Stand up paddleboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. According to the outdoor industry association stand up paddle boarding was the fastest growing sport in North America up a whopping 62.6% (as of 2016, the most recent data available). You can go here and read the Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report 2017, look under the section: Outdoor Participation by Activity.
A ton of people are coming into the sport.
So, what exactly is stand up paddling, or SUP for short? It’s pretty self-explanatory. SUP is standing on a board that resembles a surfboard while using a paddle that resembles a kayak paddle, to pull and maneuver yourself through the water.
The boards are specially designed for the rider to be standing up so they are generally wider and longer than a traditional surfboard. This makes a stand up paddleboard more stable and easier to use. And the paddles are also designed to be used by someone standing, so they are longer and usually have an angle to them, which is best for a stand up paddler, rather than a kayaker.
Where was stand-up paddle boarding invented?
Who exactly invented stand-up paddle boarding is up for debate. It also depends on how you define stand up paddle boarding.
Native Americans in North America stood up in kayaks and paddled their vessels. Do you consider that the invention of SUP? Probably not.
In South America, in the country of Peru thousands of years ago, the fisherman would use small crafts made of reeds to go fish out on the ocean. They would also stand up on these crafts with ores that somewhat resembled paddles.
Most people don’t consider these the beginning of stand-up paddleboarding, but it’s important to know the idea of standing on a vessel and paddling on the water has been around for a very long time.
The modern invention of stand up paddle boarding can be traced to the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1900s.
A local legend and surfer, Duke Kahanamoku was a surf instructor to the many tourists that would visit the island and want to learn to surf. He would stand on his board with a paddle to maneuver around the tourists as he taught them how to use their surfboards.
This is the unofficial start of the invention of stand up paddle boarding. This is also the start of paddle board surf. The Hawaiians quickly realized that they could use their paddle boards not only in flat water but also to surf their famous waves. It also happens to be easier to catch a wave to surf on a paddleboard than a surfboard.
Jump to the 1990s and famous surfers like Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama further pushed the sport of stand-up paddleboarding by riding ever bigger waves and doing more athletic surfing maneuvers on their boards. And this is basically the start of the rise and popularity of the sport of stand-up paddle boarding in North America, and it has been steadily increasing in the number of SUP enthusiasts ever since.
This brings us to the present day where stand-up paddling has reached everywhere from the Hawaiian Islands to the east coast of North America all the way up to the cold waters of Alaska, and many lakes and rivers in between.
Why is SUP so popular?
One of the reasons why paddle boarding has become popular with so many people is because of its accessibility. It doesn’t take long for the average person to gain the skills and confidence to stand up on their board and paddle around, especially on flat and calm waters. This is why you have seen an explosion of paddle board use all over the United States in your local lakes.
Another reason for the rise in the popularity of stand-up paddle boarding is technology. Now there are inflatable stand-up paddle boards. Inflatable stand-up paddle boards tend to be cheaper than traditional fiberglass rigid stand-up paddle boards, but more importantly, they collapse into a small package.
You can deflate an ISUP and put it up into your backpack and pack it in a corner of your car along with your clothes and other things needed for vacation.
ISUPS are cheap, easy to use, and easy to transport. You can hike with an inflatable SUP to a remote mountain lake, or transport it in the trunk of your care to your local lake or river and get it inflated and be on the water within 10 minutes of your arrival.
What started as another form of surfing, has turned into a sport that can even be used on rivers. Paddle boards are a great way to explore the gentle rivers of Florida, like the Blackwater River, and they can even be used for whitewater. Believe it or not, some more adventurous paddlers use specially designed ISUPs to challenge rapids.
What type of SUP is best for you?
There are a wide variety of specialties in the sport of stand-up paddle boarding. There are paddle boards for surfing, touring, racing, white water rapids, yoga, whatever you can think of on the water there’s probably a paddle board specifically designed for that activity.
In general, most people though are going to want an all-around style paddle board. This would be a SUP that is good for beginners to intermediates and tends to be wide and very stable. Most people want a board that all of their family members can use.
For an all-around paddle board, most people will want to get a high-quality inflatable paddle board that is designed for all-around activities. There are many great options to choose from. A well made ISUP will be durable, stable, easy to use for nearly all family members, and good for flat water and even small waves to surf.
So if you’ve ever wondered why you see so many people on stand-up paddle boards at the lake and also at the beach, now you know what makes them so popular. The next time you’re at the beach, find a local rental shop and try it out. You’ll be glad you did!