Stand up paddleboarding, or SUP, is a surface water sport, a variant of surfing where the surfer uses a paddle to move through the water while standing on a surfboard. Stand up paddle surfing is derived from its Polynesian roots. The Hawaiian translation is Ku Hoe He’e Nalu; to stand, to paddle, to surf, a wave.
Surfing as a sport developed in the eastern imagination in the early 1900s, when the Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku first demonstrated the activity for onlookers at a New Jersey beach. The boards Duke and others rode at the time were hulks of planed wood, closer to their Polynesian antecedents than the performance boards surfers ride today. Design and materials both improved in the following decades.
Wisconsin-born waterman Thomas Edward Blake is credited with being a pioneer in paddleboard construction. While restoring historic Hawaiian boards in 1926, Blake built a replica of previously ignored ‘olo surfboards’ that had reputedly been ridden by ancient Hawaiian kings. Blake lightened a redwood replica by drilling holes in it, which he then covered, leading to development of the modern paddleboard.
Stand up Paddleboarding is today the fastest growing water sport in the world. In the 1950s Californians brought the sport to the mainland and it has been evolving as a water activity ever since.
The difference between modern surfing and SUP is that with Stand up Paddleboarding a person can paddle on the open ocean, in harbors, on lakes, rivers or any large body of water. Plus, many devotees believe, SUPing is easier to grasp the first time it is tried. Stand Up Paddleboarding is one of the best ways to achieve a great core workout, while being on the water.
After stand up paddleboarding became popular, it was not long before inflatable paddleboards became a reality. These boards have no hard edges that can break or do damage to your car or boat. They can be stored in a closet, or any locker on a boat. The best part of inflatable paddleboards is you get ease of storage without sacrificing performance.
Stand Up Paddleboarding is part kayaking, part surfing. You kneel on the board to start off, then stand up and use both hands to grip the paddle, paddling on either your right or left, depending on which way the wind is blowing.
The sport is graceful, simple and has a quick learning curve. Anyone from eight to 80 will usually be standing up and paddling early on. This is a silent, green sport that puts you in touch with nature in a new way. Standing on a paddleboard gives a person a new perspective on nature and an incredible view of sea-life below.
Best of all, SUP promotes balance, strength, general fitness and gives you a workout from your toes to your nose. It provides an excellent core muscle fitness activity.
Stand up paddleboarding seems to be especially popular among women, perhaps because of their gender’s generally lower center of gravity. Many women are indeed more skilled at paddleboarding than are men. River SUP is definitely gaining in popularity among females due to the skill and agility that is needed to navigate many rapids.
For persons unable to surf, because of medical problems etc., paddleboarding is a great alternative that still allows a person to enjoy the waves. Paddle sports are an ideal way to get out and enjoy life. This is about as close as it gets to walking on water.
Where to Stand Up Paddleboard in the Caribbean
Try Sandals’ resorts in Jamaica and on the Turks and Caicos. On St. Thomas, head for Bolango Bay Beach Resort, or the Ritz-Carlton. People can also paddleboard in the Bahamas (Abaco Paddleboard) and in the Dominican Republic (Beach Bum Tribe).
It is difficult to explain precisely why paddling into a wave on a board generates such a buzz; the best way to find out what’s involved is to actually do it. Stated simply, paddling adds a whole new dimension to surfing and takes a person back to the basic element that got us there in the first place—getting in the water and having fun.
Whether you’re tearing up the waves in the Caribbean or cruising down a river, stand-up paddleboarding has something for everyone.