Armed with a paddle, a massive inflatable surfboard, and a sense of adventure, young people in Ho Chi Minh City are flocking to the city’s waterways to explore the open waters.
Modern stand-up paddle boarding – a sport that involves standing on a large, inflatable surfboard-like plank and paddling through the water – has been around for decades, but it is only in the past two years that the sport has made a splash in Ho Chi Minh City.
Nowadays, it is not uncommon to catch large groups of young people exploring the city’s waterways on stand-up paddle boards, a phenomenon that owes its success to the affordable cost of lessons and tours, which range from VND300,000-600,000 (US$13-26) per three hours.
A fun way to get fresh air
“SUP lets me escape the city’s pollution and noise and enjoy myself on the water,” explained Nguyen Dac Thi, a resident of Thu Duc City who often spends his holidays paddling down the Saigon River.
According to Thi, SUP helped him reduce stress and connect with the nature without having to travel too far from home.
Though Thi absolutely has a passion for SUP, he was not shy in retelling stories of disasters he has had on his board, including his tale of getting stuck near the Saigon River bridge.
|Nguyen Dac Thi paddles down the Saigon River in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ho Ka / Tuoi Tre|
“If I stopped padding, the board would overturn,” Thi shared.
“But when I paddled, the board wouldn’t move.
"It was a waste of strength. A three-hour nightmare!
“Now, I always make sure to keep track of the tides, the winds, and the environment around me.”
But SUP is not just adventure, it is also a great way to get some exercise.
On average, an hour of paddling consumes about 600 calories, making it the perfect sport for office workers like 28-year-old Le Phan Song Uyen who loves SUP because it allows her to combine exercise with her love for travel and sightseeing.
SUP’s popularity has spread beyond Ho Chi Minh City and into other southern localities, including Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta, where university student Huynh Quoc Long loves exploring local waterways on a SUP alongside colleagues form his part-time job.
“I saw [SUP] on Facebook and TikTok and thought it looked interesting, so I decided to try it out on one weekend,” said Long.
Though Long’s first trip was delayed for half an hour due to heavy rain, he still had a fantastic time rowing from the bank of the Hau River, passing though Au Islet, and towards the Can Tho Bridge.
|A group of young people pose for a photo after their SUP trip on the Hau River in Can Tho City, Vietnam. Photo: Huynh Quoc Long/ Handout via Tuoi Tre|
From amateur to trainer
Dang Gia, a Ho Chi Minh City resident, has gone from being a SUP enthusiast who paddled the city’s rivers and canals five times a week for fun, to a professional SUP trainer.
Gia started doing SUP with friends before realizing there was a lot of opportunity to transform his love for the sport into a business.
Following that realization, he began offering lessons to other enthusiasts, most of whom are 15 to 45 years old.
“[Teaching SUP] requires premium equipment and the careful preparation of training lesson plans,” Gia said.
|Boards are placed next to a tent in Vietnam. Photo: Ho Ka / Tuoi Tre|
For each of Gia’s lessons, he offers customers boards and accessories, such as waterproof bags and recyclable water bottles.
Some of the skills he teaches include observing tidal flow, paying attention to certain points when paddling on the river, and disembarking from the board.
“I’ve always held the idea that my customers need a great SUP experience, not just in terms of entertainment, but also in terms of skills and training,” Gia explained.
SUP tours like Gia’s often see heavy spikes in demand on holidays, and the sport has even found itself included in tours to much more exotic destinations, including Phu Quoc Island off the coast of southern Kien Giang Province.