You were hanging out on the beach when you saw some people doing a strange mix of kayaking, canoeing, and surfing out on the water. What’s up? What is SUP?
Right then and there you thought to yourself: what is this kay-noe-fing that I’m seeing?
What you really meant to say was what is SUP? (WASSUUUUUP? No.)
What Is SUP?
SUP is short for Stand Up Paddle Boarding, one of the emerging global water sports. Stand on a surfboard while holding a long paddle and you’re doing it. Kinda. While that is the concept, it is slightly different from that. A stand up paddle board is normally longer, wider, and more stable than a surfboard. The SUP paddle is a few inches taller than you and has a strange kink between the shaft and the paddle.
Where Did SUP Start?
Where and why the activity started is up for debate. Some people say it was lifeguards that wanted to have a better view of swimmers in trouble that started stand up paddle boarding.
Others say surf instructors and photographers wanted to have a higher vantage point than the surface of the water and so they started standing up on their surfboards and propelling themselves with paddles.
Some say surfers looking for a way to train when the surf was down started it all.
We don’t know the true, true origins of the sport, but what we do know is that you need to get out there and give stand up paddle boarding a try.
What Do I Need to Know About SUP?
There are a number of different types of SUP disciplines and there is at least one that is right for you.
If you enjoy exploring lakes and protected inlets, then flatwater paddle boarding is probably the right fit for you.
Want to tackle the surf in the open ocean? Stand up paddle surfing is what you’re looking for.
Do you live to compete? SUP racing will scratch that itch.
Are you an adrenaline junkie? You’ll probably want to hit the river rapids and give whitewater SUP a try.
There are many different SUP varieties and there is bound to be one that aligns with your personality.
But just like when your grandpa told you “pick the right tool for the job“, there are different boards that are better suited to different types of SUP and you want to try to make sure you’re using the right one. Our SUP Buyer’s Guide will walk you through the different setups and helps you figure out what you’re looking for.
How Do I Get Started?
The one common denominator between all types of stand up paddle boarding is that you need to have a body of water. Ocean, river, lake – it doesn’t matter. Find water and you’re on your way to entering the world of stand up paddle boarding.
Once you’ve found the water, you’ll need to get a board. Our recommendation for trying out SUP is to find a rental shop where you can rent the board. Often these rental shops will be right next to the water and will fit you up from head to toe with everything that you need to get started. Another option is to borrow a board from your friend / neighbor / aunt / cousin / coworker / anyone, anyone, ANYONE?
The other key component to this whole adventure is a paddle. Not just any paddle, but a stand up paddle board paddle. A couple inches taller than you with a bend between the shaft and paddle. Rental shops will include these with the board, and if you’re borrowing cousin Betty’s board then she will probably lend you the paddle with the board.
A life jacket is final piece of equipment required. If you’ve never been stand up paddle boarding before, we STRONGLY urge you to wear the life jacket. Finding your sea legs under you can be a little tricky the first time. The life jacket will help remove any anxiety over falling in. A life jacket is required by law in most countries to be at least within arms reach, but who has the skill to grab it and put it on as you’re being pitched off the board?
To top off the whole experience, a sense of adventure and friends to share the experience with are highly recommended!