Stand Up Paddling

Stand Up Paddling


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Stand up paddling, or SUP for short, is a sport that has become increasingly popular in the past few years. But you might not know that stand up paddling is actually two different sports.

The first is SUP “surfing,” which is how the sport was first invented in Hawaii, and the second is “flatwater” SUP that’s performed on lakes and rivers in North American and abroad. They really are widely different sports, with their own techniques and equipment.

Stand Up Paddle Surfing

This is the original form of the sport, and it has grown in popularity in recent years. Stand up paddle surfing, or SUP, has a Hawaiian heritage, and it is know as “Hoe  he’e nalu” in the Hawaiian language. SUP actually began back in the early 1960s when Hawaiian surfers used one-bladed outrigger paddles to maneuver their surfboards while standing. This allowed them a higher vantage point to see what was happening around them, and watch for incoming swells. It also gave instructors a way to keep an eye on their students during surfing lessons on Waikiki beach.


The sport has evolved in the decades that followed, with specialized boards and paddles. It has also become popular in beach resorts around the world, especially in warm coastal climates.

SUP was introduced to the beaches of California by Vietnam veteran Rick Thomas, and there are now thousands of stand up paddlers in the state. The sport has been picked up by a number of celebrities in recent years as well. Cross-over athletes have also taken up SUP, and they find that this challenging sport gives them a strong “core” workout that benefits them in other sports as well.

Traditional surfers have also seen the benefits of using a paddle when surfing. Standing up gives them a much better view of incoming waves, and allows them to catch more waves in a set as well. But not everyone in the surf community is crazy about the new sport – some feel that the bigger SUP boards take up too much of the surf that traditional surfers need for their use, and some surf shops even refuse to sell the stand-up boards.

Flatwater Stand Up Paddling

This is a newer and somewhat different form of stand up paddling that’s also become popular in the past few years. Flatwater SUP involves paddling a board on lakes and rivers instead of in the ocean surf. This is a much more relaxed form of paddling, and has allowed the SUP sport to expand to inland areas hundreds or thousands of miles from the nearest ocean.

This form of SUP is also very easy to learn, for almost anyone, with little or no paddling experience of any kind. The sport is catching on all across the US, from the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes, and just about anywhere else there’s a calm body of water. And the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association reports that they’re receiving more and more media inquiries from Midwest outlets asking about stand up paddling, as apparently more and more paddlers are showing up on lakes around the country.

Many athletes have take up the flatwater sport as well. They find that stand-up paddling is one of the most effective forms of cross training exercise available, as it forces the paddler to use nearly every muscle in the body for balance and locomotion. This unique combination of balance coordination and paddling is also a great way to build core strength as well.

SUP Equipment

Stand up paddleboards are wider than traditional surf boards, and they’re covered with a rough, tacky material that gives the paddler’s feet a good grip on the board. The boards themselves are made from a variety of materials, but most are constructed from glass-reinforced plastics.  The paddles are typically about six feet long, wood, and have a single blade.

New custom SUP board prices range from US$600 to US$1500 or more, depending on the manufacturer and type of board.


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About Julian Thompson

5b01f5332e506e323531e6a43cda71ee?s=90&d=mm&r=gJulian Thompson is a kayaking expert that has been kayak fishing for over 12 years. He prides himself on his knowledge of lures and trolling motors. He lives in Newark with his two kids and spends weekends on the lake in his favorite Hobbie Outback.