What’s SUP? Stand Up Paddleboard!

Published on July 01, 2015
Written by Ray Access

Stand up paddleboard (or SUP, for short) is a new recreational activity that’s sweeping across the globe. A fun new way to get around on calm water, SUP is safe for adults and kids who are at least nine years old. Life jackets are recommended and the ability to swim is required.

If you’ve never heard of SUP, let us enlighten you. Although different paddleboards are available, they are usually between nine to 12 feet long and 28 to 36 inches wide. They resemble surfboards on steroids. A fin on the submerged side makes the board very stable as you glide across the water.

Stand Up Paddleboard Size Chart

Paddling Your Way Around

You can get on a stand up paddleboard from a dock (as you would board a canoe), or you can jump in the water near the paddleboard and pull yourself on. Climbing onto the board from the water is a good skill to have in case you fall off, but paddleboards do not flip easily because of their width and the fin. If you want to capsize your board, you really have to work at it.

With a long paddle — commonly, eight to 10 inches taller than your height — you can paddle yourself around while standing, sitting or kneeling, similar to the way you would paddle a canoe. You can take your SUP on a mountain lake or calm river. It’s more exercise than floating downriver on a tube, but a stand up paddleboard gives you more control over your destination, too.

SUP History

You’d be correct if you thought that stand up paddleboarding derived from surfing. And just like surfing, SUP started in Hawaii. The legend goes that Duke Kahanamoku, the “father of modern surfing,” suffered a knee injury as he aged. Instead of giving up his favorite sport, he grabbed a kayak paddle and remained standing.

In the 1960s, LeRoy and Bobby AhChoy, also of Hawaii, used the technique to better watch their surfing students. They mastered the stand-up paddleboard to the point that they kept a pack of cigarettes rolled up in their sleeves. Flash forward to 2004, when Rick Thomas brought a stand up paddleboard to California after a visit to the islands, and he introduced the mainland to the sport.

The SUP Craze

SUP caught on quickly. It’s now one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. People in the Appalachian Mountain region have also caught the SUP bug. On rivers and lakes throughout the mountains, stand up paddleboards now vie with canoes, kayaks and inner tubes for rights of way. Watauga Lake in Tennessee even holds an annual SUP race.

The Tri Cities Stand Up Paddleboard Company in Bristol, Tennessee, sells equipment, holds lessons and has rentals. To take advantage of the next wave of SUP fun, they offer SUP yoga classes, where you learn to practice yoga on top of a stand up paddleboard. Who knows where SUP will go from here? Next time you find yourself in the mountains near some water, ask a local, “What’s SUP next?”

Photo credits: riversideoutfitters.net, rekinspire.com