According to a recent report by the the Outdoor Foundation, not only is stand up paddleboarding
the fastest growing watersport in America
, it’s the fastest growing sport, period. More than 56 percent of those who participated in new sports last year donned bikinis and boardshorts and wobbled there way along lakes, rivers and oceans on a paddle board.
The beauty of stand up paddleboarding is that it can be done anywhere and by anyone. Whether you’re floating a lazy river in Louisiana, casually crossing a lake in Utah or running whitewater in British Columbia, a SUP board is a unique and fun way to go. In ocean-side places like California and Hawaii, SUP is seeing a huge rise in popularity and watersport guides are tailoring their offerings to include everything from yoga SUP experiences to SUP surfing lessons. We got in touch with many SUP guides around North America to find out what the attraction is and why people should try it – and we’ve compiled their reasons here.
It should be noted, however, that in an ocean environment it’s always a good idea to hire a SUP guide first before renting a board and taking it out on the water. Alexa Wise, owner of Yogagurlmaui in Hawaii says, “Many people will not know the local weather and wind patterns and these can change on a dime. I see a lot of people just rent boards and go out and they’ve never been on a board … and I think that it’s really important to emphasize that the local weather and wind patterns can change abruptly — even for experienced guides that’s a challenge.”
So read these reasons, hire a stand-up paddleboarding guide and find out why SUP is the fastest growing sport in North America.
1. (Almost) Anyone Can Do It
Every guide we interviewed for this piece said that anyone can paddleboard
, with proper instruction. Occasionally, though, people grab the wrong size board and expect to be good at it right from the start. The key is to begin on calm, flat water with a paddleboard that’s the right size for you. Kneel on the board to get the feel of the movement and eventually make your way to a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. “The learning curve is so steep and you might feel awkward or off balance the first time you get on a board, but most people are standing up within 10 minutes,” says Clayton Watson
, a guide with Vancouver
Water Adventures. “But within their first three or four times paddling they begin to understand and develop intermediate to advanced skills.” To speed up the learning process, consider hiring a SUP guide
who will find you the right sized board and take you to areas appropriate for your experience level.
Whether your joining Brittany Slater
in Orange County, California
, Miranda Camp
in Maui, Hawaii
, or during the warmer months, Neil Nickerson
in Juneau, Alaska
, Jordan Lapekas
on Lake Powell in Utah
or Derek Shrotter
in Toronto, Canada
, you can use a Stand Up Paddleboard anywhere, from mellow lakes and rivers to ocean swells.
3. It’s Offers a Unique Vantage Point
One thing that not everyone realizes about stand up paddleboarding is that it gives you a unique vantage point that you don’t get when sitting in a canoe or kayak. By standing above the water, you can see further down into it and, in places like Hawaii
or the Caribbean, you’ll more easily spot turtles, tropical fish and even whales! Says Rob Casey
, a SUP guide based in Seattle, Washington
, “It’s a great view! My background is sea and surf kayaking and your view from a kayak is over the water. SUP’s view is not only over the water but straight down below your feet. It’s great for tidal pool exploring and viewing marine life. In Seattle, harbor seals swim below our feet in 2-3’ of water. You won’t see that in a kayak.”
4. You Can Do a Lot of Different Things on a Paddleboard
Some SUP guides were quick to tell us that stand up paddleboards aren’t just for standing on. In fact, four guides we interviewed for this story offer yoga and meditation classes on paddleboards. Others bring along picnic lunches so you can sit in the middle of a calm lake and enjoy a meal surrounded by water!
5. There Isn’t A Lot Of Gear Required
Unlike some sports, SUPing only requires a few pieces of equipment: a board, which looks like a long, wide, surf board, (make sure it has a leash), a paddle and of course a life jacket, safety first! Oh and you might want to bring along a swimsuit too.
6. You Can Go Places Others Can’t
Unlike motor boats, stand up paddleboards can go virtually anywhere, whether you’re exploring shallow lagoons in Oahu
or hidden caves in Alaska
7. You Have A Better Chance Spotting Wildlife
Some of the guides we contacted for this article spoke of incredible experiences SUPing beside dolphins, whales, seals and, of course, plenty of fish and water birds. Very few motor boat enthusiasts can boast similar, intimate interactions with such marine life.
A few SUP guides
we contacted described beautiful sunset or sunrise experiences when they paddled out into the water and then just sat there, floating, and listening to the sound of the water and wind. “It’s very soothing to be surrounded by nature and can become a moving meditation when you connect your breath to movements,” says Brittany Slater, a SUP guide in southern California
. ”This can all be achieved with stand up paddle boarding alone but is amplified when you add yoga and fitness moves on the board, which is my specialty.”
Without fail, every single SUP guide we touched base with explained that stand up paddleboarding is excellent exercise. “It’s a great all body exercise similar to rowing or cross country skiing,” says Rob Casey in Washington
. “The core gets a lot of media attention but paddling also helps everything else. For those that say they have bad balance, SUP will give them better balance! Similiarly many recovering from injuries have found that SUP has benefited their recovery, including those with bad knees.”
This is true. It is safe…if you know what you are doing. As Hawaiian
SUP guide Alexa Wise mentioned at the outset of this article, it’s important you hire a SUP guide when in an unfamiliar place, so they can read the weather patterns for you. In fact, it’s a good idea to hire a SUP guide
no matter where you are because they’ll be sure to take to you all the secret spots that you might otherwise miss. Though they do not replace a real life guide, there are also some great books out there like, “Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers
” by SUP guide Rob Casey, that can help you get started as well.
Every guide we spoke to for this article stressed the fact that stand up paddleboarding is fun for everyone. “The SUP community is growing quickly and it’s a great way to meet new friends and be part of a fun and relaxed community,” says Clayton Watson in Vancouver
. “And unlike ski or snowboard lessons you can start with a SUP lesson for as little as $30!”