Some stand up paddleboard (SUP) enthusiasts regularly engage in the sport of surfing, though the boards vary significantly from the conventional surfboard. Both board types consist of similar construction, but surfboards generally measure 6 to 10 feet in length, around 22 inches in width and up to 3 inches in thickness. Paddle boards measure anywhere from 10 to 14 feet in length, up to 30 inches in width, and up to 6 inches in thickness.
Having a much larger and heavier board, SUP riders must gain a greater amount of experience and skill before aptly maneuvering a paddleboard in waves caught by traditional surfers. SUP riders do have the advantage of being on their feet while catching a wave. They also have the option of using the paddle for increasing speed and guiding the board.
One of the reasons that stand up paddle boarding has fast become a popular sport lies in the versatility of the activity. Not unlike canoeing or kayaking, fans of SUP enjoy the outdoor activity wherever bodies of water exist. SUP riders cruise along the top of the water on lakes, rivers, streams or on open ocean waters. The buoyancy and stability of the board enables riders to participate in the sport on calm water or turbulent seas. Riders may stand, kneel or sit on the board while paddling through the water, but standing offers a greater visual perspective of the surrounding area and what lies below the water.
The sport appeals to individuals of all ages because the activity has a short learning curve. The only athletic requirement of paddle boarding involves having the balance necessary for standing on the board. Most people capably stand, balance and glide along the water while on the board within an hour of a first attempt. With time, SUP riders progress to longer rides and the thrill of confronting rougher waters. Surfers must not only capably change positions from lying to standing, but must also accomplish the feat while retaining balance on a board moving through fast water.
Paddle boarding additionally offers an excellent cardiovascular and strength training workout. While maintaining balance and pulling water aside with the paddle, riders use virtually all of the major muscle groups in the body. The continual muscle movement also increases blood circulation, providing low impact aerobic activity. With experience and greater skill, SUP riders travel farther and faster, which increases the intensity of the exercise and overall benefits. Many professional and nonprofessional athletes now include SUP as part of their training routines.
Though originating in Hawaii and other Polynesian regions, stand up paddle boarding arrived on the western U.S. coast. The sport soon caught the excitement of the eastern coast and presently, SUP riders participate in the sport throughout the country. SUP instruction, rental and touring companies take guests on excursions along many coastal and inland waters. Boards equipped with bottle holders and bungee cords enable riders the option of long distance camping and exploration trips by water.
Many locations in the United States and global countries host paddleboard racing events. The Na Pali 17 mile race in Hawaii extends along the scenic Kauai coast. The state of Illinois hosts short and long distance racing events, which follows designated routes in Lake Michigan and along scenic Lake Shore Drive. The numerous calendar of SUP racing events also regularly occur off the coasts of California, Florida and New York. Australia, Belgium, France and Germany are among the many European countries hosting SUP racing events.