You have probably noticed a strange phenomenon overtaking your local lakes, rivers and oceans: people standing on what looks like a surfboard, gliding across the water as they propel themselves forward with a single paddle. Stand up paddleboarding seems to be the hottest activity of summer 2013, and there’s a lot to know about this blossoming sport. Here are nine facts about the summer’s latest craze.
Stand up paddleboarding in its modern iteration originated in Hawaii (in the Hawaiian language, the sport is called Hoe he’e nalu). The sport dates back to the 1950’s and 1960’s: what began as a way for surfing instructors and photographers to snap better photos of surfers eventually evolved into stand up paddleboarding. Well-known surfers Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama are credited for developing the sport as we know it today.
Stand up paddleboarding is often abbreviated to its acronym, SUP, inevitably leading to countless “what’s up” puns.
One of the reasons that stand up paddleboarding has become so popular is that you don’t need much to get started.
You’ll need a board, a paddle and some water to paddle through. A personal flotation device is always a good idea (and even required in some areas) and a wet suit or dry suit may be welcome in colder waters.
Choose Your Paddle
The paddle should be roughly five to seven inches taller than the rider. If you left your measuring tape at home, simply do the shaka symbol with your hand (thumb out, pinky out, middle three fingers down). Your paddle should be as tall as you plus one shaka length.
It’s Official – the World Paddle Association
In 2010, the World Paddle Association was formed to help control the direction in which the sport was heading. Among other things, the World Paddle Association (or WPA) sets the standards for rules and guidelines for SUP races and ensures consistency and safety in competitions.
Similar to surfing, SUP etiquette is an important part of the culture, particularly when you’re dealing with water with waves. Paddlers are expected to know (and respect) their position in the surf line up, and to know when to give up waves to others.
Further, paddlers should anticipate giving themselves twice as much space surrounding their boards as they would if they were surfing. Leashes should always be worn—a stand up paddleboard will get away from you much faster than a surfboard.
Full Body Workout
Stand up paddleboarding requires a combination of balance and strength. It targets the muscle groups in your core, and has the makings of a great cross training activity. The intensity of the workout varies based on your effort and your environment: battling waves and currents will require a lot more energy than a gentle meander down a river. Light, recreational paddleboarding burns roughly 250 calories per hour, while more intense paddleboarding can burn more than 500 calories per hour.
SUP Spin Offs
If simply paddling isn’t enough for you, consider trying SUP yoga, the next big trend on a board. Your yoga world will be turned upside down when you attempt your poses on a board instead of a mat.
Fishermen are also starting to see the draws of SUP—from a standing position, it can be easier to see deeper into the water. Expect to see more of this in the near future.
On Your Marks, Get Set…
Stand up paddleboarding is not just a passive sport or touring method. The competitive SUP scene has taken the world by storm. You can find events taking place year round in countries like the United States, Australia, France, Mexico, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates. Races come in all shapes and sizes, including 32 mile races, multiday races, indoor races and races geared specifically towards children.
In August, 2011, then 21 year old Alex Linnell became the first person to paddle the entire 2323 miles of the Mississippi river. His journey took more than two months and once paddled more than 10 hours in a single day.