Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in Mt Maunganui

323 Days on the Road

If you want a bit of sunshine in your life, then come to the Bay of Plenty. In the middle of autumn, it feels like the summer we experienced in the South Island – nothing too crazy hot, but just sunny enough to make you smile. Today is no exception as we wake up to another stellar day in Mt Maunganui, Tauranga’s beachside suburb!

SUP with Eastcoast Paddler

The water completely surrounds this spit of land that Mt Maunganui is situated on, but we haven’t yet made use of all those beach activities. Cue, Eastcoast Paddler, the original stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) company in Mt Maunganui! We are meeting at Pilot Beach for the start of our morning paddle session.

Meeting at Pilot Beach

We arrive at a long beach under the watchful eye of Mt Maunganui itself, a.k.a Mauao or simply ‘The Mount’. It also looks out onto the still waters of Tauranga Harbour, hopefully meaning that there are less chances to fall off our SUP boards!

Our guide, Porina, a born and bred Maori New Zealander, meets us with some blow-up SUP boards. After a slight mishap with her electric pump, she quickly organises for a friend from a local surf school to drop off some foot pumps. We help pump up the boards until they are solidly sturdy! Then our SUP lesson can begin!

A stand-up paddle board lesson

We take our boards down onto Pilot Beach start learning some paddling techniques. Porina teaches us how to paddle from our knees first, a more stable way to start, then she shows us how to stand up in the most stable way possible. But just in case we fall off, which may or may not happen to Robin who is so lanky that he can barely balance on land (Ok, it’s not that bad), Porina finally tells us what to do if we were to fall off our paddle board. And with, that we are hitting the Tauranga Harbour on our knees!

Stingrays, starfish and shellfish…

Things seem to be going pretty well as we follow Porina around boats to practice turns. Soon enough, we are ready to stand but something in the clear water is taking our attention. Stingrays, starfish, shellfish… we can see them all super clearly on the sandy bottom below us. We have never seen such a concentration of different starfish species – all of them are just chilling out with their arms curled into all kinds of shapes.

Trying some underwater nonsense under the SUP boards

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Standing up!

Finally, we get over the surprise of seeing so much marine life, and finally stand up on our paddle boards! Wahoo! We feel super stable with this mix of calm water and nice wide boards. The inflatable aspect of the board gives it enough cushioning to be comfortable to kneel and stand on – no dead legs here! From there, we follow Porina who is taking us on a journey around Mauao.

The legend of Mauao

She gives us some advice along the way to make our paddle strokes faster and more effective, then in no time, we are both feeling super comfortable and confident on the water. As we start to paddle alongside the extinct volcano of Mauao, Porina tells us the Maori legend behind the mountain. Porina has a real skill for storytelling, telling us the tragic love story of Mauao – in Maori legends about features of New Zealand’s landscapes, there’s always a story of love either lost or found.

Tangaroa – The God of the Ocean

We paddle further along the mountain fringed with crooked pohutukawa trees until we reach a rocky section to navigate over without getting our boards stuck. The rocks build up until they make up a small island surrounding Tangaroa, a statue of a Maori warrior facing the mouth of the harbour. Tangaroa is the God of the Ocean, and he is positioned in a challenging stance that you are likely to see at a powhiri – a Maori welcoming ceremony.

The pristine beach at the bottom of The Mount

Past Tangaroa is a pristine white-sand beach. Not a soul is here other than a seagull and a shag. Below us, the seabed is full of seashells seen so clearly through the water. It feels like we have been transported to paradise right now… Then we turn around to see a huge container ship coming into the harbour, dragging the water in its direction all the way from the beach! Ah!

Although on a normal tour, Porina could take us all the way around Mauao, we have spent way too much time taking photos, so we decide to have a relaxing paddle back to Pilot Beach. By this time, Robin is kicking Laura’s ass by speeding ahead!

Checking in at the Harbourside City Backpackers

Back on the dry and sandy land, we take the SUP boards back to Porina’s car as best we can without getting sand on them, then thank her for the SUPer morning! We now need to check into our new accommodation in the heart of Tauranga, Harbourside City Backpackers! The working hostel – a hostel that can assist backpackers with finding work, like we did with kiwifruit picking yesterday – is situated in an old hotel overlooking waterfront of Tauranga. We eat our lunch on the balcony, taking in the harbour views, before getting down to an afternoon of work. It’s not all fun and games at! On that note, join us tomorrow for more, well, fun and games in Tauranga!

Sunny SUP session at Mt Maunganui

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