Standup paddleboarding

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Standup paddleboarding in light surf.
Standup paddle boarding in Lake Annecy
Kai Lenny, World Cup Sylt 2009

Stand up paddle surfing and stand up paddle boarding (SUP) (Hoe he'e nalu in the Hawaiian language) are sports originating in Hawaii as an offshoot of surfing. Unlike traditional surfing where the rider is sitting until a wave comes, stand up paddle boarders maintain an upright stance on their boards and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water. Growth of the sport has been documented in a 2013 report which identified it as the outdoor sporting activity with the most first-time participants of any in the United States that year.[1] There are various modes of stand up paddling, including flat water paddling for outdoor recreation, fitness, or sightseeing, racing on lakes, large rivers and canals, surfing on ocean waves, paddling in river rapids (whitewater SUP), SUP Yoga, and even fishing.

Stand up paddlers wear a variety of wet suits and other clothing, depending on both water and air temperature since most of their time is spent standing on the board.

A related, traditional sport, paddleboarding, is done kneeling on a board and paddling with the hands, similar to a butterfly swimming stroke. The term "paddleboarding" is sometimes incorrectly used to refer to stand up paddle surfing.

Historian and writer Steve West, notes that the contemporary notion of stand up paddle boarding, if attributed to the Waikiki Beach Boys of Oahu during the 1960s, considers that outrigger canoeing should in fact be recognised as the direct link between the idea of standing on a board and propelling it with a canoe paddle, seeing as these two primary skills (board riding and paddling) were merely being combined, by people who had traditionally grown up around both skills as part of their cultural rite of passage.


Stand up paddle boarding originated in Africa where it was common practice for individuals to stand on their canoes and use their paddle to propel themselves forwards. This method of stand up paddle boarding was used by warriors in an attempt to silently enter enemy territory for stealth attacks.

The contemporary form of the sport originated in the 16th century where Hawaiian surfers would surf on boards of up to 5 meters in length. These surfers would use a paddle out of necessity due to the size of their boards.

The practice of stand up paddle boarding continued in Tel Aviv in the twentieth century where lifeguards would stand on wide boards as a way to have a clear view of possible swimmers in distress. The lifeguards would then use a paddle to enable them to propel through the water quickly to rescue swimmers.

In the 1940s surf instructors in Waikiki; Duke Kahanamoku and Leroy and Bobby AhChoy began stand up paddle boarding as a way to stand on their boards during incoming swells. Thus, the phenomenon known as Beach Board surfing was born.

In the 1990s stand up paddle boarding was taught at Hawaiian surf schools as an alternative way to surf when there was little swell. This practice became increasingly popular so surf instructor Brian Keaulana decided to add ‘’Beach Boy Surfing’’ to the world-recognized ‘’Buffalo Big Board Contest’’ in 2003. The response to this new category was overwhelming with many recognized surfers choosing to partake in this new form of surfing.

Stand up paddle boarding races became more common; in 2012 Kai Lenny won the seasons finals of the first Standup World Series championship races.

The first magazine devoted to the sport, Standup Journal, was founded in June 2007.


According to the Outdoor Foundation's 2013 Outdoor Participation Report, stand up paddle boarding was listed as the most popular outdoor activity among first-time participants. The report stated that the median age for stand up paddle boarding was 28 years old.

Materials and design[edit]

New SUP board prices range from US$600 to US$3500, and most use glass-reinforced plastic construction using polyester or epoxy resin that is compatible with the polyurethane or expanded polystyrene foam used in the core. Some SUP boards use a hollow wood construction instead of foam with epoxy resin.[2] In the last few years inflatable boards have been introduced as well. The boards are generally longer than 9 feet (2,7 m), and can be longer than 12 feet (3,6 m), with features such as padded decks and concave hulls; they generally have one or three surfboard-style fins in the stern for tracking. Boards can also be a short as 7 feet, typically made out of high performance Carbon Fiber. Boards such as these are used in Stand Up Paddle Surf competitions, where a smaller board is more maneuverable. Race boards, which range from 12ft6in to 14ft, are usually made of fiberglass or carbon fiber.

River specific stand up paddle boards are starting to experiment with different fabrics, and polymers for the abuse the board takes in the river.[3]

Safety and regulations[edit]

Water safety is practiced and regulated by a wide range of overlapping Federal, State, and local authorities who work to ensure the protection of life and property in coastal zones throughout the world. Depending on which country and locale in which you are surfing, local laws regulating the use of surfboards and SUP boards will vary.

US safety regulations[edit]

In many areas of the USA, SUP surfing is treated like body surfing, boogie boarding, or other forms of prone surfing (surfboard riding) and there are no regulations requiring the use of a personal flotation device (PFD) while using a SUP board in the surf zone. However, given the ease of moving from one area to another on a SUP board be aware that the jurisdictions[4] and rules requiring a PFD may change as you travel from the surf zone to internal waters, harbors, or other inland waterways. The US Coast Guard has classified SUPs as vessels, like canoes or kayaks. Hence, SUP riders are required to wear a PFD when paddling in certain areas outside of the surf zone.[5] Additionally, some areas of the USA (such as Myrtle Beach, SC[6] or Virginia Beach, VA[7]) closely regulate beach and surf zones, requiring the use of leashes on a SUP board similar to the law for surfboards. These regulations and requirements may be enforced seasonally during high-tourism seasons or all year.

UK safety regulations[edit]

In the UK there are no regulations for the use of a personal flotation device (PFD) while using a SUP board in the surf. In flat water environments paddlers should be aware of localised regulations requiring the use of a PFD such as on lakes, rivers and inland waterways. In a teaching environment SUP schools and clubs individual risk assessments may require the use of PFD's for less confident stand up paddle boarders but there is often no regulations enforcing this. The use of a leash is always recommended in all paddling environments and should be considered a key piece of safety equipment for Stand Up Paddle Boarding.[8] Specific leashes are designed for specific uses of the paddle board.

Stand up paddle[edit]

A stand up paddle is a type of paddle used in stand up paddle surfing. The stand up paddle is used to propel an individual across the surface of the water while standing on a surfboard. The paddle consists of a blade, shaft and handle.

Materials and design[edit]

Paddles used for stand up surfing are similar to traditional canoe paddles only longer. They are usually constructed from carbon, fiberglass or wood with flat blade on one end connecting to a handle on the other end by a long smooth shaft. The blade ranges from 6 to 10 inches in width with an oval or round shaft ranging from 67 to 86 inches in length with a 1 to 1.5 inch diameter. Blades are designed with several shapes and features. Normally the blade has a banana peel shape sometimes having a slight keel on the back side of the blade. Other commonly used shapes include diamonds, or oar like blades. Different blade shapes are sometimes used for different types of paddling conditions (long-distance, flat lake water versus ocean surf for example).[9]


The proper form for paddle surfing requires a paddle of the correct length and size. A common rule of thumb is a “shaka” length, or 5 to 7 inches, above the rider's height for surfing and about 10 inches above rider's head for racing. Paddles are held with two hands, using a wide grip instead of keeping the hands close together, and used to propel the rider through the water. The proper way to hold the paddle when on the water is with the blade tilted away from the body. This propels the paddler through the water quicker than if the paddle is held incorrectly. The push-pull method is the most effective way of paddling when stand up paddle boarding. This method requires pushing the paddle gently into the water with a forward motion, and then pulling it towards you before lifting it back out of the water. [10]

Inflatable SUP boards[edit]

Performance surf boards have traditionally been made from laminated layers over foam cores. SUP boards are larger boards and the desire to travel with them has led to the development of an inflatable system where the board and pump can be carried in a back pack. The core material is called 'drop stitch'. Thousands of locked nylon stitches keep the board at a specific thickness. Pressure from specially designed hand pumps can inflate a board to over 30Psi. This creates a board not much less rigid than a hard board. This makes inflatable boards both durable and transportable.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Research - Outdoor Participation - Outdoor Recreation Participation Report 2013 - Outdoor Industry Association". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Barefoot Boards - Handcrafted Wooden Boards". Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  3. ^ "GSS - Glide Paddle Boards Surface Shield". 
  4. ^ "Code of Federal Regulations Title 33 Part 2(A)". e-Code of Federal Regulations. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Casey, Robert (2011). Stand Up Paddling: Flatwater to Surf and Rivers. Seattle, WA: The Mountaineers Books. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-59485-253-4. 
  6. ^ "Myrtle Beach Laws -". City of Myrtle Beach. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Local Ordinances of the City of Virginia Beach" (PDF). City of Virginia Beach. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "A leash is a necessity not an accessory!". SUPboarder Mag. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "The ABC's of SUP boards with advice on choosing equipment". 
  10. ^ "How To Hold A SUP Paddle The Right Way • Just Paddleboard". Just Paddleboard. 2015-09-30. Retrieved 2016-06-07. 

External links[edit]

Stand Up Paddleboarding at DMOZ