Earlier this spring I was contacted by a host through Workaway to come and help out with a new stand up paddle boarding business for 5-6 weeks. Let’s see…did I feel like taking a “job” in the Greek islands that would involve spending most days on the beach in my bikini, getting a great tan, and leading paddle board tours on the Aegean Sea? Umm, do cats like tuna?!

Okay, so I wasn’t really sure that was the job description – I could have been stuck in a stand renting out paddle boards and booking lessons all day for all I knew. My whole “saying yes to any opportunity that comes my way for 6 months” experiment does mean that I’m often not sure what I’m getting myself into until I get there…which is all part of the adventure!

To my very pleasant surprise, it was pretty much exactly as I had imagined. (Well, not exactly…in my fantasy I was camping on the beach instead of on a mountain, but I also hadn’t bargained on my host being a professionally trained chef, so it worked out.)

I was a little nervous that I would totally suck at paddle boarding – after all, my family doesn’t have a history of great balance and I tend to be a ginormous klutz. But, you guys, I rock at paddle boarding. It’s so much fun!

learning to paddle board

Learning to paddle board like a boss…

In case you haven’t heard of it, paddle boarding pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You stand upright on a floating board, much like a surf board and you paddle. It’s becoming really popular among surfers, and there are paddle boarding associations and competition all over the world.

As a kayaker, I already knew how to paddle, so it was just the balance part that I had to get used to. Anyone who is athletic at all won’t have a problem with it. And if you do fall in? Ummm, that’s just part of the fun! Believe me, when it’s 90+ degrees outside and the sun is beating down on you, falling into clear blue water is hardly a negative.

Even though I’m kind of a natural (not to brag or anything) I’m still a beginner. And really out of shape.

meant to exercise this whole time (besides paddling), I really did. But…there are no flat surfaces on top of the mountain to do a HIIT workout…and running is out because the path down is almost a guaranteed broken ankle…and, I’ve been really busy. I know, all pathetic excuses. The truth is I have just been enjoying drinking wine at seaside tavernas and stuffing my face with deliciousness WAY too much to worry about it.

So, when we decided to set off on a grand paddle board adventure, I was perhaps a tad ill-prepared, but I never back down from a challenge.

We decided, one beautiful Sunday morning, to do a little island hopping…via paddle board. The trip from Skopelos to neighboring Alonissos had never been attempted by paddle boarders before, but ha! We would brave the ocean swells and scorching sun! We would laugh in the face of danger! We would…accidentally leave our shoes, money & cell phones in the car, forgetting to pack them in the dry bag. (I told you, this was a horribly disorganized adventure – don’t ever do this.)

It started out beautifully. The water was calm and there was a light breeze…until we rounded the corner out of the port. Then there were 6-7 foot waves trying to smash me into the rocks jutting out of the water. Yikes.

Paddling through waves that size is a completely different ballgame than paddling on a flat sea. By the time we reached the first beach – the first resting point! – I was exhausted.

Paddle boarding to Alonissos

I may LOOK relaxed…but I’m actually trying not to die.

7 miles doesn’t sound like much. I could walk it fairly easily. I could even run it if I got back in shape a bit. But paddle it? By this point I was seriously questioning our judgment.

Shane (my host and owner of the paddle boarding business, Sporades SUP) asked me if I wanted to turn around go back.

Turn back? Adventurers don’t turn back. “Well…we might as well go on to the end of the island and see how we feel,” I replied.

So we pressed on. And on. And on. Once we had gotten to the end of Skopelos island, it didn’t look that far to cross over to the next little island. And after a rest & some dates (the only food we remembered to bring), the next little island didn’t look too bad to get to. And from there…well we had only one more crossing to get to Alonissos. Sure, it was the furthest crossing we had attempted yet, but at this point the adrenaline had kicked in.

Paddle boarding to Alonissos

There’s no turning back now (sorry for all the bikini pics – I promise I am wearing a top; you just can’t see it with all my hair)!

We made it!!

Now we just had to get back…

Thankfully, there were a few distractions on the way back, like a school of little jellyfish that looked like floating condoms with bright orange heads. (I did briefly wonder if a passing yacht had just been having a killer party the night before.)

Just when I thought I might pass out on the board, we saw a monk seal! It wasn’t quite a dolphin, but it could have been, which reminded me that I will be swimming with dolphins (a lifelong dream of mine) in just a few months. So, I decided against falling in and letting myself be swept away into the waves. Thank you, monk seal, you probably saved my life.

Shane asked if I was planning on hitting him over the head with the paddle when we got back to shore because this great island hopping adventure has been his brain-child. If I could have lifted my arms, I might have.

Even though I had visions of murder by paddle flashing before my eyes, the truth is, I felt like a badass for making that voyage. I accomplished something I never thought I could do. Every tour we have led since has seemed like a piece of cake to me.

Teaching a SUP lesson

Proof that I do SOME actual work and occasionally wear clothes.

Moral of the story: if there’s ever something in life you’re having difficulty achieving, just go out and do the hardest thing you can possibly think of and your original challenge will suddenly seem easy in comparison.

(Alternate moral: never trust an Irishman living on top of a Greek mountain.)

In all seriousness, though, stand up paddle boarding is a great adventure. It can be either relaxing or a great workout, depending on weather conditions and what you’re in the mood for. I would highly recommend you try it out.

If you’re ever in the Skiathos-Skopelos area, check out Sporades SUP. The sunset tours are spectacular if I say so myself.

Sunset tour, Skopelos, Greece

Not a bad way to end a day…I have no idea what’s behind us in the water though – Nessie lives in Greece??!!!

Disclaimer: Despite my affiliation with Sporades SUP, the only compensation I received in exchange for this post was a gyro & a near-death experience (okay, that second part may be an exaggeration). All opinions are my own.

This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series. See the rest of the lineup and link your travel post at Frank About Croatia or any of the other fantabulous hosts listed below.



Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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  1. Sand In My Suitcase    

    Stand-up paddleboarding in Greece? We’re in! (or on, or whatever) Janice absolutely loves SUP. Great exercise, as you say… Wonder if they do any SUP in Rhodes? We’ll be spending a few days there later this year…

    1. Mandie    

      It really is a great core workout! I thiiink there is SUP on Rhodes, but it may just be through a resort on the island, so it might depend on where you’re staying.

  2. Bianca @itsallbee    

    Great pictures! I have been wanting to try paddleboarding for a while now. I hope to try it when I visit Cornwall this summer. Providing the weather behaves.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks! It’s really fun, although I enjoy it more on the flat water than in giant waves. 🙂

  3. Taylor    

    I loved this! I’ve never paddle boarded before but it sounds like a blast. I plan on checking this out because in a few weeks I’ll be in Greece for 2 weeks. Can’t wait 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      You should! I’ve already started looking into getting an inflatable paddle board to use back in Chicago…I think I’m hooked!

  4. Travelling Penster    

    Ooooooh I’ve wanted to try SUP for so long! I’ve heard it’s difficult to maintain balance, but an awesome work out, especially for your core. Good on you for sticking with the mammoth paddle! And what a stunning place to endure 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      I’ve seen some people have a tough time with balancing and others hop right up on the board and paddle off. It is definitely a good workout, though – my whole body was sore the first week or so! (Which is good because I need to burn off some extra calories I may have been consuming lately…)

  5. Lauren    

    I would love to try this. I saw someone paddle boarding on the lake by my apartment recently and thought…is that difficult? Do you need to have crazy good balance? Does it kill your arms after a while? Your blog post helped to answer some of my questions 🙂 I think I’d like to try it out at some point this summer!

    1. Mandie    

      You should! You do need to have somewhat decent balance, and I would recommend taking a lesson before striking out on your own. That way you learn the correct techniques to engage your whole body so it doesn’t kill your arms. 🙂

  6. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey    

    Pfft who needs to exercise when you have wine and views? A huge giggle at your disclaimer, that one was a crack up. Thanks a bunch for joining us for #SundayTraveler again this week.

    1. Mandie    

      Haha, glad you liked my super professional disclaimer. 😉

  7. Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats    

    Looks like a fun job! I have never done SUP, but Ethan took a lesson a year or so ago and has since done it a few times. He enjoys it but I tend to be more the relax in the boat kind of girl:)

  8. Amy Lynne Hayes    

    This looks like so much fun!! We have SUP in Florida, but I have yet to try it. The Greek islands would be the perfect place to give a whirl!

  9. Adelina // PackMeTo    

    Sounds like it was quite the adventure! I’m sure I would have passed out before I even made it to the first stop, much less to the other island. It looks beautiful though. I haven’t tried paddleboarding, but hopefully I’ll go sometime this summer in the chilly waters of Vancouver. I much rather be in Greece!

    1. Mandie    

      Brr, I love Vancouver, but definitely would only try SUP there in the summer! 🙂

  10. Burley Smith    

    Any idea who could rent us two paddle boards for a week for a yacht charter we have from Lavrion (Athens) for the week starting 2 July 2016.

    Burley Smith

  11. Haley Simmons    

    Wow! What a full on paddle adventure! 7 miles is easy? On a paddle board? Nah thanks! At least not starting out. And with nothing to eat but a few dates. You go! Now I feel fat and lazy.

    Since you just made the rest of us look bad, I guess I’ll have to go out and do something extra adventure-y this weekend to make up for it! Love this well-written, witty piece!

  12. David    

    Sounds like quite an adventure. And what a great place to spend a number of weeks! Thanks for sharing.

  13. David Hamburg    

    Wow looks beautiful. I went paddle boarding in Thailand and thought that was awesome. Looks like Greece is next up on my list 🙂

  14. Jason    

    Amazing shots, Mandie. It looks like Sporades SUP may have gone out of business as their website is gone…

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