Take me to the river

Woman riding sup on a river

Former accountant Ana Maria Teubler started her stand up paddle boarding business in 2020. Since then she has steadily grown it and now boasts a thriving community of 300 plus passionate paddle boarders who she takes out on the River Medway and various local lakes. Here she tells SO magazine more about her love for this popular pastime which became a prodigious craze during lockdown…

Ever since that infamous picture of Jennifer Aniston paddle boarding and looking insanely serene went viral in 2008, the water sport has enjoyed huge popularity – with the likes of Lady Gaga, Orlando Bloom and Kim Kardashian also posing and posting pics on their boards.

But it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 when we couldn’t go on holiday because of lockdown that the sport was suddenly huge – with sales of boards going through the roof and rivers suddenly mobbed with amateur paddle boarders.

The reason it became so popular is in essence simply because it’s so good for your physical and mental health: it tones and keeps you connected with the natural world as you glide down your local river or over a tranquil lake.

One fan who turned her passion for stand up paddle boarding (SUP)  into a bone fide business is local resident Ana Maria Teubler.

The former professional accountant, who has lived in Tunbridge Wells for the past 20 years, started SUP four years ago in a perfect paddling spot: picturesque Polzeath in Cornwall.

“After my first taster session there I then bought and stored my first paddle board in Bexhill on Sea where I have a flat. It was a hard shell one so when Covid hit I decided to bring it back with me but it was so heavy! It was then I decided to invest in an inflatable SUP board and life was infinitely easier! I found it so enjoyable and was instantly hooked!”

Woman doing SUP

Ana says she was naturally drawn to the sport as she’s a fitness fan and big lover of the great outdoors.

“I play a lot of tennis, I run, golf and do lacrosse as I really enjoy being outside. But having sustained a knee injury, paddle boarding seemed like a nice way of keeping fit without risking any further damage,” Ana explains.

She continues saying that the mindfulness and calming nature of the sport also attracted her to it and eventually led her to enrolling in an instructor’s course a few years ago.

“I decided to qualify with British Canoeing as an instructor due to the fact I was taking friends out and I wanted to know more about rescues and technical skills. When I posted on social media that I’d qualified, friends then started asking for lessons and it all went from there. I worked both as an accountant and an SUP coach for a year then decided to stop accountancy and move my office to the river!”

“I found it so enjoyable and was instantly hooked!”

Since then Ana has done additional coaching courses in order to expand her remit and the services she offers from her base near Tonbridge Canoe Club on the River Medway.

So how quickly did her SUP business establish itself and is it a relatively easy skill to pick up?

“It took a good year to establish and it grew organically – mainly by word of mouth and social media. I presently have over 300 ladies on my members’ group! And in terms of how quickly you learn I’d honestly say that it’s easy for some but at the same time really hard for others. I would normally recommend a lesson and then practice. I offer trips three times a week where ladies can come and have a go.

“I coach on the River Medway, as well as on a private lake in Southborough. I have pool sessions lined up for the Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre and am currently running lessons at Sevenoaks School too. I also create daily events such as Nordic Walking and Paddle boarding /Yoga and Paddle boarding/ Barre and Paddle boarding.”

Ana adds that she also does collaborative work with bigger companies and event organisers such us Planet Patrol on their river clean-up projects. She is also currently in discussions to start up an interesting sports fusion called ‘Aqua Paddle’ which Ana describes as a similar concept to the Park Run where people show up at the same time to paddle board collectively.

“But it’s not a race. It will just be a time trial to challenge yourself,” she states.

Ana also runs various courses and coastal tours – mainly in Bexhill where her love for this sport grew initially – working with other providers to give people a safe environment to develop their skills further and learn about the geography of other local places.

What does Ana, who works all year round, think people ultimately get out of paddle boarding?

“I get so much feedback on how I’ve changed people’s lives – I guess it’s escapism from the day to day. Friendships have developed around me and I’m proud of that. It’s also a great way to exercise as there’s a lot of core engagement and toning. The winter is actually my favourite season as I have the river all to myself and my group of brave ladies!”

People with their SUP Boards

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