If you have been near a body of water in the past few years – whether it was an ocean, lake, bay, or a river – you’ve probably seen somebody stand up paddle boarding (SUP). It’s become one of the trendiest ways to get out on the water, and it seems like it developed overnight.
But that’s not true, according to David Wells, the co-owner of 101 Surf Sports in San Rafael, CA.
“We believe it [began] some 3,000 years ago, either in Peru or Tahiti,” Wells says. “Paddlers would stand up in their dugout canoes to gain better visibility for hunting and fishing.”
Fast forward to the 1990’s. Surfing superstar and entrepreneur Laird Hamilton started using the stand up paddle board due to its faster paddling speed to catch big waves. “And boom — the sport ignited,” Wells says.
Naturally, the boards you see people standing on in 2015 look more like oversize surfboards than canoes. SUPers ride out past waves on their boards like they would a surfboard. Then they stand up on it, balance themselves, and propel themselves along the water using a long paddle.
There are two main types of boards. Surfing shapes are great for flat water paddling, while displacement hulls aka “boats you stand on” are faster and better for straight line tracking. And, of course, there is a ton of cool clothing and accessories.
But the sport has grown because you don’t need a lot of equipment. A paddle, board, leash, and lifejacket make up the basics and these are all things you can rent until you know you are sold on the sport. And like any other sport, once you are ready to invest in equipment you have a boatload of choices.
Another draw is that stand up paddle boarding is easy to learn. Unlike skiing or surfing in which a beginner takes a lot of lumps, the first-time stand up paddler can have a great time and feel successful.
And once you’re on a board, you’ll discover it’s a great workout. “It’s non-impact, high cardio, full-body,” Wells says. “No muscle can hide.”
SUP is also a sport that single people, groups, and families can enjoy. 12-year old Sachiko B. from Hawaii loves stand up paddling with her family. “It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “I like that you can be on the water, but not in the water.”
Experienced surfer and SUP enthusiast Ramsay Mead adds, “It is a great sport for people from age 5-75. I ride waves most surfers can't catch and I see everything. It’s also a great way to connect with nature.”
Stand up paddling is a total blast. It’s easy to learn and good for your body, as well as your mind. If you find yourself near a body of water this summer, give it a try.
Photo: Getty Images