“I’ve been staring at the edge of the water, Long as I could remember…See the light as it shines on the sea? It’s blinding.” These lyrics from recently released Disney movie Moana speak deeply to me, as someone in love with the seas and the lakes and the rivers of our world, someone who could spend hours staring out into open waters, watching the line where turquoise waters meet blue skies. And I’m sure we’re not alone in enjoying the sun and the sea and the beach. So I’ve reached out to the travel blogging community to discover what their favorite water activities are! Here are the top 9 water sports that they recommend for you:
1. Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is a type of underwater diving in which the diver uses a Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus to breathe underwater. There can be different variations of the scuba circuit, as well as of the breathing gas. Typically, beginners start with an open-circuit scuba. Compressed air carried in back-mounted cylinders is inhaled through a demand regulator and then exhaled into the adjacent water. Scuba is used for recreational purposes in open water diving, wreck diving, cave diving, spear fishing, etc. There are dive shops around the world, which can take you to dive in the main places of underwater interest. You can start with an uncertified “introductory dive”, but for most diving sites, a diving certification is required. The most commonly used certification agencies are PADI and SSI.
I love scuba diving and would unconditionally recommend it, because it allows one to explore a totally new dimension of the world, under water, where great new senses are being experienced in a variety of situations. For myself, a world-traveller, scuba diving opens up opportunities to make the best of a great number of countries and places that I visit. I particularly enjoy encounters with big underwater mammals (e.g. whales) and fish (e.g. sharks), wreck penetration (like the 199m long SS Coolidge in Vanuatu), the colours and biodiversity of the best coral reefs, and cave diving.
Surfing is more than just a water sport. It’s a culture synonymous with golden sands, sunny skies and a more laid back kind of lifestyle. Thought to be first observed in Tahiti in 1767, the sport is traditionally carried out on coastal waves but standing waves, tidal bores or artificial wave simulators are also surfed. The waves used for surfing are generated when wind blows consistently over a large area of water. This combined with the seabed topography behind and beneath the breaking wave determine its size and shape. Reefs, rocks, beaches and headlands all have an impact on forming a surfable wave.
Learning to surf is highly enjoyable. The best way to pick up the basics is to join a surf school. These schools pick out the best spots, use bigger more stable boards and usually provide either one to one or group lessons. I can’t think of a better way to learn how to surf than on one of the golden beaches of Southern Rio. The water was warm, the waves were clean and I stood up! I will definitely be surfing again though I’m not sure about the cold waters in the South of England. I’ll stick to Brazil!
3. Dragon Boating
Dragon boating, which originated from China, is the fastest growing team water sport in the world. It takes 20 paddlers (sitting 2 abreast), 1 caller in the front and 1 steersperson in the back to propel the boat forward to the finish line. The key is paddling in synchronicity. Every inch matters as races are won within a fraction of a second. It is an adrenaline-pumping sport for both the paddlers and the spectators.
Dragon boat is a sport for everyone, which contributes to its popularity worldwide. Paddlers can be as young as 9 to well above the 70s. World championships are held every 2 years.
I like the intensity, discipline and teamwork it takes to win a race and to be on top of your game. I have also met and gained many friends locally and abroad through different races and festivals worldwide, where hundreds or thousands of paddlers from different teams gather to race. It is tough competition on the water, but once we get off the boat, we are all back to being friends. It is a great way to meet new friends and be able to travel the world. In fact, I met my husband through this sport.
4. Whitewater Rafting
White water rafting or rafting is an outdoor water sports activity. The sport involves a raft that is used to navigate through the water body (mostly rivers). The activity is done on white water on different scales/degrees of rapids. The rapids are graded from 1 to 5 – 1 being the easiest and 5 being the hardest. I would recommend white water rafting to all the adrenaline junkies. It is one of the action packed water sports activities. It is fun and exciting. And it is a great way of having an adventure in a group.
6. Bamboo Rafting
Bamboo rafting is the perfect water activity if you want to be on the water but aren’t in the mood to exert much energy, or even get very wet for that matter. All that’s required of you is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
At first glance the rafts may appear to be crudely constructed, but worry not, they are incredibly sturdy and safe. Each raft has elevated seats that allow you to sit a couple feet above the water and stay completely dry. Piloted by skilled raftsmen who use 12-14 ft long bamboo poles to steer the vessels, the rafts offer a smooth ride along scenic routes. If taking beautiful photos are your objective, this activity provides ample opportunities for you to capture spectacular landscapes as well as captivating portraits.
Lounging on a handmade bamboo raft as it floats along a calm river is the ultimate form of relaxation, in my opinion. Surrounded by nature, with the river water lapping at my feet through the spaces in one of the most organic vessels I have ever been transported on…it was a cathartic experience that I would happily relive if given the opportunity. To top it off, our guide was very personable and accommodating, stopping at various points along the way to make note of different bits of history or identify different species of plants and animals. As a bonus – not that I needed one – on the way back, he let us pilot the raft for a few minutes. It looks a lot easier than it actually is but it was one of the most fun workouts I’ve ever had!
7. River Tubing
River tubing is exactly what the name suggests: navigating a river in an inner tube. On some rivers, where the water is always high and rapids are non-existent, this activity can be an extremely soothing experience, accompanied by umbrellas and coolers full of drinks. For those seeking a little bit more action however, there is always the option to go tubing along rivers where rocks and rapids are par for the course.
If you’re content to float in peace, the requirements are minimum. But if you’re in hot pursuit of an adrenaline rush, helmets and life jackets are required. Any reputable tour operator will provide all the necessary equipment, along with a tour guide who knows the river like the back of his or her hand. Whichever experience you choose, cameras are a must. If you intend to be bumped and twirled along a massive waterway, a waterproof Point-of-View camera is the only logical choice.
The calm version of river tubing is lovely. If I’m honest, I think lounging around in an inner tube on the river is more tranquil than doing the very same thing on the beach. My favorite version of tubing however, is the one that got my heart racing as the river gave me a personal tour of its surroundings. I loved how effortlessly the quickly moving current tossed me from the left bank to the right, over rock pilings, down a series of rapids and around a small mountain of boulders. It was an incredible ride full of squeals, splashes and surprises and I’ll happily recommend it to anyone!
Nothing compares to the liberating feeling of gliding behind a boat full of friends on a glassy lake. The sun beats down, and splashes of the cool water are welcome. You look up and notice the hands of the boat passengers wave up and down to signal choppier waters ahead. Your adrenaline levels rise as the driver navigates you through the waves. Weight shifts to your heel side and your board slides out to the side of the boat before cutting back in to hit the wake. For a brief moment you’re flying until you land (or crash) back on the familiar water.
Wakeboarding is so much more than being tugged behind a boat. It’s a personally challenging and engaging group sport. The team consists of the the driver, the boarder and others in the boat as they work together to communicate and plan out the next move. Wakeboarding can be a hard water sport to get into, as it usually requires gear and a boat, which can be costly. However, I’ve found that making friends with a boat isn’t all that hard. Just offer up some gas money and ask them to show you the ropes. Learning to wakeboard takes a lot of determination and patience. So, don’t give up even if it takes you a few days to get the hang of it because, once you’re up and gliding across the water, you’ll be hooked.