If you been near the sea, or even lakes and rivers lately, you’ve probably noticed stand up paddle boards. But what does it involve? And where can you try it?
Stand up paddle boarding, commonly referred to as SUP, is the world’s fastest growing water sport and a great sport to enjoy solo or with company. This new board sport first appeared in Hawaii, with surfers using bigger boards when there was only little surf. It then developed from a niche into a full blown global sport, with paddle boards appearing almost everywhere from the early 2000s.
Although the sport is based around a surf type board, this is where the similarities end. Paddle boarding involves long boards, typically around 10 foot long, and also requires a paddle, hence the name. One of the benefits of having this longer, and typically wider, board is that it is very stable on water meaning it can accommodate someone standing on it, even in slightly choppy waters.
However, the stand up aspect is not a necessity. In fact, many do not stand up on a paddle board, but the stability means it is easier to do so and the boards can be used to explore areas such as lakes, rivers, coastal areas and other bodies of water.
What is a stand up paddle board?
Being slightly different from a typical surfboard, a SUP can come in both the rigid and inflatable variety. Inflatable paddle boards are probably the most popular, due to their easy portability. These can be deflated and packed as a backpack or carry bag, similar to an inflatable kayak. Rigid SUPs are used by lifeguards or by SUP rental centres, and can of course be bought by the general public. However, the quality and convenience of the inflatable SUP means that most will buy the more portable version instead.
The board itself has a leash and most have an elasticated storage section for placing your waterproof bag. In theory, a paddle board is big enough for more than one person, and many people carry a friend or pet when out SUP’ing.
The paddle is usually either lightweight plastic, or carbon fibre on the more expensive models. The paddle itself is designed to be longer than a standard kayak paddle, as it needs to be a full persons length (and go into the water).
Is it easy to ride a stand up paddle board?
If you’ve ever attempted any type of board sport before, you’ll be quite comfortable on a SUP. On flat and calm water, the learning curve with finding your balance is pretty quick, with most people mastering balance and paddle within an hours session.
You don’t necessarily get wet, if done right, but if you’re somewhere with a bit of swell, perhaps by the sea or in a moving river, you should expect to get a bit wet.
Where is the best place to SUP?
Finding the best place to SUP is an entirely subjective choice. My first SUP experience was in Bath, which was fantastic fun, but I’ve been in a variety of places since, each with their own merits.
Some great places to explore by SUP include:
- Koh Tao, Phuket and the islands of Thailand
- Hawaii (the home of SUP)
- The Bahamas, dotted with cays and bays, it’s a SUP paradise
- South Island, New Zealand – plenty of lakes and bays to explore!
- Greece – home to many fantastic islands
- Croatia – similar to Greece
- Costa Rica – plenty of shore to explore with your SUP
- Chile – Sea, rivers, lakes…. So much to see!
As you can see, it doesn’t have to be open water. If you would kayak, you can take a paddle board instead.
What are the benefits of paddle boarding?
Unlike kayaking, paddle boarding is a little more sociable. You can see your group easily and you’re not speaking to the back of someone’s head. On top of this, it’s easier to get into the water, so if you’re somewhere that might involve some snorkelling, or jumping onto a beach, a SUP is easy to get on and off.
You also have the flexibility to sit or stand, which of course, you don’t in a kayak. And, as a final bonus, you can surf a SUP in relatively small surf, which is great fun.
I’m sold. Which SUP is best?
The industry standard stand up paddle board is by RED Paddle Co.
If you’re looking for the best quality and stability, get one of these…
Can I rent a paddle board?
Of course. Hiring a SUP is probably the best way to work out if you even like the sport, and usually includes some tuition. In Europe and the UK, expect to pay around GB£15 or €20 for an hour or two. Tuition may be extra. Many companies offer a day rate to hire a board which is usually around GB£50/€50-70.
If you’ve ever been paddle boarding, or you’re thinking about it, drop us a comment below and share your tips and suggestions.