Standup paddleboarding (SUP) has recently become wildly popular, and for good reason! SUP is the perfect hobby for those who love the water, but who want more variety and challenge from their aquatic adventures. It's a fun twist on, and mix of, the traditional disciplines of swimming, surfing, and kayaking, but with its own unique and healthily addictive benefits. Based on ancient Hawaiian techniques much like surfing, SUP has exploded in popularity as a versatile modern hobby, accessible and appropriate to all ages and levels of fitness.
Though challenging, the basics are beginner-friendly, and the overall experience is one that’s easy to love. In fact, standup paddleboarding has recently become the single most popular athletic pursuit for first-time exercisers. On gentle waters, the sport is notably low impact, while still being a fantastic and fun workout. This has encouraged participation from an older set of first-time learners than is typical for a sport, with the average rookie being about thirty years old.
Despite the intrinsically challenging nature of SUP, the basics can be learned in a few hours and immediately put into practical use. Once you get to your destination, the sky (or, rather, the water) is the limit. In particular, the fluid nature of SUP makes it a superb cross-training exercise to supplement more conventional high-impact activities. Using core muscles, back, arms, and legs, all in concert, a day of standup paddling can be as intense a workout as any 10K run, and possibly more enjoyable, while certainly less stressful on the joints!
Standup paddleboards are larger and heavier than standard surfboards (though inflatable versions are available), so wrangling your paddleboard can be a workout in and of itself, no matter your destination. Adult-sized boards range from nine to twelve feet in length, and they can have decks as wide as 36 inches. Typically, a shorter, wider board is used for slower applications where agility and maneuverability count, while longer, narrower paddleboards allow a paddler to test their speed limits.
Though the equipment can be awkward or heavy to tote, SUP is like many sports where the effort is easily forgotten in the face of how enjoyable the experience is. SUP is flexible as a sport. The same equipment an enthusiast can take on heavy ocean rollers one day can be used to explore quiet riverways the next. With creative application to any body of water, people have added the boards to the outdoor vacations they already love and created a pastime verging on obsession.
Further driving the rising popularity of SUP is its family-friendly nature. Much like canoeing, once the life jackets are on, the adventure begins. Child-sized boards are readily available, but it's also common to have your child (or dog) perched on the front of your board to enjoy the ride. Outdoor exploration, coupled with family bonding and exercise all blend seamlessly while cruising smooth waters and discovering scenic new locales. As with any sport that harnesses the power of nature, standup paddleboarding teaches children the importance of situational awareness and responsibility, without becoming a tedious classroom chore.
Especially fascinating are the branches of other activities that have arisen as people have hybridized their other hobbies with paddleboarding. For example, SUP is gaining in popularity among touring nature-seekers and birdwatchers; the higher angle employed by standing allows for better viewing of both the water under the board and the surrounding land.
In fact, tourism in general is another area where the rapid growth of the sport is evident, as SUP is becoming a new mainstay of tourist locations and destination vacations in both warm and cold water locales. As the sport has increased in popularity, shops that rent or sell standard surfboards and wetsuits are just as likely to stock paddleboards, often with a basic lesson for added value. Holiday packages featuring SUP schools and workshops have multiplied worldwide to give footloose enthusiasts a chance to ply their skills on a global scale.
The accessibility of the sport to a wide array of age and health ranges, ease of access to locations and equipment, and the speed with which one can get onto a board and get paddling will all continue to drive the growth of SUP. Simple exploration has always been popular with paddleboarders, but racing and surf-style trick paddling are also practiced. SUP has even been fused to the supple power of yoga to evolve into some of the most strenuous yet enjoyable workouts available today.
Paddleboarding is just plain fun, and, as people continue to experiment and adapt the sport to produce more potential for adventure, this versatility will undoubtedly draw more interest, attention, and participation. For all of the possibilities, though, at the very heart of the growth of the sport is the simple fact that StandUp Paddleboarding is just plain fun—and that alone will ensure its continued appeal. Now you can ask your friends, “Hey, ‘SUP?”