Put surfing and canoeing together, and you’ve got standup paddleboarding (SUP). SUP basically uses a surf-style board and a long paddle to help the boarder propel across the water while standing. Unlike surfing, you don’t need waves to be able to paddleboard, and calm and flat waters is best for beginners.
In 2013, SUP was documented as the outdoor sporting activity with the most first-time participants in the United States. In some places in the world, the sport is called “standup paddle surfing” or “standup paddling.” Surfing is more popular, but it didn’t take over mainstream America because not all have access to the sea, but the great thing about SUP is that it can be done on the ocean, lake or river. Because more and more people are trying the sport, SUP has become mainstream and the World Paddle Association (WPA) easily finds races, classes and meetups across the country.
Another reason why more people are trying out stand up paddleboarding is because it’s an amazing total-body workout. It can make you fit by improving your core strength, arm and leg strength, balance, cardio fitness and flexibility. The most often mentioned health benefit of this sport is the strengthening of one’s core. It has an easy learning curve, making it appropriate for people of all ages and fitness level, no matter what shape you’re in.
Originally known as Hoe he’e nalu, standup paddleboarding had ancient roots in Hawaii. However, the contemporary notion of SUP is attributed to the Waikiki Beach Boys of Oahu during the 1960s, who stood on their longboards and used their outrigger paddles to paddle out for a better view of the surf. The sport only took off during the 2000s, when pro surfers in California used SUP to continue training when the ocean was too calm to surf. From there, the sport gained popularity, and by 2005, SUP began to diversify into racing, touring, fishing, rivers and yoga.
Getting Started in Standup Paddleboarding
Take a lesson
Anyone who wishes to learn standup paddleboarding is to find a local SUP shop and take a lesson from a PaddleFit- or WPA-certified instructor. Most SUP classes can teach you the proper paddling technique, basic turns on the board, how to hold a paddle, how to stay safe in the wind and waves, and how to fall and get on again. On your first time out on a paddle board, walk out to the water that’s about as deep as your knees, with no wind or waves or current. Be prepared to fall off your board – it’s part of the experience. It’s even recommended so you can get experience getting back on your board in the water.
Some beginners would go and buy the cheapest SUP gear without having enough knowledge about the sport, but the first step must be getting trained. With your SUP classes, you can rent equipment, and try out different boards to see what suits you best. Also don’t be afraid to buy used equipment when you’re starting out. Many SUP shops have boards that were traded in or were demos available for sale.
Focus on your core
Paddling may involve your arm a lot, so your first instinct might be to focus on your arms. However, you need to focus on your core, not on your arms, because it’s the stronger muscle group. Since the water condition constantly changes, you need to keep your midsection engaged for better balance and endurance.
Get the proper gear
One of the worst things that could happen when trying out a new sport is getting the wrong equipment for your body type or skill. With the wrong gear, you may easily give up, thinking that SUP is not for you or you will not be good at it, when the only problem is your inappropriate gear. This is why taking some lessons is very important, so you can have a concrete idea on what kind of gear to invest on.
Here are the equipment you need to go standup paddleboarding:
1. Standup paddle board
Paddle boards come in many shapes, styles and sizes. Common constructions of paddleboards are epoxy and fiber glass wrapped around and EPS foam core. Paddleboards generally range from 8-12 feet in length, 28-32 inches wide, and 4-5 inches thick. If you get a board that is too small for you, you may be unstable at first, so the best thing to do as a beginner is to select a longer, wider and thicker board to give you the greatest stability. As you get better, you can get a smaller and lighter board.
Standup paddles come in a variety of styles in handles, blades and shafts. They can be made of wood, plastic, aluminum or carbon fiber. One general rule in choosing a paddle is to pick one that is 6 to 10 inches above the height of the paddler. For flat water paddling, pick a longer paddle; and surf water, choose a shorter one. A paddle must be gripped at mid-palm, with shoulders square and hand extended overhead. The blade of the paddle is usually bent at a slight angle to the shaft for a more forward reach.
One of the most important equipment in SUP, a leash keeps your paddle board attached to you. Leashes are typically a Velcro strap wrapped around your ankle or calf. In the event of a forceful wave, fall, currents or winds, the paddle board can be quickly swept away from you and may leave you in a deadly position in the water. A leash will prevent this type of accidents from happening. It can also protect others from being hit by your board when waves occur.
4. Personal floatation device (PFD)
The Coast Guard requires standup paddleboarders to have a USCG-approved life jacket or other personal floatation device onboard, especially when traversing beyond their limits of paddling, surfing and recreational use. Best thing to do is to check with the local Coast Guard or lifeguard on details pertaining to the required gear for paddling in the local waters you’re in.