Many people are asking, what exactly is SUP and of course why has it recently gotten so popular?
SUP is an acronym that stands for Stand Up Paddleboard. Which is a sport in which the rider stands on a board similar to a surf board in ways and propels themselves through the water with a paddle. Pretty self-explanatory – stand on a board and then you paddle!
What is SUP?
Some people say that Ancient African warriors may have used standing on a board and paddling as a way of stealth attacks. Staying quiet while they attack their enemy somewhere on the water, or on land close to the water.
Others have said that is has 16th century roots in Israel, or Italy. Even rumors of Polynesian descent, that this sport was really created thousands of years ago and then took a hiatus from all cultures until the 1940’s.
These things we will literally never know – I cannot travel back in time to ask if any of this is true. What we do know is how it became popular recently and it all started in Hawaii and California. Right here on American soil.
The Waikiki Beach Boys of Oahu are of the most famous to start using this technique with a surfboard and paddle. As the surf industry was growing in Hawaii these men used this sport to get a better vantage point of their surf students.
In the 1960s others attribute the hybrid sport with outrigger canoeing. Claiming that this involved standing up and using a canoe paddle to propel through water and catch serious waves.
Since the 2000s SUP has become increasingly popular, many claims the fastest growing water sport out there today.
Originally used for surfers, Laird Hamilton was a famous surfer who used a paddle while he was surfing to get him to the large Hawaiian and Californian waves faster. This technique became popular with the success of Laird and many other surfers. Paddle Surfing is actually still something people do!
2007 came and many people began to take a board and a paddle to the flat water. Propelling their board through rivers and lakes instead of the ocean waves. People looking for serenity, sometimes a better view or to connect closer with nature.
Next up was photographers, who found a SUP to be a great way for the best angle and most interesting vantage point for a picture.
It has been documented that in 2013 the most first-timers ever tried out the sport of Stand Up Paddleboard. It has only grown more and more each year with new technology and developments in the industry.
What Makes a SUP Special?
A stand up paddleboard ranges from about 9′ to 12′ and is usually around 30” or so in width. The thickness of a board depends on the material it is made out of. The three different kinds of boards are;
- Inflatable – also known as an iSUP have become more popular in the last couple of years. In my opinion the inflatable boards have revolutionized the industry has they have made paddle boarding more accessible. These boards have to be inflated by hand, and deflated when you are done. This means they are able to be rolled up and put into a backpack! An amazing invention as more people are able to use a board that is smaller and easier to transport. Find out why these are my favorite!
- Epoxy – also known as fiberglass or a traditional hard board. They are typically constructed of EPS foam with multiple layers of fiberglass. There is a resin on the outside also made of fiberglass that will protect the board from dings and damage. These boards are often thinner and more agile than inflatable boards. Great for easily maneuvering on the water and gliding on waves.
- Soft Top – might sound like it but are not any less hard than the other boards. These boards are constructed of many layers of EPS high density foam at the core. Build around the core is a more spongy soft foam material. Soft top boards tend to be the least expensive option and are primarily used for beginners or families who are going to be sharing them often.
All different types of boards range in price from $300 to upwards of $3000. SUP can be used for so many activities and sports out on the water. Their versatility is what has made them grow in popularity so quickly.
Different Ways to SUP
Not only are these boards fun to use but they are a great full body muscle workout. You are using your arms, legs, core and all kinds of muscles to keep yourself stable and afloat. You use the most muscles while paddling – the proper paddle technique will help you use your core to propel you and your board at an efficient rate.
This is great for having fun and getting in your daily workout or physical activity while you do it
On top of just paddling being a great workout many athletes have begun doing Yoga or actual Workouts out on the water.
It can be a really different experience to do your normal workout routine on the water. High intensity paddling followed by push-ups, planks or even burpees on the board will help build your muscles in a new way.
As I mentioned earlier this started as a way to surf – using a paddle to help you get out to the waves and hang 10. Paddleboard Surfing is where it started and still a popular sport people practice.
Touring and even racing are two different ways people have begun using their paddle board. Both can include being out on a board for days at a time. People have raced to and from places that are hundreds of miles apart. Touring as well is a popular sport where people spend 3 days experiencing a new country or body of water from their board. They even have special boards for Racing.
I would love to try a tour or a race someday soon – this require a lot of training and preparation. Knowing your limits out on a board can be very important.
If you paddle too far in one direction and are too tired to get back you could end up falling off and getting hurt. Even just having trouble getting back to where you came from due to fatigue.
It is important to know your limits and bring water and even a snack if you will be out for hours. Make sure to replenish your energy and rest while you learn how long you can stand and paddle for.
Fishing. This has been the coolest addition to paddleboarding in my opinion, people put a cooler on their board and paddle out with a rod and catch dinner! I think this is an amazing and fun different way to spend the day on the water.
There are even specific boards for cooler hook up, rod holders and space for reeling in fish. Some people began fishing on these boards in California but it did not gain much popular until fisherman of Destin, Florida began using paddleboard. I often see more people sitting instead of standing while you fish on a board – but it can be done so many ways.
In 2008 the United States Coast Guard officially classified Stand Up Paddleboards as a vessel. They are in a category really all their own, they do have to give way to motor boats and larger vessels. Along with being recognized by the USCG there are laws and regulations that go along with riding.
Every state is different on their laws but most places that follow Coast Guard laws will be straight forward in the rules. While on a SUP you have to have a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) which means a life vest or PFD of some sort
Often you do not have to be wearing this life vest it just has to be on your board. I strap my down to the front if I don’t want to wear it all the time.
While on a Paddleboard Vessel you also have to keep a whistle or way to alert other boats that you are there. If for some reason there is an emergency you want a large boat to be able to hear you so there is not an accident.
Also, if you are going to be out at night you will need to bring a flashlight. To make sure that you are seen I believe a headlamp is most visible. So you are not holding anything and trying to paddle but still have enough light.
More often than not I try to stay off the water at night to stay safe, but it can be really fun. People have gotten quite creative with light these days and there are LED colorful lights you can attach to your board. These LED lights look cool, keep you safe and are referred to as Glow Rides by many companies who will take you out at night.
So make sure you check out the rules of the local water you will be paddling on to make sure you have the necessary equipment.
Summary of SUP
A cross between canoeing and surfing this sport is only getting more and more popular. There is talk about it becoming a summer Olympics event! How fun.
Before buying a board check out what I think are the most important elements to think about. You want to make a smart decision when purchasing a board because if you choose correctly, it should last you a very long time.
I even suggest Renting a Board and getting a feel for the difference between inflatable, soft top and epoxy before pulling the trigger on a specific SUP.
A historic Hawaiian surfing sport that is totally fun and great exercise – Give it a try to let me know how it goes!