Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and well known for Windsurfing, Hiking, Mountain Biking and Sailing. But also Stand Up Paddling is something you should try there, the landscape around the lake is so pretty. And from your SUP you see things from a different angle. The wind is quite handy to do some SUP Racing Downwinders, however also a SUP sightseeing tour can be a lot of fun!
Riva del Garda is a bustling Italian town which doubles as a tourist resort, located at the northern end oft he lake. Torbole and Riva are well known for Windsurfing as the thermical wind is usually blowing on a regular base during the summer months. But especially when the wind is not blowing Stand Up Paddling is getting more and more popular and can be even more attractive while adding some small coffee or icecream breaks or even a nice Italian lunch combined with some sightseeing – SUP „Dolce Vita“ style!.
Visiting Riva del Garda
The north side of the lake has mountains rising on either side, and Riva sits comfortably on the shore, with a backdrop of lake, valley and hills. After Desenzano, Riva is the second-largest town on Lake Garda, and it has a very different atmosphere from the other lake resorts: simultaneously alive yet staid. Our plan was to paddle from Torbole to Riva and maybe even a bit further up the coast to the Hotel Pier where we usually go windsurfing in the afternoons when the wind is blowing. To go back with the wind later in the morning we decided to start early in the morning. We did not have a car but luckily we could borrow an Italian Arpe from a friend. This was quite handy, as we threw our Inflatable SUP backpacks and paddles in the back and drove to the Circolo Vela Club right at Torbole´s Beachfront. From there we pumped up our inflatable SUP boards and paddled along the beach direction Riva, passing the Surf Segnana Surf Center, where we also met a lot of Stand Up Paddlers on the water. From there we could reach the city of Riva pretty fast. It was beautiful to be here so early in the morning as the water was super smooth and the air still fresh. Also the beachfront was very quiet at this time of the day, so we paddled really close to the beachfront and could see the variety of promenading like waterfront squares. When we arrived in the harbour, we took a small break and climed up the beach to have a quick glimpse oft he historic centre, which is set back from the lake and protected by the town’s fortress. The heart of Riva is an atmospheric network of tall buildings and narrow lanes. Also very pretty is the town museum (Museo Civico) housed in its moated lakeshore (we could even paddle around it!). Alongside this sturdy fortress is a pleasant leafy park. A little tourist ‚train‘ starts here and does a very brief circuit of the town for those seeking more entertainment.
But we did not stay out of the water for too long as we wanted to be back before the Ora (South Wind) starts. Like this we can go downwind with the wind behind us. So we carried on paddling further up direction Limone. The coast was full of surprises – one moment you think you are on the French coast and next moment it´s full of flowers and nice beach houses which you don´t even get to see from the road. But the highlight of our tour we found next to the old Ponale hotel close to the tunnel. There was a little hidden cave we checked out straight away and what we found inside was a stunning waterfall with cristal clear mountain spring water falling down the mountain. So we had a little break here to watch this miracle of nature. Paddling further along the coast we quickly reached the famous „Schweinebucht“, where lots of windsurfers will hang out later in the day. But also here, it was nice and quiet and we could even jump of the board to climp up the hill and enjoy the stunning view from there. Right after this bay we already reached the Windsurf Hotel Pier, where we had a quick Cappuccino break at the bar. We did not want to stay for too long because as soon as the wind starts the windsurfers are all going in the water and it´s going to be hectic.
Riva for Lunch
And the Ora already started slowly, just perfect to paddle back to Riva. With a little breeze in our back we made it down there pretty quick. Good for us, because we wanted to have lunch at Spiaggia de Olivo, a very cool bar at the beachfront in Riva. The perefct place to eat or just sit and chill with an ice-cream or drink, watching the stunning scenery around you. There are plenty of eating and drinking establishments aimed at tourists in Riva, but this place is just perfect as we can take our boards and paddles right next to our eating place. Further back from the waterfront, you’ll find many more small restaurants and coffee bars. One place you definitely should not miss ist he famous Villa Flora, one of the best ice cream places at the lake.
Back to Torbole
After a nice lunch, coffe and ice cream we slowly paddles back to Torbole, where the windsurfers still had fun with the afternoon wind. Now it was definitely a bit more hectic there and we were quite happy that we have started our tour so early. Arriving back at Circolo Surf we went tot he Beach Bar there for a nice sundowner – a perfect SUP say Italian style!
Accommodation: There is a good choice of places to stay in Riva or Torbole, from extremely smart, large hotels to boutique B&Bs. Not all of the local accommodation is close to the lake, so read descriptions and reviews carefully before booking.
All pics by Ronny Kiaulehn Photography
Riders: Valentin Illichmann & Lisa Gertenbach