KOTA KINABALU (Sept 4): If all goes according to plan, Sabah may become the new paddleboarding destination in the region.
Efforts are being taken to realise the ambition, thank to Nick Boura who strongly believes Sabah has much to offer in the relatively new sport of Stand Up Paddling (SUP), or paddleboarding.
“If you visited Tanjung Aru beach recently you will have noticed that the number of Stand Up paddlers on the water, especially at sunset, is fast increasing.
“What was a novelty recreational activity a few years back has now become that cool sport that everyone wants to try.
“The popularity of this relatively new sport is due to its simplicity and ease of access. Almost everyone can stand up and paddle after a few minutes, with proper instruction.
“This water sport is low impact and therefore fun and safe for everyone, from the youngest to the less young,” Boura, a French citizen who has made Sabah his home for the past 18 years, was quoted in a prepared statement shared to the press over the weekend.
Also the founder of Borneo Paddle Monkeys, SUP tour operator Boura who was at the origins of the sport in Sabah, explained that some kids as young as six years old can already paddle on their own.
At the other end of spectrum, an 82-year-old named Tungku Adlin successfully paddled with Borneo Paddle Monkeys just a year ago.
Hence, the initiative to take paddleboarding to the next level.
Boura opined that Stand Up Paddling has now reached a level of maturity in the state where people are starting to look beyond just recreation.
“They seek to go further, at faster speeds, on faster boards. SUP competitions across the world, including in our region, are booming.
“The Kinabalu Yacht Club (KYC) has been at the forefront of SUP development in the city and has already been running regular SUP races for the past few years …latest one was part of the (recent) Merdeka Day Regatta event,” he said.
Boura said Sabah could be next where he revealed he was in contact with several relevant authorities for the state to have its very own race.
“Sabah, more than West Malaysia, is perfectly suited for paddleboarding, with its very accessible beaches, islands and rivers,” said Boura who took a trip to Kwai River, Thailand to compete in the Ultra Distance race The Route 97 recently.
“I believe Sabah could successfully showcase a similar event, allowing top paddlers from all around the world to come here and experience the state at its rawest and purest, gliding down a river through jungles and small villages.
“Points won at this Sabah race will count towards the SUP World Ranking classification,” he added.
That said, Boura revealed he was talking to various sports, tourism and wildlife authorities for Sabah to launch its very own race, the River SUP Ultra Race, hopefully by late 2024.
“Such a race will put Sabah on the world sports tourism map for good. A decision on the final race venue is expected within the next couple of months,” he said while several rivers are being considered for the race.
Towards this end, Boura explained that Stand Up Paddling is the world’s fastest-growing sport and as such will most probably be included in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
In Malaysia, Stand Up Paddling has quickly matured in a few short years, transitioning from a simple beach recreation hobby to increasingly competitive and technical racing.
And Sabah, with its unique natural venues, has a major card to play in the development of the sport in the country.
Meanwhile, Boura will travel to Singapore for the annual Singapore Ocean Cup on Oct 20-22, where he will be representing the state in the short and long races.
Boura would then turn his focus to the ICF World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand in mid-November, where along with local Susan Pan will compete in the sprint, technical and long races.