by: Marina Andriola
Standup paddling also known as sup has been around in its current modern form for less than a decade. Though a standup paddle board is not yet as recognizable as say, a bicycle, sup is definitely getting noticed.
Nearly every body of water, worldwide, has become a playground for standup paddlers.
A rapidly growing design and manufacturing industry has sprung up around this versatile new sport. Boards are now available in a huge range of sizes, styles and prices with specific boards designed for flatwater recreation, river, lake and ocean racing, fishing, long distance touring, yoga and for sup surfing.
Fueled only by the paddler, standup paddling offers an incredible cardio workout and helps relieve stress. The most often mentioned health benefit of this sport is the improvement to one’s core. With an easy learning curve, sup is an excellent choice for improving your overall fitness, no matter what shape you’re in now.
Enjoy the view as you forget that you are getting the best workout ever! Look down, below the surface, and you’ll see an amazing close-up view of underwater life. Look out, toward the horizon, and you’ll feel like an explorer of new lands, seeing things you could never view from land.
With knowledge of conditions and respect for local laws and precautions, sup is a safe activity for people of all ages, sizes and athletic ability. Many Olympians and professional athletes have jumped on board for a complete cross training workout that’s second to none.
Sup is a pastime the whole family will enjoy. An initial investment in gear will yield many years of low-cost enjoyment of the great outdoors.
Gear up and standup! Though your initial investment may seem large, you’ll be pleased to know that there are no significant ongoing costs, once your board and paddle package is assembled.
If you are a beginner, you’ve picked a great time to start. The selection of sup boards has never been better. Though many boards are designed for very specific purposes, there are just as many that will cover several activities.
In general, a wide board of 30 inches or greater should provide a good starting point for a beginner sup enthusiast.
Carbon vacuum-bagged boards are light, durable, responsive and expensive. While soft-top boards are usually heavy, durable, easy to learn on and inexpensive.
It can get very confusing. Your local sup shop is the recommended place to choose the best board for your standup paddling plan and budget. They have a passion for helping you choose the right gear and understand the local conditions. Their success depends on your success.
Like a canoe paddle, but longer, lighter, and with a peculiar bend right near the blade, the sup paddle is the second most expensive item you will need.
If you are buying your paddle from a local shop, they will help you determine how long the paddle shaft needs to be. Then they will saw off the excess factory length and attach the handle.
Just as boards have evolved, so have paddles. The general rule is that the paddle needs to be anywhere from 4 to 7 inches taller than you.
Lighter paddles are made from more expensive materials, but are well worth the extra investment as they greatly reduce the hand fatigue that occurs with heavier paddles.
In some municipalities, standup paddleboards are classified as vessels. A PFD may be required whenever you’re paddling navigable water. Once avoided by many paddlers as cumbersome and unnecessary, these design concerns have been addressed by many companies that are now creating more comfortable waist belt PFDs.
Designed specifically for standup paddlers, they are comfortable, durable and meet the highest standards. Best advice is to check with your local lifeguard or Coast Guard on details regarding the required gear for paddling in your local waters.
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of equipment is the leash, the thing that connects you to your board. For any paddler, this little item can mean the difference in life or death.
If you find yourself exhausted and far from shore, the leash will keep your board within your reach if you fall in. Even in a light breeze, your board will travel out of your reach in seconds.
ALWAYS wear a leash. In waves, the leash also protects others from being hit by your board.
In general, if you do not live in a tropical or semi-tropical environment, you’ll need some type of a wetsuit.
Again, seek out your local sup shop for advice. There are literally hundreds of right and wrong answers here, and your local shop will be able to better pinpoint your needs for this somewhat significant investment.
Wetsuits are a lot like tires, in that you wouldn’t want to put an old one on your car. If you have not tried on a wetsuit in a long time, you will be amazed at how stretchy, form fitting and downright comfy they have become.
Make sure the wetsuit you buy has enough room for bold shoulder moves. You know how it feels when your shoes or collar is too tight, right? ’Nuff said.
Some boards are small enough to fit inside of your car. Most are not. Unless you are lucky enough to be walking distance to water, you will need racks, pads and webbing straps for the job of getting your board to the water. Just getting your board to the top of your car can be a challenging event, especially if your car is tall.
Loading and tying your board down securely is a skill that will take time to learn. You may be intimidated by this step, but eventually, like anything, you’ll soon learn the sequence that works best for you. Many webbing straps have cam locks; these are a good idea if your scouting knot skills are as unused as your old NordicTrack.
Don’t try loading your board on top of the car when you are distracted or rushed. Don’t attempt it without help if the wind is blowing a gale. Do wear low shoes with a good grip.
If you cannot get the board to the top of your vehicle in one motion, lean the board against your car on its tail, then pivot it in place onto the racks. If you can’t see the top of your car, invest in a well-made, lightweight, 2-step folding ladder. There are many YouTube videos that will guide you in securing your board to your vehicle like a pro.
Some people carry their boards on their heads, some under their arm. Master both of those methods and you can carry your board anywhere you need it to go.
Seek out a body of water with no wind, waves or current for success. The water must also be deep enough to prevent you from hitting the bottom when you fall.
Be prepared to fall off your board, in fact we recommend you do it on purpose so you can get a feel for getting back on your board in the water. (As you gain experience, you will fall less often and more places will open up to you as potential paddle locations.)
Falling off your board is part of standup paddling. Once you fall in, you’re an official member of the tribe. Beginners often dread falling. Besides getting wet, there is little chance of getting hurt. These tips will help you fall safely.