SUP Rome 2023: Q&A with John McFadzean

If you’re after a beautiful weekend get away on your Stand Up Paddleboard then the SUP Rome event could just be your ticket to an action packed weekend of river tourism. This annual event taking place this year on the 30th April and the 1 May is full of the most spectacular sights Rome has to offer, on and off the water, not many travellers can say that they have seen Rome from the perspective of the river. Day one is a 15km descent of the Aniene River, with class I/II rapids. Day two navigates the heart of Rome on the Tiber River taking in some historical landmarks and a couple of good rapids!

This month we look at SUP Rome from the paddlers perspective, we caught up with John McFadzean who has taken part in the event three times already and says it is one he’s happy to keep returning to. Since taking up Stand Up Paddleboarding, John has founded an incredible personal mission to paddle all around the world in every country on different waterways. It was a true delight to catch up with John, hearing more about his personal SUP mission, what’s on the cards this year and why trips to Rome are a regular feature on his calendar.

Hi John, it’s a pleasure to welcome you back to TotalSUP. Please can you introduce yourself and your mission to the readers.

I had my first SUP lesson back in 2014, and, as the saying goes, it was love at first sight. Over the following years, I began a lifetime quest to go stand-up paddle boarding in every country in the world. At the time of writing, I have paddled in 47 different countries, so I still have many adventures ahead of me. I enjoy paddling in new places and meeting new people. But some events are so good that I want to go back again and again. I’m not an elite racer or an expert paddler; I’m just an ordinary person enjoying an extraordinary adventure. 

How did you find your first Rome experience?

SUP Rome was on my to-do list for quite some time. I first became aware of the event in 2018, but the dates didn’t work for me that year, nor in 2019. My first paddle through central Rome was in 2020, the year of the lockdowns. SUP Rome took place in October of that year, which fortunately coincided with a period when we were out of lockdown in the UK, and there were no restrictions on visiting Italy. I made a very late decision to travel as there were rumours that Italy would be added to the no-fly list. It was an inspired decision; everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. Some of my fellow paddlers might have thought I was brave to visit Italy during the pandemic, but most probably thought I was crazy! It was an excellent time to visit the Italian capital as there were no other tourists. I had the Colosseum almost entirely to myself. The 2020 route took us from the north of the city centre to Ponte Marconi, under the last remaining arch of Pons Aemilius, the oldest bridge in the Eternal City.

How about your subsequent trips to Rome, how did they compare?

I returned to Rome in 2021 to join a slightly different paddle from the south of Rome, downstream almost as far as the sea. We walked around an archaeological dig before getting a boat back to the city. There is quite an environmentally friendly aspect to these trips; my fellow paddlers and I collected a mountain of rubbish from the river en route.

And 2022 was simply one of the very best experiences of my life. I’ll never forget paddling the Tiber through central Rome on a mega-sup with my two youngest daughters, expertly guided by Alessandra.

What has brought you to keep returning to the SUP Rome event?

The warm welcome I receive every time from Roberto and my fellow paddlers. And the history of Rome. I absolutely love Italy; it’s one of my favourite countries for SUP-ing. I also happen to enjoy pizza, pasta and Italian wine!

What is the main highlight for you?

It’s impossible to paddle through the centre of Rome without being awe-struck by the city’s splendour. Paddling under 2000-year-old bridges and past the Castel Sant’Angelo with the Vatican and St Peters Basilica just a stone’s throw away. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I know it’s a cliché, but I really do feel the hand of history.


Will you be attending SUP Rome this year?

Yes, I’m very much looking forward to returning in 2023. This year SUP Rome becomes a two-day event. Day One (30 April) will be spent mainly on the Aniene, a tributary of the Tiber, and Day Two (1 May) on the Tiber through the city centre. It’s possible to paddle on both days, or just on either one. I’m doing both.

What advice would you give to people attending SUP Rome this year?

SUP Rome is one of my favourite events in the SUP calendar. I would advise anyone to do it at least once in their lifetime and to spend an extra few days exploring this beautiful city. There is some white water on the Tiber through Rome – although it is possible to portage the trickiest section. Make sure you have a helmet, a PFD, and a quick-release belt for your leash. Hiring a board and most of your equipment from the organisers is possible, but take your own quick-release belt.

And last but not least, don’t forget to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure you will return to Rome one day.


Thank you so much John for your time, it has been a great insight into this great event!

To find out more about SUP Rome on their Facebook and Website

If you want to find more out about Johns SUP adventures you can find him on Facebook, Instagram and his Website

All photo credits go to John McFadzean, thank you.


About the Author

Emily Evans

Emily is a SUP Athlete hailing from Wales UK, she is a qualified SUP coach through British Canoeing and Waterskills Academy. When Emily isn’t training or pursuing her day job in construction she enjoys exploring the topics of SUP and sporting performance through the medium of writing.

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