An Interview with Matt Barker Smith – owner of the SUP Hut, Gower.

by Ophelia Xerri

I met Matt, SUP surf champion at The SUP hut, to find out about stand up paddle boarding worldwide and on the Gower, how Matt got to be a champion paddle boarder, and how we can all get involved!

 

the sup hut

The SUP Hut. What are you about?

The SUP hut is foremost a shop for SUP. We are the UK’s Premier SUP & Accessory Store -paddles, accessories, boards, leashes – everything you need to get you out on the water, and more. We provide a premier SUP experience, as well as equipment. We advise different boards for different SUP experiences – we’re a 2017 Starboard demo centre, with about 6-7 boards from the Starboard range.

The SUP hut also works as a SUP HQ for the Gower, and helps to service the local as well as worldwide SUP communities with new information and equipment for their SUP style and progression.

How did you start to build this SUP HQ?

It began as blog I started called “SUP Gower” in 2008, around the same time that I was getting into stand up paddle boarding. I wanted to build momentum for SUP in the Gower. SUP Gower blog is still active, with SUP product reviews, pictures, and supports what is going on for the sport.

SUP Hut was created for customers to get involved easily. We’ve developed a beginner’s SUP Gower map.  For Gower specific information about why tides, wind, waves are important.

Come into the SUP Hut shop though and we can answer questions, give advice and suggest where to go for your level and interest in SUP. We offer a range of lessons and SUP experiences for all abilities.

There are two website domains:

The SUP hut is SUP shop, instore and online:

http://www.standuppaddleboarding.co.uk/

SUP Gower is blog, lessons and more:

http://www.supgower.com/

oxwich bay

Why do you think SUP is having a growing success both here [Gower] and worldwide?

There was a big push for SUP from USA in 2007, I think, and then that interest spread. I think there are a few reasons why:

SUP is open to a range of abilities

When people try surfing for the first time, they may remember standing up for 4-5 seconds for the whole session. SUP boards are bigger and more buoyant so staying up is easier. We have all age of people joining us for SUP lessons, from 7- 70 year olds!

SUP beginners are always surprised at their own success from a first SUP lesson, and it’s great job satisfaction for the instructor as well!

SUP is diverse a sport within itself

SUP is great for surf and racing. But if surf or racing isn’t for you, Paddle board your way along a canal, or explore a river line or coast, or go fishing, or use your board for SUP yoga or SUP polo!

SUP is open for a lot of creativity and brands are pushing the envelope all the time. 

The first paddle board I bought was a big lump of foam, and I can understand that being off-putting for a beginner.  However, now you can get inflatable boards which can be packed down into a bag and easy move around and store. Inflatable SUP boards are a good choice for beginners looking to buy but unsure if they want to commit to a hard board.

SUP is accessible anywhere with water

Location accessibility-wise, we are able SUP in a lot of different water bodies, which is great for surfers who haven’t got access to the sea. There are SUP paddle boarding clubs setting up everywhere. In London, people are paddling down the Thames!

Check out our site for locations of our SUP lessons on the stunning Gower peninsula, Swansea bay and Carmarthenshire in South Wales.

Good places other than the sea to SUP around here:

Enclosed bodies of water are good for a beginner; you don’t need to worry about tide. The Tawe; North dock, Llanelli and Llwchwr Estuary are all great to paddle.

SUP Map Gower

 

SUP yoga sounds very cool?

This has taken off globally! Yoga is great obviously on a mat, but practicing on a board targets your fast twitch muscle fibre, so has added benefits.

I was approached by yoga instructor, Helen Wilson of Womankind Yoga and SUP Yoga Swansea. Helen set up our SUP Yoga Swansea, and it’s been her development.

We do sessions for about 12 people throughout January and February. March time, we will hopefully move outside.
Who are Paddle boarders we should check out?
European SUP innovator Pactrice Guénolé- http://www.gongsup.com

Robby Naish – www.naishsurfing.com

Surfers of JOTs will know Laird Hamilton – www.lairdhamilton.com

Hamilton has mixed reviews with surfers but I like him.

 

Tell us about you Matt – how did you get into water sports?

I’ve been fascinated by a lot of different water sports throughout my life. I grew up in Bath, and being landlocked, I used to do a lot of skateboarding. As a grom, my friend got me into skim boarding and we would take trips to Cornwall or Devon whenever we could and then I got hooked on surfing.

I got myself a 6’2 surf board from a little surf shop called The Pink in Croyde. I only had a bodyboard leash to use, but the “sucky” water at Croyde was great. I then moved to Swansea for the surf and the university and got into kite surfing and SUP.

Can you tell us about your SUP competition history?

I organise a local race series and National races for SUP around the Gower with racing SUP boards. I’ll hold another local race series in 2017.

I won the British championship in SUP surfing 2013, 14,15. I didn’t attack 2016 with as much vigour as I had the previous years and didn’t win. 2016 I competed in two contests, coming 2nd in both. I turned down my place at recent world championships in Fiji because of family life. I did the EU SUP championship over the summer, and ranked 6th overall.

I still want to continue competing, but as I’ve got older, more of my time is spent with my family. I’m enjoying exploring the other avenues of SUP and running the shop to get more people involved.

BSUPA Stand Up Paddle Board Competition Watergate Bay 2nd October 2016

What do you like most about Paddle boarding?

I like a long distance paddle, and big waves – I really enjoy the accelerating factor of waves.

I like the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ spots on the Gower. Carmarthenshire coast is definitely something to explore because there are so many nice spots to find. The whole journey is enjoyable.

What is your newest SUP adventure?

The SUP Hut is expanding 2017 which is exciting! We are making the shop a little bigger, hoping to create a bit more of a community feel in here.

I’m working on growing the SUP envelope as well. I’m presently looking at a platform for SUP hydrofoiling – SUPfoiling. This will be great for surf when waves aren’t possible to ride. A SUP hydrofoil board will catch in swell rather than the breaking waves. I really like that SUP is an evolution of equipment that allows you to try new things in the water.

I’d like to develop adventure SUP touring – paddling out somewhere, and staying overnight/camp experience.

I also want to do a barista course so I can serve good coffee in the SUP Hut.

Your favourite place on the Gower?

It’s a secret I can’t tell you.

Best time to SUP on the Gower?

Generally, if you want flat water on the Gower, the best time to paddle is in high tide, when the water is closer to the land. If any wind blowing, you will have wind shadow, so you don’t have to paddle against it.

2 time British champion Matt Barker-smith - Langland bay

Can you talk to us about tension between surfing and SUP riders?

I understand this debate from both sides. I remember being a short boarder and getting annoyed at longboarders, surf skiers, other large water sports. As an advocator of SUP, I like to keep the peace, offer education, and service the community. Etiquette is something I try and push with my SUP school.

You’ve got to be responsible on the water. A paddle board on the water carries more clout that a surf board. You’ve got to be aware of yourself, others and the sea when you are out catching waves. Control of your equipment is very important for safety. I signpost people away from epicentre waves of Gower. Langland is a honey pot for all water sports. Surfers don’t like people with big boards and paddles, catching waves and being a nuisance.

There is enough coast line for everyone to get into it though…

Ophelia Xerri

English graduate and musician with a 9-5 job, who finds a lot of happiness in surfing and yoga. A singer on my own: https://soundcloud.com/ophelia-xerri or with my band Bareknuckle Beatbox.

The Surfers’ Diary is a space for surfers to share their tales, ideas and inspirations. If you have something to share, get in touch.

And don’t forget to check out our app, Johnny on the Spot. It’s a personal, private diary that will help you keep a record of your surf sessions and learn the best time to surf all your favourite breaks.

Download it from the App Store here, or from the Google Play Store here.

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