Making Waves: The Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Boom

**This post on stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is from our archives. It was originally published in April 2012 and written by Kevin, the Sierra Trading Post Gear Doctor.**

There's been a lot of stir in the watersports community lately about a fast growing sport called stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) or stand-up paddle surfing. What the heck is it? It's actually pretty simple. Combine surfing with a long, single-sided paddle for propulsion, and you've got a recipe for fun and fitness on the water!

SUP From Old School to New School

Believe it or not, this emerging sport has actually been practiced in Hawaii for a pretty long while. Stand-up paddle boarding is actually an offshoot of paddle boarding, an activity that has been around since the early 20th century or longer. Paddle boarding evolved over many years as a means of transportation used by ancient Hawaiian watermen who developed the technique in the ocean surrounding the Hawaiian islands. Not surprisingly, the surfing boom in the 1950s and 60s (think The Beach Boys, bikinis and big waves) almost completely overshadowed the lesser-known sport of paddle boarding. That is until a resurgence started brewing over the last few decades. Today, SUP is one of the fastest growing water sports out there!

Stand-up paddle boarding Stand-up paddle boading the Colorado River near Moab, UT

The Benefits of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Unlike traditional paddle boarding, which requires a person to kneel or lie on the board, propelling the craft forward with the hands, stand-up paddle boarding incorporates a paddle. This allows you to stand, which does require more balance, but also gives you more control and maneuverability. SUP is a great sport for a comprehensive workout, since you'll be engaging muscles in your legs, arms belly and back. Total body! You'll also get a fantastic aerobic workout, which makes SUP an awesome cross-training activity for skiers, snowboarders, cyclists, runners and other athletes.

Getting Started

Unlike kayaking or canoeing, which requires a lot more gear, all you need for SUP is a board and paddle. Boards tend to be long (ranging from 10' to 14' long) and have fins on the bottom for stability and tracking. Some boards also have cushy, grippy surfaces for your feet. And, of course, a paddle is important too. You'll need a nice, long one that will reach down into the water from your standing position, which means it'll be several inches higher than your head on land.

Beginners and intrepid adventurers alike may appreciate a PFD (life jacket) for safety, and if there's any chance of you being separated from your board, you'll probably want a board leash as well. For cold conditions, wearing a wetsuit is recommended. In warm conditions, though, a bathing suit or swim trunks and a light T-shirt is all you need. Don't forget the sunscreen!


The Learning Curve

As I mentioned earlier, balance is pretty essential for this sport. However, you don't need the balance of an advanced yogi to stand on a paddle board. If you start in relatively calm water, you'll learn fast. Try to avoid the choppy water or ocean waves until you get a better feel for things. Of course, once you gain skill, you can start experimenting with more challenging water. You could even be hitting waves!

Anyone already tried stand-up paddle boarding? Tell us about your SUP experience!
Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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