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What is SUPing (Stand Up Paddle Boarding)

 

By John Flynn

Stand up paddling, or SUP is the fastest growing sport on the water and is coming to Upstate New York and a lake near you.  Certainly SUP surfing has gotten a lot of coverage, however wave riding is only part of the equation. While SUP’s have there roots in surf, boards and paddles have quickly evolved to the inland flat-water environment. 

While the marketing photos are of young surfers the growth of Stand Up Paddling can be attributed to the discovery by so many diverse outdoor enthusiast about how fun, easy and an enjoyable stand up paddling is. A great way to get out on the water and also a great low-impact full body workout.  

You don't need to be a movie star, pro athlete, kayaker or surfer to enjoy the fun that stand up paddling offers.  You simply need a few basic tips, some water, a SUP, a paddle and a thirst for fun.  A SUP is essentially an oversized surfboard that is specifically designed for use on both flatwater and surf. The volume of the board makes it so that the rider is able to stand up and paddle with both mobility and stability.
 

SUP is easy

SUP will open up a whole new world and make the lakes and rivers more exciting than ever before. With the help of a competent instructor, anyone can learn to paddle these boards within minutes.  There is very little gear required for SUP: a board, a PFD, a safety whistle, and a paddle. Just toss the board on the water, climb on, and go!

 SUP is a great workout

It is easy to see why fitness is one of the biggest reasons people are drawn to SUP. 
For the recreational paddler, looking to just enjoy some time on the water but perhaps get some exercise as well, we see an immediate advantage.  The classic, relaxed low angle kayak stroke is affective for rec. kayaking but certainly does not use a lot of energy.  With stand up you naturally use a higher angle stroke, making the support muscles in the arms and shoulders work harder to hold the paddle in position, burning more calories.  While standing, even the most basic SUP paddler is getting the added value of balance, strengthening the feet and core while making the whole body work together as one to maintain good posture.  As we strive for more efficient paddling, we move the paddle through the water with an emphasis on the core while, getting additional drive from the large muscles in the legs.  This is arguably one the best full body workouts to ever come about.  With the entire body working together for a common goal it is easier to generate a higher heart rate then while sitting. This gives those looking for heart health, a winning combination of a cardio workout while being on the water.

SUP Types and Sizes
There are three basic types of flatwater SUPs. With the sport being in its infancy there are no universal categories or descriptors.  We refer to them as Recreational/Touring, Touring/Fitness and Fitness/Racing.  While these boards are designed primarily for flatwater use some have crossover potential in the surf as well.  The most versatile and popular SUP is the Recreational/Touring.  These boards are perfect those paddlers who are interested in enjoying relaxing paddles.  These boards tend to be 10’-12’ in length, 30”-32” wide and weigh 28-34lbs.  These are the most stable of the bunch.   For those who are looking to cross train or use a SUP as a low impact work out we’d suggest looking at the Touring/Fitness category.  These boards tend to be a little less stable, but more efficient.  They are typically 12’6”-14’ in length, 28”-29” wide and weigh 25-28lbs. For the paddler who is serious about fitness or who is looking for a fast ride we would encourage you to look at the Fitness/Race category.  These boards offer the most efficiency with the least amount of stability.  They tend to be 12’6”-14’ in length, 27”-28” wide and weigh21-25lbs.

Typically our weight will determine which length and width board is appropriate.  For instance t
he heavier the rider is the larger the SUP should be. A 125 lb. paddler can easily handle a 10’ SUP, while a 200 lb. paddler would need a 12’ SUP. The 10’ SUP would sink with a heavier paddler, while the 12’ SUP would be unmanageable for a lighter paddler to carry and paddle. It is strongly advised that you visit your local shop and test some boards out before you buy one.   

SUP Paddles
SUP Paddles come in all shapes and sizes and it is important to get one that is either adjustable or sized to your specific height. The general rule is that the paddle should extend 10" over the head of the paddler for flatwater and 8" over the head of the paddler for surfing. A wider paddle blade is better for flat water and racing, while a narrower blade works best in the surf.  Much like kayak paddles SUP paddles are built in a variety of materials and each has there advantages.  Your basic paddle will have an aluminum shaft and plastic blade.  While this paddle is the least expensive it also tends to be the heaviest.  The mid class paddle typically has a composite shaft and a fiberglass blade.  These paddles will be a little more expensive, but weigh considerably less.  The upper tier of paddles will typically have a carbon shaft and blade and may come with options for a bent shaft.  They are typically the most expensive, but are also the lightest. Just like kayak and canoe paddles the usual advice is to look for the lightest paddle that you can afford.

Give SUP a try
Maybe you are not really ready for the SUP revolution, but you can now appreciate what SUP is.  Remember if you are a kayaker or canoeist, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Sup is a great addition to your water starts activity. For the swimmer, runner, biker it’s a great cross training sport that’s easy on the body. 

Perhaps you are interested, what now?  Identify your paddling goals for SUP and then talk to the experts.  Your local shop can help factor in the right board, paddle and gear to best suit you for the aspect of the sport you are most drawn to. Skip the marketing hype and don’t get consumed with board sects, there is no substitute for demoing a board on the water. Take a lesson, rent a board, demo some different styles and have a great time.

Get on! Get in! Get out & Explore!


 

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