SUP, or standup paddle boarding has been gaining popularity among outdoor enthusiasts over the last decade. This popularity stems from the fact that it is a fun way for people to play and relax on the water.
With very little gear, you can start standup paddle boarding anywhere there is water—be it your local body of water, the ocean, or some beautiful lake in the mountains.
Standup paddle boarding isn’t something new. In some form, the activity has been around for thousands of years. In ancient times, folks in the southern hemisphere (Africa and South America mostly) used some type of floatation device like a canoe or boards that are propelled with a long stick.
While on these devices, the people would fish for food, travel to other coastal villages, or even wage war. Of course, they also used them for recreation, too!
Standup paddle boarding as we know it came around in the 16th century in Hawaii. Hawaiian surfers would hop on a 5 meter long board and use a paddle to help keep control of the board in the rough waters. Fast forward to the 20th century where standup paddle boarding was used by lifeguards to go out into the water and watch the surfers and swimmers.
SUP was taught at Hawaiian surf schools in the 1990s as an alternative way to surf when there weren’t large waves. It was surf instructor Brian Keaulana who made SUPing recognized across the world by introducing “Beach Boy Surfing” to 2003’s “Buffalo Big Board Contest.”
Because of this, many surfers chose to participate in the activity—so much so the first Standup World Series championship races took place in 2012, with Kai Lenny as the top finisher.
As you can see, standup paddle boarding has been practiced for many, many years. This unique blend of kayaking and surfing experienced a surge in popularity over these last few years.
Why, according to a recreation report in 2013 from the Outdoor Foundation , standup paddle boarding’s popularity was at the highest it has been, with “56% of participants trying it for the first time.” Why, SUPing beat out activities like skiing, kayaking, and camping by a landslide!
Why is the activity taking off so quickly now and not before? According to an interview between RJ Murray (the co-owner of Three Brothers Boards, located in Daytona Beach) and NY Daily News, the answer is simple:
“I think the reason it’s blowing up so much is there’s no limitations. As long as you have a body of water, it doesn’t matter where you are. People who lived away from the ocean and wanted to be in that environment never really had that option before paddle boarding.” – RJ Murray.
What really catapulted SUPing into the mainstream could be the changes in the equipment. It was just a few years ago that we’ve seen boards taking on a different shape that is key to SUPing. The boards now are somewhere between 10 to 12 feet long and they’ve been contoured to make it easier for the user to balance.
The boards can be made from the same hard epoxy material that surfboards are made from, which is perfect for ocean SUPing. However, if you want to stay in calmer waters, there are inflatable SUPs available too.
When you have the right board and the right water conditions, anyone can SUP. Whether your young children ride along with you or if you are past retirement age, anyone can do it. It’s that accessibility and how easy it is that makes SUPing so popular.
We can safely assume that since you are reading this article, you’re very interested in learning how to start standup paddle boarding. It’s really simple because it doesn’t take very much equipment and the techniques are fairly simple to master.
Unlike other activities like camping, fishing, or even hiking, you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. The most important thing you’ll need is a good paddle board. The type of board you choose is going to depend on what you plan on doing, as there are six basic types of boards:
These boards are going to be lighter and shorter than other paddle boards. Not only that, but they are going to have a narrow nose and tail because they are designed for high performance and making sharp turns in the surf zone.
Keep in mind that because these boards are narrow, they aren’t going to be very stable and they require a lot of work if you want to paddle a distance.
The name says it all with these boards. They are great for any application because they are longer and wider than surf SUPs and they have more volume. The size and volume of the boards are great for beginners because they are more stable and they are great for paddling in flat water like on a lake or outside of the surf zone.
As we previously mentioned, 2012 was the first standup paddle boarding competition. The boards used in these competitions are designed to help you stay on track while you’re racing.
The board is going to be significantly longer and narrower than your all around board, and they also feature a very pointed nose and a long fin. These are among the most advanced boards and require quite a bit of skill to use them.
What better way to get your workout in and enjoy a nice day out on the water than with a SUP yoga board.
These boards are going to have a soft deck and will usually have metal D-rings where you can attach other items like water bottles, resistance bands, and life vests. Many yogis will also have an anchor on their board so they aren’t drifting while doing their routine.
Another blend of a favorite hobby and standup paddle boarding brings us these boards. These are going to be light, but strong and stable enough to keep the user upright while they fish and carry all of their gear.
The inflatable stand up paddle board was designed to fix a few problems people have in terms of storage and transportation. Since these boards can be deflated and rolled up, they are the perfect solution for those who live in small spaces or do not have a large enough vehicle to transport a large 9 to 14 foot board.
When you’re trying to figure out what sized paddle board you need, you’ll want to take into consideration your skill level and the weight capacity of the board.
The taller or heavier you are, you’ll want a larger, wider board that is about 6 inches thick. The tradeoff with using a thicker board is that it is going to be harder to maneuver, but you will be quite stable!
Most commonly, rigid SUPs are be made from an EPS Foam core that has been layered with fiberglass and epoxy. Depending on the construction techniques, you can also find performance enhancements like carbon fiber or wood stringers worked into the construction.
Other materials used to make rigid SUPs include:
The inflatable SUP is usually made from a strong PVC material that has been drop stitched and even have double seams for superior durability.
Inflatables tend to be preferred among many people because they are going to be:
Naturally, after choosing your board, you’re going to want to have a good quality paddle to go along with it. To choose your paddle, you’re going to want to think about the length of the paddle in comparison to your height.
A good rule of thumb is to choose a paddle that is about 8 to 12 inches taller than you when standing upright. The longer your paddle, the more power and control you’ll have when in rough water. Shorter paddles are better for beginners and calm waters.
A SUP leash isn’t always necessary, but it’s a useful accessory if you fall off your board. Leashes are available in two styles: coiled and standard.
While you may be a good swimmer, it is still a good idea to have a life jacket on hand, especially if you’re going to be out in rough waters or where waters could get choppy. Accidents happen when you least expect them and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
When you are starting out, it’s always nice to know a few tricks that will help you along the way.
Now that you’re ready to start SUPing, it’s a good idea to have a good grasp on the proper techniques:
As you begin looking at stand up paddle boards, there are four popular brands that are known for creating high quality boards and other products:
The Atoll Board Company is based in Huntington Beach, California and they specialize in everything you might need to go standup paddle boarding. They have a variety of stand up paddle boards, accessories, and apparel.
iRocker is a company in Jacksonville, Florida and they specializes in inflatable stand up paddle boards and offer products like boards, paddles, and other accessories. Some of those other accessories include electric pumps, kayak seats, fins, and even clothing.
When it comes to SUPing and accessories, Isle Surf and SUP has a large selection of SUPs (rigid and inflatable) in all categories (yoga, all around, fishing, race, or surf). They also have a variety of paddles and accessories that will compliment your SUP. Some of the accessories include backpacks, leashes, pumps, rack pads, and more.
When you go to a SUP rental place, chances are you’re going to find a Ten Toes SUP in their inventory. The company is well known and one of the leading names in the industry for creating quality boards and accessories. Not only do they specialize in SUPs, but they also offer skateboards, and essential paddle boarding gear.
Purchasing a SUP and accessories isn’t going to be a cheap endeavor—it’s going to be quite the investment. So naturally you’re going to want to take care of your investment (the SUP). Here are a few maintenance tips that will go a long way in caring for your SUP.
The UV rays will change the color of your board, but if it is in the sun too long and too often, it could lead to delamination, splitting, or cracking. For an inflatable, the UV rays could damage the PVC and cause it to not hold air and possibly leak.
When you’re done with your fun on the water, dry your board off—especially if you’ve been in saltwater. The salt water and any bacteria or microorganisms in the water can eat away at your board. Also, if you have any cracks or scratches, a dry board is going to be much easier to repair.
When you’ve been in the sun, your board is going to get quite hot. To protect the foam that is inside of the board and keep it from expanding, you’re going to want to use either a screw in vent or a maintenance free vent. These devices will decrease the air pressure in the board, prolonging the life of your board.
If you notice any minor damages to the board, you will want to fix them right away to prevent them from getting worse. If you do have some bad damage, you’ll want to take it to professionals who knows what they’re doing.
When you aren’t using your board, it’s always a good idea to keep them in some kind of storage bag. Not only will the bag protect the board, but most of the time the bags have handles on them, which makes it easier to transport to and from the water.
Deciding that you’d like to join the wonderful world of standup paddle boarding can be as confusing as it is exciting. How do you know what is the right board for you? How do you know which paddle you need if you’re going out on a slow moving river?
There are so many different questions that one may have about getting into the sport, it’s understandable that you might be hesitant to make the investment and get a SUP of your own. We have a buying guide that can help you figure out what is the best standup paddle board and another guide that will help you choose the best SUP paddle.
If you have any questions, please leave us a comment and let us know! We’d love to hear from you!