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Horsebox sauna creates heatwave in Stonehaven

Refreshed, relaxed and alive is how Dave Jacobs describes the feeling people will get from his seaside sauna at the far end of Stonehaven Harbour.

Outdoor enthusiast Dave Jacobs has converted a horse box into a sauna at Stonehaven Harbour. 
Image: Wullie Marr /DC Thomson.
Outdoor enthusiast Dave Jacobs has converted a horse box into a sauna at Stonehaven Harbour. Image: Wullie Marr /DC Thomson.

Paddleboarding at sunrise before relaxing under the 80C heat and cooling off with a refreshing dip in the sea: no this isn’t Dubai, this is Stonehaven.

On a mission to prove that you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to reap the wellbeing benefits of an outdoor lifestyle, Dave Jacobs is giving people a dose of vitamin sea through Stonehaven Paddleboarding, his harbour side health haven.

It’s not just on the water where people can let their worries float away though as Dave has also converted a horsebox into an outdoor sauna.

Dave Jacobs heats up in the sauna before cooling off in the sea. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

“It has been super busy because I’m in a key spot in Stonehaven so I get a lot of wild swimmers who go in for a dook in the sea and then use the sauna to heat up,” says Dave.

“Or people can do a sunrise paddleboarding session then at the end they can jump in the sauna for a heat.

“It makes you feel really cleansed and you’re buzzing afterwards.

“It’s just such a good feeling.”

Let your stress melt away with a trip to Driftwood, the horse box sauna Dave Jacobs has opened at the far end of Stonehaven Harbour. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

Outdoors advocate

As a lifelong outdoors enthusiast, Dave knows better than anyone the health and wellbeing benefits that come from being out in the fresh air.

“I’ve worked in the outdoors all my life, says Dave.

“I’ve taught canoeing, sailing, skiing and wind surfing.

“Being outdoors is my life so whether it’s running up a hill, surfing, windsurfing or skiiing, I just love the outdoors.”

Dave offers people the chance to go paddleboarding at sunrise before heating up in the sauna. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

Float your worries away

Originally from Linthigow near Edinburgh, Dave moved up to Stonehaven in 2006 to run the ski centre at Garthdee in Aberdeen.

But after 12 years at the ski centre, Dave spotted an opportunity to bring something exciting to the shores of Stonehaven.

“Nobody was doing any kind of water sports in Stonehaven so I thought it was a good opportunity,” says Dave.

“Paddleboarding was beginning to kick off so I could see the potential in it and thought that would be a good business.

“By chance I managed to find a location at the far end of Stonehaven Harbour where I could set up a little business.

“So I just set it up and it went bananas, it’s gone really well so I offer paddleboarding all year round but predominantly in the summer.”

Dave Jacobs has spent his life enjoying everything the outdoors has to offer. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

Horsebox sauna

With encouragement from his Finnish friend, last summer Dave opened Driftwood, a horse box he converted into a wood fired sauna.

“I noticed that horse box saunas were really kicking off in Brighton,” says Dave.

“Saunas were never really my thing but this Finnish friend of mine kept telling me that I needed to get a sauna.

“So I bought an old horse box and although I’m no DIY expert I managed to convert it and I did a good job.”

The horsebox sauna has proved extremely popular since Dave Jacobs opened it last summer.Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

Sauna and a dook in the sea

Chatting to Society from inside his sauna, it’s clear that Dave is now a sauna aficionado.

“You just feel so good after having a sauna and a dook,” says Dave.

“It’s proven that getting hot and then getting cold helps with so many things.

“The sauna can go up to 120C but the normal temperature it sits at is 80C so people can sit in and then they can cool down by either going in the sea or have a cold shower.

“I’m also going to get a whisky barrel and fill it with cold water so people can dunk themselves in that too.”

The scenic setting at Stonehaven Paddleboarding. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

Estonian sauna experience

As well as the mental and physical benefits, Dave says the sauna is also bringing different cultures together.

“Recently I had a bunch of Estonian ladies, who live in the area, come along for a sauna,” says Dave.

“I was chatting away to them and they were telling me about how they do birch whisking in the sauna which is where a tree branch with essential oils is used to tap and brush the body.

“It’s good for circulation and enriches the body with therapeutic oils and vitamins.

“So they’re going to host an Estonian sauna session which will be fantastic.”

Dave says his sauna is bringing different cultures together. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

Sauna scene

With such bitterly cold winters, Dave is surprised that there’s not more of a sauna scene in Scotland.

“As far as the countries that do saunas are concerned, we’re a bit of an anomaly as Finland, Sweden and Norway, which are round about us, have similar temperatures to us and they’re really big on saunas.

“We don’t really do it in Scotland which is a shame.”

Paddleboarding has certainly made waves in Scotland but it was seeing people struggling out on their own that inspired Dave to teach people how to do it safely.

Dave Jacobs has brought something fresh and exciting to the Stonehaven coast. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

“I was watching people going out paddleboarding and fretting because they didn’t have a clue,” says Dave.

“I think the problem is that a lot of people buy paddleboards from supermarkets which are basically like lilos so they can’t stand up on them and they give up.

“A lot of people also don’t understand the sea as far as the currents and the effects of the wind are concerned so I don’t just teach paddleboarding, I’ll also teach them about the currents and lots of other things to do with water safety.

“A lot of people are scared of the sea but if you know about and respect it then there’s nothing to be scared about.”

Love of Stonehaven

With a deep love of Stonehaven and its spectacular coastline, Dave thinks so much more could be done to make the most of it.

“The reason I set the paddleboarding up is because I was gobsmacked by the coastline in Stonehaven,” says Dave.

“I think it’s Scotland’s best coastal location but nobody really knows about it, everybody focuses on the west coast.

“I’ve been all over the UK and I’ve never seen a coastline like it.

“It’s also steeped in history and you’ve got the longest cave in mainland Scotland just along the coast from here as well as the big sea cliffs at Fowlsheugh which is Scotland’s largest sea bird colony.”

Looking to the future, Dave would like the local authorities to support more coastal activities in the harbour.

“I want to get local children and local people out along the coastline and let them get the benefit from sport and the feeling you get from watching the dolphins from your paddleboard,” says Dave.

Wellbeing check-in with Dave Jacobs

Dave Jacobs is the epitome of health and wellbeing.Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

What’s your favourite outdoor activity and why?

Windsurfing – Being out on the sea blasting with friends, it’s exhilarating and you get this feeling of freedom while giving yourself a full body work out.

What advice would you give someone who is trying to improve their wellbeing?

Get outside and take it all in –  look, listen and smell.

In your opinion, what is the best outdoor activity to improve mental health?

Any really, just being outside.

How do you relax and switch off?

I go out to sea or up a hill.

What does it feel like to go for a sauna and a dip in the sea?

You feel super refreshed, alive and relaxed.

What are three benefits of using a sauna?

Stress relief, relaxation and improved circulation.

You’re based in Stonehaven, what is it about the area that you love?

The coastline is incredible with an abundance of caves, coves, cliffs and wildlife. I also love the harbour with its fab bars and places to eat.

What’s the best thing to eat after a paddleboard session or a sauna/dip session?

Fish and Chips from The Carron or a salmon skink and a pint from The Marine Hotel.

Who are your walking/outdoor heroes?

Robby Naish who is a famous windsurfer.

If you could choose any celebrity to visit Stonehaven Paddleboarding, who would it be and why?

Kylie – because she’s hot.

For more information about Stonehaven Paddleboarding, check out the Facebook page @Stonehavenpaddleboarding.