Scotland | A Complete Guide to Paddle Boarding in Aberdeenshire

An increasingly popular water sport, modern stand up paddle boarding is said to have originated in Hawaii, and involves standing on a surfboard style float, using a paddle to propel yourself through the water. It's perhaps less energetic than traditional surfing, but requires a strong core and good balance to keep yourself upright, and dry! I first tried SUP in sunny Spain, with a lesson from a Geordie lad, in the Mediterranean sea. Personally I found it a relaxing experience and enjoyed it so much I bought my own board back home in Scotland. If you're local, or even just visiting, and fancy giving it a go yourself, here's everything you need to know about paddle boarding in Aberdeenshire.


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Woman on stand up paddleboard in Peterhead Lido Bay


SUP Lessons in Aberdeenshire


If you're new to the sport, I'd suggest booking a SUP lesson first. A guide will teach you the basics, including how to get on and stand up on the board, advising on the best posture and correct paddling technique. Sounds simple, but sometimes it's the hardest part. They'll also give you important safety information. Once you get the hang of it, they might even show you a few tricks. We had kids doing full spins on their boards on my first lesson, whilst I was still just trying to stay standing! You can book a paddle boarding lesson at any of these coastal Aberdeenshire companies:


  • Stonehaven Paddle Boarding - Take a 2 hour beginners lesson in Stonehaven harbour for £50 (£40 for children). This includes all your equipment hire. They also offer a family fun taster session, and introduction to river SUP course. Once you've completed a lesson, you can progress to join in sunrise SUP socials, or tours exploring the caves and cliffs around Dunnottar castle and more!


Find more info on Stonehaven Paddle Boarding here.


  • Scot Surf School - Based at Aberdeen beach, Scot Surf School offer paddle boarding lessons on the River Don for £45. Full kit is provided, and lessons last 2 hours. Group bookings get a discount of £5 and gift vouchers are also available.


Find more info on the Scot Surf School website.


  • Cullen Sea School - Heading further up the coast to picturesque Cullen, instructor led sessions at the Sea School cost £20 for 45 minutes. Although I believe at the time of writing they are running a 50% discount in the off season! Members also receive a discounted rate, and wetsuits can be hired for an extra £5. This summer they're introducing evening paddle sport experiences on the Moray Firth, and ladies only sessions too.


Check the Cullen Sea School site for more info.


The iconic Brig o Balgownie on the River Don with blue skies in the background

10 Best Places for Paddle Boarding in Aberdeenshire


1. Peterhead Lido Bay - In my opinion this is one of the safer places to paddle in Aberdeenshire, thanks to the breakwater sheltering the bay. There is parking right by the beach, as well as a café and toilets just a short walk up the hill at the Maritime centre. The Lido is a great spot for beginners or children to practice their skills as the water is relatively calm within the marina. More experienced paddleboarders could venture out into the wider bay area.


2. River Dee - There are various parts of the river Dee suitable for paddling, with both Milltimber Bridge and Drumoak being popular entry points. It's worth gaining some experience and building your confidence before taking your SUP to the river. A river fin and quick release leash waistband are recommended. You can even take river SUP lessons.


3. Collieston - A picturesque sheltered harbour area, tucked into the Aberdeenshire cliffs, provides the perfect paddleboarding launch point. Parking is limited so it's best to get there early, especially on a sunny day. Collieston is also popular with swimmers. We paddled out of the harbour and along the cliffs, where there's plenty of caves to investigate and we even spotted a lone seal bobbing around not far from us!


4. Knockburn Sports Loch - A great option for families, Knockburn Loch allow you to hire SUP gear as well as bring your own. Access to the loch is included with membership, or costs £15 for a day pass for non members. A family membership costs £120 for the year, and includes 2 adults and up to 4 children. There are toilet and changing facilities, as well as a cafe, on site too.


All the information about SUP at Knockburn is available here.


5. Loch Kinord - Near the popular Burn o' Vat, the 1 mile long Loch Kinord is part of the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve. Their website offers some advice on best practice when using the loch to paddle board, such as avoiding the islands due to breeding otters and nesting birds at certain times of the year. They also recommend only launching from the North or South shores.


Find more information on Loch Kinord here.


Haar Sauna - wood fired sauna in a horsebox at Aberdeen beach


6. Fittie (Footdee) - The Fittie end of Aberdeen beach is ideal to launch your SUP in calm conditions, with a chance of spotting dolphins too! Just don't venture too near the harbour entrance as this can interfere with boats coming and going. There's a great wee sea dwelling community vibe here, with Scot Surf and various street food vans popping up, and even the mobile, wood-fired Haar Sauna for a while. Perfect for warming up after a dip in the chilly North Sea!


7. Cove Bay - You can access the bay from Cove harbour, and paddle either North or South along the rocky cave lined coast. Parking is limited on the pier so be prepared to carry your gear downhill.


8. Loch of Skene - Very close to Aberdeen at Garlogie, Loch of Skene is a popular choice thanks to it's various interesting features, including small islands and an old temple building. It's relatively shallow at 6ft deep but you should still pay attention to conditions before launching. Harmful blue algae means the loch is best avoided in the summer months, so make the most of paddling here in the spring!


9. River Don - From Donmouth you can paddle upstream towards Seaton Park, under the spectacular old Brig o' Balgownie. There's a good chance of seeing the resident seals here, and even otters! Parking is available along the beach boulevard.


10. Cruden Bay - Launch from the small Port Erroll harbour and either head along Cruden Bay beach, or towards the clifftop ruins of Slains Castle. The sea can be choppy so do be careful and only venture out of the harbour if conditions are safe. There are toilet facilities here, and campervans can pay a £10 donation to stay overnight. I'd also recommend popping into the nearby Kilmarnock Arms for a bite to eat - and a heat up by the fire!


You should always do your own research and risk assessments before paddle boarding at any of these spots, and don't forget the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.


Paddlers getting ready to SUP at Collieston harbour on a sunny day


Essential Equipment You Need to Paddle Board in Scotland


So you've taken a lesson, and fallen in love with the sport. Now you want to get your own gear to go paddle boarding whenever you feel like it. There are a few basic bits of equipment you should invest in before you hit the water. Some more obvious than others!


  • SUP board - First and foremost, your SUP board. There are so many options, from solid boards to inflatables. I use a 10.6ft inflatable HIKS paddleboard as they are one of the most reasonably priced brands on the market, and personally I find the inflatables more convenient for storing and transporting it around. You'll need to consider which size is best for you - for example, I'm 5'5ft and find the 10.6ft board a perfect fit, whereas my 6.1ft husband feels more stable on a bigger board. A 12ft paddleboard might be a better option if you're hoping to fit two people on it. Aqua Planet and Blue Fin are both popular brands, but it's worth reading reviews and shopping around for the best deals. 


  • Wetsuit - Chances are, at some point, you're going to fall off your paddle board and end up getting wet. In the summer when it's warmer I sometimes go out in just a swimsuit and shorts, but most of the time I'd recommend a wetsuit. Again, there is lots of choice when it comes to these, so have a think about what you'll be using it for before making a purchase. Surf wetsuits tend to be thicker and more rigid, whereas suits designed for swimming are made of thinner, more flexible material to give you better freedom of movement. If you plan to SUP in winter, consider a 4 or 5mm wetsuit, but a 3:2mm might be fine just for summer. Make sure it's a good fit too or it won't do it's job properly. I have a 3.2mm neoprene Gul ladies wetsuit in large (I'm a UK size 12), which was affordable at £40. Wiggle often have good deals on their website, or Aberdeen based Total Endurance offer a wetsuit fitting service in store.


  • Life jacket - For obvious reasons, a buoyancy aid is an essential bit of kit, no matter your swimming capability. Decathlon have an affordable range, and even one for dogs!

  • Neoprene Boots - If you're someone who feels the cold (who doesn't in the North Sea?), then you might want to consider investing in a pair of neoprene socks to keep the chill off your extremities. Zone 3 Heat Tech swim socks come highly recommended.

Reheating after SUP & swim with a cup of tea in a cosy black and pink Dryrobe

  • Dryrobe - Speaking of warming up, Dryrobe have become the go to for water sports enthusiasts with their fleece lined towelling robes. There are lots of budget friendly changing robes available or, if you'd rather spend your money with a small local business, these Seashell robes are lovely!


  • Dry Bag - Where do you put your phone and keys when you're out on the water, if there's nobody on shore to look after them? That's where a dry bag comes in handy! I use a waterproof phone pouch similar to this one, but I've got my eye on a Seashell backpack. My sister uses her swimming tow float tucked under the straps at the front of her board, which seems to work well. 

  • Electric pump - Not exactly essential, but one of the most convenient, time saving things we've bought was a 12v electric air pump that can be plugged into the car! Save yourself the hassle of blowing up your inflatable paddle board by hand and get one of these.


Man sitting, relaxed on HIKS paddleboard at Peterhead Lido Bay


SUP Yoga in Aberdeen


Brought to Aberdeen by Granite Adventures and local yoga instructors, SUP Yoga is a sure fire way to test your balance. The paddleboards are specifically designed for the activity, and attach to a central platform so you don't need to worry about floating away mid downward dog! Sessions run throughout the summer at Granite Adventure's Royal Deeside loch, and cost £14 each. 


Book SUP with Sarah here.


SUP Safety


It goes without saying that paddle boarding can be a dangerous activity. There are a few things to be aware of before heading out on the water, such as tide times and offshore winds. I recommend the Magic Seaweed website for forecast and tide information, and you can also find out how warm the water is at seatemperature.org. For water quality information check out SEPA's bathing waters report.


It's recommended that you always wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid, use the attachable leash from your board (quick release leashes provide extra safety) and carry your phone in a waterproof pouch so you can call for help in case of an emergency. It's best to paddle with others where possible, and always tell someone on shore where you're going and when you plan to return. Carrying a whistle would be a good idea too!


Please take the time to have a look at the RNLI website for more important SUP safety information.


view from a HIKS paddleboard on clear blue sea


If you're just starting your SUP adventures, I hope you've found this guide helpful. And if you've found any other great places to go paddle boarding in Aberdeenshire I'd love to hear about them! Drop a comment below to let us know your own top tips.


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