Island Hopping: Getting from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan on a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP).

Paddling out from Choeng Mon

The islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 700km south of Bangkok.  There’s a regular ferry that takes about 50 minutes to cross from one island to the next, costing just 200 Baht each way.  Last month a group of adventurous paddlers decided to ignore this cheap and easy option and paddle across from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan on their Stand Up Paddle boards instead.

Ian Wade, owner and SUP Instructor at iSUP SamuI, has been dreaming of paddling from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan for the past few years.  He can see the outline of Koh Phangan from the balcony in Samui, and often wondered what it would be like to cover the 10 kilometre crossing by paddle board.  He was just waiting for suitable weather conditions and a group of like-minded adventurous paddle boarders to join him.

Despite being the hottest time of the year in Thailand, the conditions on the water in May were ideal for an island crossing.  After researching the winds, tides and currents a date was decided upon.  A group of 4 experienced paddlers planned to paddle from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan on 12 May 2016.

With several years of paddling around the east coast of Australia and around the islands of south-east Thailand the group had the experience to take on such a challenge.  They also had access to premium Starboard paddle board equipment from iSUP Samui, a mobile SUP school based in Koh Samui with extensive experience of SUP conditions around the island.

The group left Koh Samui at 6:30am on Tuesday 12th of May.  They paddled out out from the calm waters of Choeng Mon beach and headed north towards Koh Phangan.  Conditions were great with calm waters and a light breeze for the duration of the paddle.

Paddling out from Koh Samui, just after sunrise


“It was motivating to see Koh Phangan getting closer and closer as we paddled past the halfway mark.  We kept a steady pace of 4.2 km/hour and stopped every 30 minutes for breaks, so it took us 3 hours to paddle the 12.9km distance across to Koh Phangan” said Tammy Wade, owner and SUP Instructor at iSUP Samui.

“We were excited to join Ian and Tammy on their first paddle across from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan.  Highlights included paddling past traditional Thai fishing boats that were making their way back to Samui with their overnight catch.  I don’t think the fishermen expected to see us out there” said Traci Dostalek.

The group of four hungry paddlers arrived at Leela Beach (on the south west corner of Koh Phangan) around 9:30am, just in time for a well-earned buffet breakfast.  It’s just too hot in Thailand to consider paddling back to Koh Samui in the midday sun, so a 27’ catamaran was waiting at Leela Beach to take the group and the paddle boards back to Samui.  Perhaps next time we’ll stay overnight and explore more of the Koh Phangan coastline.

Happy and hungry paddlers arriving at Koh Phangan: Traci Dostalek, Rod Dostalek, Tammy Wade, Ian Wade.


Taking a break somewhere halfway between the two islands.


  • Departure point:  Choeng Mon beach, Koh Samui, Thailand
  • Arrival point: Leela beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand
  • Distance paddled: 12.9km
  • SUP Equipment:
    • 1 x Starboard Allstar 14’x27″ Hybrid Carbon race board
    • 3 x Starboard Astro 12’6×31″ Inflatable touring boards