lima and drew 140 participants from around the globe. Lima is, of course, also famed for it’s surfing, a cousin to stand up paddleboarding, with its big waves attracting surfers year round. For the time being however, I shall be sticking to the calmer waters of the lakes and I look forward to my next chance to get on board my Stand Up Paddle Board.