By Maryann Horne.
Kuwait is no longer out of surfing bounds. A new generation of boards is creating a small revolution. Stand Up Paddleboarding has hit the shores and is enabling novices and veterans alike to enjoy the coast in a new way.
Some days, it’s deeply depressing to be a surfer in Kuwait. When you are a surfer, you constantly crave waves. From the minute you wake to the minute you fall asleep, when by the sea, you scour the horizon for a ripple, a set of waves and that indescribable urge of going to play with the sea and let the waves wash over your soul.
Kuwait might offer a myriad of opportunities to be on, over and under the sea. But most involve a boat, deafening motors and logistical arrangements. If sailing, there needs to be wind, and inevitably, there is the kit – and lots of it. Diving is also fantastic here, but not always an activity you can do without some planning. Since arriving in Kuwait, I’ve been missing the sea as I know it: alive, powerful, full of crashing waves and beckoning you in a way only a surfer knows. I miss the adrenaline rush, the solitude and the space, feeling my toes trailing in the water while the salt streaks my face. Most of all I miss being able to empty my mind and focus on nothing but the next set rolling in and the excitement of the ride.
Over the years, I’ve found surfing heaven in places such as Portugal, the Galapagos, Morocco, Hawaii, the emerald waters of Ireland and even Micronesia. Our family lives for traveling and wherever we roam, we gravitate around peaks and swells. So Kuwait felt like a death sentence in surfing terms. That was until the day we met Alec Gribble and tried Stand Up Paddleboarding. Alec is the kind of renegade without boundless energy that you can’t help loving at first sight. A keen surfer, he and his wife Sam have chosen Kuwait as their home and are a big part of the expat community. While he too has missed surfing, he has decided to do something about it by bringing Stand Up Paddleboarding to Kuwait.
In the past few months, he has set about leading a tribe of like-minded folk by offering an alternative to those in need of their surfing fix. He offers sessions on stand up boards from the Red Paddle Company, not as a business, but more as a way of connecting like-minded people and creating a community. The common denominator of those he connects through Stand Up Paddleboarding is a deep love of the sea and the great outdoors. The boards he has imported here offer a fabulous alternative to traditional stand up surfing. There are five types of boards and they allow users to coast Kuwait standing on a board with a paddle in hand. All you need is a rash vest and a minimum level of fitness and you can be off for hours discovering another view of Kuwait.
The boards can be taken anywhere, anytime. Surf off the Kuwait Towers or over the reef at Umm Al Marradim. My seminal moment was paddling the turquoise waters of Khiran, light breeze in my face as I stared at fish darting about the board and discovering the potential of this mammoth of a board. The Red Paddle boards that Alec offers to rent and to buy are inflatable with a hand pump. They pack down into a bag the size of hold luggage, weighing only nineteen kilos in total. They can be pumped in minutes and washed down in seconds and travel easily. But the beauty of the boards is that, although inflatable, they feel as hard as conventional long boards. The minute swell appears, they can be used as a good old fashioned board. In fact they are ideal for Kuwaiti conditions. Long and stable, they allow even novice surfers to catch small waves and have fun with the best of what Kuwait has to offer. These versatile boards are the equivalent of magic for surfers here. Kuwait will never be Hawaii or Ireland’s east coast. But it means that the flat pancake that is the Gulf can also be surfed. When the wind picks up, and depending on the climatic conditions, Messila and Khiran can offer some sizable swells and certainly enough to have fun and get moving.
Now, I can’t wait for the heat to subside. The horizon may be flat most of the time but it can be just as fun. The boards are offering us a new way of looking at the beauty of the Kuwaiti coastline. I never thought I would utter these words but “Surf’s up in Kuwait” ! And rippling or not, the sea can become anyone’s playground.
Alec Gribble from Red Paddle offers short introductory sessions around the Messila area, with some basic instruction. Rental is KD25 per day. Facebook and Instagram . Contact Alex on Whatsapp on 9442 2593.