I’d seen it done, and decided my SUP bucket list had to contain it too.
Paddling the Venice Canals in Italy. So, with a 35 lbs. BiC SUP Inflatable SUP Air attached to my back and my one-year-old baby girl in a carrier attached to my front, a 9 hour red-eye flight, and hopping on a train in Milan was no easy task, but the two hour train-ride itself was relaxing and gave me a chance to dream about the canals while I viewed the serene Italian countryside.
Venice has long been a authority on standing on water. If you ask me, the Gondoliers standing on the long, black, sleek gondolas, were the first real standup paddlers, providing transportation and tourist fun through 170 aquatic alleyways of the 118 islands of Venice, dating back as far as 1094 A.D. So to paddle through next to buildings that have been around since the 5th century was something I knew I had to experience.
So if you too have bucket-listed that idea of singing “O Sole Mio” and drinking the finest espresso atop your SUP through the Venetian
Canal, let me show you just how it’s done, and how you can make it happen. I’ll show you where to eat, where to stay, the best guide for your on the water adventure, and everything in between.
Hop off the train in Venice, it’s just an easy walk across some hundred year old bridges to the pristine streets of Venice. Or simply jump aboard one of the many water taxis that transport you down the Grand Canale to your home on the water.
Mine was Hotel Trivoli. And if you are budget-minded like me, this little, hidden gem in the quiet part of Venice that was white-glove clean, and comes complete with a fabulous free breakfast of traditional Italian fare was the perfect place to lay my head and still be in the center of all that was Venetian. After a lovely sleep to recover from all the travel, and a walk around the city to get oriented, I strapped on my SUP Air and headed to Surf Club Venezia where I met Eliana, the first gal ever to offer Stand Up Paddle Lessons on the Venice Canals…..
Eliana. An authentically beautifully Italian woman, born in Venice, with curly locks, a contagious smile, and like any good mermaid, loves water and lives to be in it and on it.
Eliana got her start as a Voga Veneta styled-rower, a group of mostly oar-loving Venetian woman who are dedicated to preserving the rowing water culture of Venice and similar to standing and paddling a gondolier. This passion for standing on water made SUP a natural fit for her, and ignited her to become a ISA Licensed SUP instructor and open the first SUP school in Venice, the Surf Club Venezia in 2010. Alongside her job as a free lance tour manager in Venice, Eliana became the first person to host water-laden tours via SUPs, called “SUP in Venice tours”. I was honored to have such a passionate and skilled paddler to help me experience my first strokes through the canals. Because believe me: it does take some skills and no, you can’t do alone…
In order to SUP in Venice, there is actually quite a few rules of the city to abide by, and Eliana knows them all, even the very peculiar ones. Such as:
1. Falling in is forbidden. That’s right paddlers. This form of SUP is reserved for experienced paddlers, meaning you must be able to stop the board in the current and stay in place, and be able to turn a sharp 90 degrees as you maneuver tiny canals, all without falling in. The water in Venice is not something you want to fall into as much of the sewage of the city runs off into the canals and although its filtered by the Adriatic Sea nearby, it’s definitely not water you want on or in any part of your body.
2. No swimsuits. It is forbidden in Venice to wear a swimsuit, sunbathe, or go barechested, and keep it PG.
3. Be prepared for some surprising gusts of wind through the canals. While one moment you are standing on glassy waters gliding under a romantic bridge, the next moment you are blown into a gondola in a matter of seconds when gusts of wind travel down the canals. So Eliana’s best advice is to go to your knees immediately when you feel wind, to be able to manuever the board easily without risking injury from nearby boats, or simply hold to a nearby stationed boat in passing until the gust dies down.
4. You must make yourself known. There are many blind spots in the canals, so as you come to a corner to turn, you must slow your pace and yell, “Oiiiiiiyy!!” This is her Italian version of blowing her SUP horn to let other boats know she is coming around the bend. I found this highly amusing but also effective and joined in with her a time or two.
Before getting anyone in the water there is a short briefing of these rules and a few more that Eliana takes you through in order to let you know what to be aware of. SUPs are sharing these narrow canals with many, many other boaters, all of which who have the right-of-way over paddle boards.
Despite all the rules, Eliana’s bubbly, passionate personality made the whole experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure of fun and wonder. She safely and professionally plopped myself along with her close friend Andrea in the watery streets, and we marveled at the century-old buildings, the singing gondoliers, and the sun setting over breathtaking water-nested architecture.
Eliana helps you effectively experience Venice in the most invigorating way possible.
Eliana’s vast knowledge of her hometown and all the rich history that goes along with it, would put wikipedia to shame. She certainly knows her stuff. Walking the streets is fine, but paddling through canals that have been stood upon and paddled for centuries is something I will carry with me always.
“When people are with me in the canals they learn something about our culture, it’s not only a SUP excursion but a way to get in touch with our history and art.” I lead people in places where the public transports do not arrive, this is a chance to visit the authentic Venice, far from the busy tourist-y areas.” – Eliana Argine The price for a SUP in Venice tour depends on the number of the people who ask for it, from 60 to 80 Euro. Group are limited to a max of 4 people due to the narrow canals and many boats. And you don’t have to bring your SUP like I did, because Eliana has boards waiting for your happy little feet right there at Surf Club Venezia.
To find out how you can book your once in a lifetime adventure with Eliana, visit her website: www.supinvenice.com, or look for her on Tripadvisor at SUP in Venice.
SUP season in Venice is open from April to October. And this gal fills up fast, so the earlier you can book, the better!
After a hug goodbye to Eliana, you will be on a Venetian-high like no other and the best way I know to calm down and revel in this awe-inspiring experience is to stop for a bite and of course, an italian Espresso.
For the best Espresso and a budget-friendly lunch: Go where the locals go. It’s a little out of the way and off most of the beaten paths in Venice but Trattoria Dalla Marissa will tantalize your Italian taste-buds when it comes to fresh, fresh, and did I mention fresh local Venetian cuisine. No menu here, as Marissa herself only cooks up what is in season and available from the local fishermen that day. Check out the local workman lunch crew that stops by on their lunch break and see what they order because they eat their everyday. Sit outside next the canal and let the breeze whisper through your hair as you sip one of the best espressos in the city. I ordered the Tuna stead with polenta, and had never experienced tuna with marinara sauce on it. Yet after having it that way, I will most likely start making mine this way, as the flavors were incredible! Try whatever fish they have fresh daily as it was usually caught that very morning. You’ll leave satisfied and feeling like a local.
Other tips to consider when planning this SUP bucket-list must:
• Pack light if you plan to walk to your hotel in Venice. You will be trekking up and down stairs, through small alley-ways and perhaps even crammed on a very busy watertaxi.
• Where comfy walking shoes. You will be walking more than you think you will.
• Fill up at your hotel breakfast so you can splurge on all the expeditions both on and off the main islands and even visit other surrounding islands like Cemetary Island. Then fill up again at dinner-time just like the Italians do.
• Speaking of dinner, don’t expect to eat in Venice before 7:30pm. Most restaurants aren’t open before then.
• For all you coffee lovers, don’t expect to walk around the city with your espresso.
Italians don’t really believe in to-go cups. So sit and enjoy it like they do, at the many outdoor street cafes. You know, when in rome….
• Trains in and out of Venice are easy to get to, and leave about every hour or so. Plan to be at the train station no more than 30 minutes prior to your departure, as it’s quite easy to get on and off them.
Eliana, SUPing canals, espresso, and extraordinary Venetian fare is all at your fingertips and a trip you will not regret spending a little money on. Here are the links below to begin building your bucket-list booking and get SUP-stoked Venetian style!