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Stand Up Paddle Surfing

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Stand Up Paddle Surfing

Stand up paddle surfing (SUP), stand up paddle boarding, or in the Hawaiian language Hoe he'e nalu, is an emerging global sport with a Hawaiian heritage. The sport is a recent form of surfing, and has emerged as a way for surfers to paddle longer distances.

The sport of stand up paddle boarding has, in less than ten years, spread from surf beaches to nearly ever other type of watercourse. Races are held on lakes, large rivers and canals; paddlers navigate river rapids and ride standing waves that are common therein; gliding is the practice of covering long distances along sea coasts, often using tail winds to aid the trip. A related, traditional sport, paddleboarding has been done kneeling on a board and paddling with the hands, similar to a butterfly swimming stroke. However using a paddle is now sometimes incorrectly called paddleboarding. Stand up paddlers wear a wide 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.


Though there are a few examples of someone standing on a float with a pole or oar earlier, stand up paddle surfing really began taking off after 2005.

Supporters cite the ease of learning as a key to its popularity, with beginners becoming comfortable in as little as an hour of training. Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama developed paddle surfing for the modern water sports world. The first "modern" surfer to bring Stand Up Paddle Surfing out of Hawaii and to the mainland United States was Vietnam veteran Rick Thomas.[1] Custom surf shaper Jimmy Lewis, created one of the first modern production boards, the All Around. Traditional style surfers have converted to stand up paddling because of the versatility of the new sport. Stand up paddle boarding offers surfers the ability to catch more waves in a set, as well as offering a better view of incoming sets (ocean waves they may want to ride that are approaching from the sea).

Deb and Warren (WARDOG) Thomas, owners, Standup Paddle Sports, LLC, and, Inc, Santa Barbara, CA pioneered and helped establish the sport and industry of standup paddling in California over 8 years ago. Deb Thomas was also the first female standup paddler in North America in 2005. They also purchased and in 2005. They brought the very first production SUP's to market with Maui shaper, Sean Ordonez, in 2006, and theirs was the first company to open a dedicated SUP store in North America in 2007. They are currently designing, manufacturing, and selling SUP boards, fins, and accessories.[2]

Paddle boarding on a River is also gaining popularity. Paddleboarders can ride standing waves which are created by the river flow over rocks. The standing waves can be anywhere from ankle high, to head high. The standing wave handles essentially the same as an ocean wave. Interestingly, one of the best rivers to paddleboard on is just a few miles from the White House.[3] The Potomac River has 7 surf spots within 2 miles. Paddleboarder veteran Wayne Cohen, also known as Cobra, has been paddling the standing waves there since 2007.[4]

River SUP'ing is gaining popularity in the boating community due to the skill and agility required to navigate rapids and obstacles. Stand up paddle surfing is now the fastest growing water surf activity because it allows a wider range of athletic types to get involved and SUP surfers need not schedule around high and low tides[5]

Kai Lenny claimed the first SUP racing world champion title when he won the seasons finals of the first Standup World Series championship races held at Turtle Bay Resort, O'Ahu, Hawaii on 13–14 September 2012.[6]

August 8, 2007 on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City, CA was the site of the very first stand up paddle board race. A 7 mile race from Jake's on the lake restaurant to Tahoe Vista, CA ending at Captain Jon's restaurant. 34 competitors men & women from Lake Tahoe, Santa Cruz and San Diego completed the 1st ever SUP only event. This was the beginning of the TA-HOE NALU paddle festival. 2012 marked the 6th year of what is now the oldest SUP event in the world drawing over 4000 spectators and over 400 competitors from around the world to compete at the Quiksilver TA-HOE NALU Paddle festival.[7]

The world's first-ever printed standup paddling magazine is Standup Journal, founded in June, 2007; first issue of Standup Journal hit US newsstands in March, 2008 and has grown to international newsstands since. The publication is headquartered in Maine, US and is co-published by Clay Feeter and Joyce Bilodeau.

Materials and design

New SUP board prices range from US$600 to US$1500, 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.[8] In the last few years inflatable boards have been introduced as well. The boards are generally longer than 9 feet (3 m), and can be longer than 12 feet (4 m), with features such as padded decks and concave hulls; they generally have one or three surfboard-style fins in the stern for tracking.

River specific stand up paddle boards are starting to experiment with different fabrics, and polymers for the abuse the board takes in the river. [9]


As of October 3, 2008, the US Coast Guard now classifies SUPs as vessels and as a result SUP riders are obliged to wear a personal flotation device(PFD), or lifejacket when paddling in certain areas.[10] Whether this will affect the continued take up of stand up paddling in the USA remains to be seen. The Canadian Coast Guard has implemented similar rules, however SUPer's are only required to have a PFD with them, they don't have to wear them.

Stand up paddle

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

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).[11]


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. While standing on board, the rider holds the paddle with one hand on the handle and the other hand approximately 1/3 of the way down the shaft. The hand placement alternates depending on what side the rider is paddling on. When paddling on the right side the handle is held with the left hand and the shaft with the right, vice versa on the left side. When paddling, the blade is placed in the water 1 to 2 feet in front of the rider. The paddle is then pulled through the water with a motion similar to the rider punching with the top hand. The motion is continued until the blade is pulled through the water to a point approximately 6 inches to a foot behind the rider's body.

Inflatable SUP Boards

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. Two of the greatest benefits of inflatable boards are their durability and transportability.

See also


External links

  • History of SUP
  • Wood SUP Paddles
  • SUP West Coast Vancouver Island B.C
  • Paddle Surfing Australia
  • Stand Up Paddle Surf Peru
  • SUP in Russia

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