Rosie Markwick: paddleboarder

Estimated reading time:10 minutes, 31 seconds

Everyone has a story. Stand up paddleboarding is the fastest growing watersport in the world – and you can learn it in Islington thanks to SUP queen, Rosie Markwick. Interview by Nicola Baird. Photos by Kimi Gill

Rosie Markwick who runs standup paddleboarding (SUP) at Islington Boat Club. Photo by Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

“I live with my two best friends from school in Canonbury on Essex Road. When I was about 16 trying to go to the Upper Street pubs, to live in the N1 postcode was mine and my friends’ dream. We’re collectively living our dream together,” says Rosie Marwick with a characteristic smile. She’s nursing a latte while meeting Islington Faces at her unofficial office, a corner of Appestat with the best view of Camden Passage.

>FOLLOW ISLINGTON FACES by email: a new interview is published every week.

Despite her London roots – Rosie spent her early years in Stoke Newington, then went to Fortismere Secondary School in Muswell Hill – she is keen to get us all outside more. And the way she’s doing that is by running stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and SUP yoga on Regent’s Canal, just behind Angel.

“I did loads of water sports when I was younger and because my dad is half Canadian we went on these fun wilderness trips for a couple of summer holidays to Algonquin Park which is home to moose and bears, explains Rosie. “Hackney Downs was the most nature we had and then we’d be in a national park that’s 7,653km2– about twice the size of Wales. We loved it. The first time we went I was about 10 (I’m the eldest of three girls) and my little sister was 5. The last trip we made there was when I was 18. I always swam a lot too. I was in Middlesex county team. By 16 I wanted to not smell of chlorine anymore on nights out. So I stopped being a water baby for a little while…”

Rosie Markwick and her band of SUP paddleboarders are very instagrammable. She’s often in the shots – during 2017 Rosie reckons that over 7 months (approx. 28 weeks) she paddled on the Regent’s Canal about 20km per week, clocking up 560km. Photo by Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

Two years ago (2016) Rosie was in Bali when she first had a go at paddleboarding on a lagoon between two islands.

“I’d just done yoga teacher training and thought that SUP looked fun. It was one of those things which from the beginning, for no apparent reason, I could just sort of do. I was able to do it straight away whereas yoga took years. It felt like I was meant to be doing it. I then did a SUP yoga class the next day and was joking to my friend that this is my dharma (yoga word for life’s purpose!) so I thought it would be fun to do a SUP yoga teacher training course. I remember my Mum saying, ‘is this relevant or useful’? Then I came back to London for a few months and met Islington Boat Club. It was really serendipitous. I was one day off the plane and the boat club said we’re running a competition, the prize is a SUP yoga class, can you teach it?”

Rosie Markwick by the Water Gipsy which has a yoga studio. Photo by Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

When the competition winners didn’t show up for their prize one of the boat club staffers, Chris, asked Rosie if she wanted to set up a paddle boarding club. I thought why not? They’d got all these emails of people who wanted to use the paddleboards. So I did some SUP yoga and realised that I wanted to do the full BSUPA training and started teaching little bit of paddle boarding two summers ago when I was 26. That was the pilot. It was all done via Facebook before our fancy booking system.

That winter Rosie was back in Bali teaching yoga and SUP yoga and building up her SUP skills. “Every single morning I’d go down really early and paddle the kilometre between two islands. Apparently it was really dangerous and the current meant you’d paddle all the way out on your right arm and all the way back on your left. There was a point on this crossing which was a bit scary, but I’d just look at the island and soon the water would change from black to tropical turquoise and you’d paddle with turtles. Then I’d paddle back, set the ropes up and teach SUP yoga and also yoga to travellers, tourists and people on their gap years.

Then in London in February 2017 and because the pilot had been “quite successful,” Rosie knew she “wanted to try and set something more permanent at Islington Boat Club. I did this big proposal. I remember walking down the canal, when it was really cold and having this really odd feeling, real excitement, because I knew we were going to start something really special.”

How to paddleboard
SUP on the canal involves getting the basic balance and steering skills on your knees. You then progress to standing and the canal’s all yours. During the summer Rosie runs intro lessons and 60min and 90 min canal tours on Wednesday evenings, Saturdays and all day Sunday (check out the times on the website here).

“It’s really amazing the people who’ve decided to come along. During 2017, there were 256 people who tried SUP, from age 11 to one of our Upper Deckers, who was 65.  This year I’ve got more canal clean ups organised and adventures planned in Netherlands, Croatia and south of France. There’s loads we can do on our canal,” says Rosie who wants to organise another adventure paddle down to Limehouse and up the River Lea up Hackney Wick soon.

Rosie Markwick’s SUP business is set up as a social enterprise so profits go into Islington Boat Club. Photo by Kimi Gill for Islington Faces


6 places Rosie Markwick loves in Islington

  • Candid Café – it’s like a secret place and they serve wine. Address: 3 Torrens Street, EC1
  • The most obvious one of all time is the Towpath Cafe by Regent’s Canal (off De Beauvoir Crescent, N1). I should have shares in it: I love it completely and wholely. And the food is genuinely the best in London. If I’m ever to get married, then I want them to make the food.
  • I love a relaxed paddle, then yoga, and maybe even a hot tug after at Islington Boat Club. Try yourself at Hot Tug UK, 16-35 Graham Street, N1
  • Appestat, 102 Islington High Street. It’s great for working and meetings. I’m here a lot. I’ve got a latte today, but I’d prefer an oatmeal latte. I often teach early in morning so I like a big brunch here or at one of the zillions of Islington brunch places. I eat a lot of avocado on toast and I’m a big fan of tea and cake before paddle. And then I eat dinner after.
  • Love going to the Life Centre, 1-7 Britannia Row to do yoga, on a Monday. Really important part of my week. It’s a check in point of quietness. Just next to Planet Organic.
  • The pub I love is the King’s Head at 115 Upper Street. My dad used to do shows there. I went as a kid a lot when I was younger and then didn’t go much. Recently I went to see a play Gypsy Kings, part of queer week – me and Tom (my partner) and every single gay couple in Islington.


Rosie Markwick leads SUP expeditions and SUP yoga classes from her SUP centre at Islington Boat Club, just behind Angel. “You might fall in. I’ve never fallen in but I’ve actively chosen to get in the canal. I’ve had a few near knocks from people on the SUP boards. There’s nothing worse than being in a position of leadership and then someone bumping you from behind. I feel I have to stay on!” Pic by Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

Wilderness activities
“If you do something that is a little bit on the edge of your physical comfort zone, and is in nature, your mind has this feedback that ‘I didn’t think I was going to be able to do that, what else can I overcome’? It happens in a small way on Islington in the canal. One thing I notice is the depth of conversations and openness that being on the water seems to inspire. By the time we’ve paddled to Wenlock Basin we are really into good stuff. That’s about seven minutes away from the boat club. It’s not just conversations I’m having, I hear other people having these deep chats – and I don’t believe they’d have that having just met someone so quickly,” says Rosie explaining why she’s such a fan of outdoor adventure activities. It’s an aspect of her SUP job she’s keen to tie up with the psychology she studied at Edinburgh and Melbourne university. Indeed her most recent blog takes a hard look at  Wallace J Nichols notion of  ‘blue mind’, how water therapy and how being on and near water makes our brain produce more serotonin and relaxing. I see it all the time.” Read more about Rosie’s thoughts on why we all love being by the water on the Summersalt blog

Rosie Markwick: “When I go out paddling on a beautiful evening and the water is really clean I feel really proud to show it off.” Photo by Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

Rosie’s endless good cheer is a huge draw for anyone who joins her yoga class at the Water Gypsy, or tries out SUP yoga and/or SUP along the Regent’s Canal. Spending so much time outside in Islington’s largest outdoor area – City Road Basin and the canal – clearly is a way to be happy. “Doing SUP has changed the way London is as a place to live as I’m able to experience being out on the water in nature – it’s deeply healing – in a city like London. When you start picking up rubbish in the canal, when I go out paddling on a beautiful evening and the water is really clean I feel really proud to show it off. It’s a beautiful resource to be able to float around and watch the sunset go off over east London… you want that to stay being lovely, especially when you see the little baby ducklings and the terrapins.”

Rosie’s childhood dream about the perfect home location is slightly revised now, “For half the year I would love to be on a beach or somewhere close to a big body of water and for the other half in Islington as close to the canal as possible.”

  • Islington Boat Club, 16-35 Graham Street, N1
  • For private sessions, parties and corporate groups email sup@islingtonboatclub.copm
  • SUP @ Islington Boat Club is on Facebook here
  • Rosie also teaches yoga on the Water Gypsy barge at Islington Boat Club. Schedule here One class £10, four £35 and eight £65 on Tuesdays, 7-8pm.
  • During 2018 Rosie runs SUP & Yoga Retreats in Holland (14-17 June), Croatia (July) and the South of France (21-26 Oct). For info email
  • More info about Islington Boat Club on their website including trustee and job vacancies.

Here’s Rosie Markwick with Nicola Baird from Islington Faces at Islington Boat Club. Photo by Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird dot green at gmail dot com.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola