Name: Jen Scully
Age: 34
Nationality: American
Occupation: Assistant Director of Athletics, NYU Abu Dhabi and Naish Middle East Sponsored Rider

For Jen Scully, it was ‘love at first paddle’. With an ardent passion for Stand Up Paddling (SUP), she has tried an immense variety of SUP disciplines like SUP surfing, whitewater, yoga, racing, down winding and flatwater paddling across oceans, lakes, rivers and pools all around the world. SUP is easy enough that anyone can learn, and the good news is that there is always something new to try.

What inspired you to get into SUP?
Being a competitive swimmer and water polo player in my younger days, being in and around water has always been a happy place for me. I’d seen people doing it on a visit to California and it looked fun. The first time I stepped on a board I was hooked. Those were my early days into the sport. When I found out one could race, I knew it was the next sport for me!

Tell us about your love for SUP…
I started stand up paddling in Abu Dhabi eight years ago and have loved it ever since. It has become a part of me and I cannot imagine my life without it. The ability to get out and enjoy the water, whether it be for a paddle with friends or competing in a race, is something that I still enjoy just as much as the first time I stepped on a board.

In 2012, I turned my passion for SUP into a company called Live Love SUP (based in the United States) that has built a community of paddlers from around the world who help to give to charity and share the stroke of SUP. I have organised SUP events across the globe, teaching hundreds of lessons, contributing to magazines and blogging about my SUP adventures and experiences along the way. I have also been involved in the SUP community in the UAE since my first day of paddling, having taught for various companies and organised races for the club.

What makes SUP such a favourite?
My favourite part of SUP, besides its physical benefits (it’s a fantastic work out), is the ability to meet like minded people all over the world. We have developed amazing friendships and met people hailing from different cultures who speak different languages, but who have all been connected through their love of SUP.

Which countries have you paddle boarded in, and what would you say about SUP in the UAE and Oman?
I have stand up paddled in 23 different countries. Down winding in Hawaii, paddling the Seine in Paris and the lakes of Switzerland have been some of my favourites. I have done a lot of paddling in the UAE and Oman, and paddling the mangroves in Abu Dhabi is my local favourite. Finding waves in Dubai is great, but Asilah in Oman is even better. I also love paddling around Snoopy Island in Fujairah and exploring the coast off the Musandam peninsula. I founded the Abu Dhabi Stand Up Paddle Club in 2009 which has been a great way to encourage people to get out together and make it more than just an individual pursuit.

Is there any particular fitness level required for SUP?
The greatest thing is that anyone can learn how to SUP. All one needs is the right equipment, as boards come in different shapes and sizes to a accommodate variety of paddlers. For most first-timers, just a desire to learn is all one needs. From each paddle stroke, a great new way to get fit and have fun is discovered.

Which SUP competitions have you participated in?
I have participated in over 30 races since I began paddling. Many of these have been in the UAE, my favourite local race being the annual Emirates Palace SUP Festival that I help to organise as well. It’s a beautiful location to paddle, a real community feel and a beach race that allows everyone to cheer on the paddlers as they finish each lap. It’s a perfect day out for any paddling enthusiast. My most memorable race would be racing at the Paris Crossing in December 2013. We started with 300 other paddlers in the early morning on the River Seine and paddled by the Notre Dame, seeing the sun rising over the Eiffel Tower. It was freezing, but absolutely an amazing experience!

How would you like to inspire people to take up SUP?
I really enjoy sharing my passion by teaching people how to paddle. There’s just something about it that makes you want to do more and more. Seeing the joy and excitement of people learning to SUP, especially those who never thought they could do it, is amazing. By continuing to share the sport locally and globally and promote the physical, mental and emotional benefits that SUP has to offer, I hope to inspire many more future paddlers of all ages.

Words by: Bandana Jain
Photos by: Supplied