It seems like stand up paddle boarding, or SUP, is all the rage today. Beaches-goers throughout the United States, Australia and elsewhere are spotting people catching waves on boards with — what’s that? — a paddle in hand! A mere 5 or 10 years ago this would have been a very rare sight. So where did stand up paddle boarding come from and how did it explode in popularity so quickly? Let’s take a look.
It All Starts in Hawaii…
As you may have guessed, stand up paddle boarding got its in Hawaii, where it’s also known by its traditional name: Ku Hoe He’e Nalu, which translates to “to stand, to paddle, to surf, a wave.” Back in the ’50s, the area saw a huge inflow of American tourists after the war who were excited to learn surfing, which was then a pretty new sport. A lot of these tourists started hiring the Waikiki Beach Boys of the area to teach them surfing and take pictures to send home to their friends.
It wasn’t long before the beach boys discovered how hard it was to take action shots of the tourists surfing. Cameras back then were really large and not even close to waterproof. They were also very expensive so the beach boys wanted a way to get closer without dropping their cameras into the ocean.
It wasn’t long before a few clever beach boys got the idea to use an outrigger canoe oar to paddle their longboards to get these great shots. This method allowed them to get close to the surfers without the risk of dropping their cameras.
This paddle surfing was used for some time to take close-up pictures of surfers as longboards became smaller and waterproof cameras hit the market. It took a long time before people actually caught on that paddle surfing was actually fun, too.
A Decade Later…
John Zabotocky, a famous beach boy of the ’60s, used his board and a paddle to take pictures but he eventually started using paddle surfing as his preferred form of surfing for sport. He is today considered the Father of Stand Up Paddle Surfing and is still active. In 2010, he even participated in the Battle of the Paddle.
The SUP Explosion
So, how did the sport explode in popularity? Back in 2000, a long summer with very few good waves caused a number of water sports celebrities and athletes like Dave Kalama, Bruce De Soto and Laird Hamilton to switch to paddle surfing so they could still enjoy the water. After finding out how fun paddle surfing really is, they starting bringing SUP to a huge audience. Laird Hamilton, now considered the most popular stand up paddle boarding celebrity, even started producing his own line of SUP boards.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding Today
While SUP took decades to finally catch on, it seems like it’s here to stay. There are now dozens of huge competitions and events taking place every year around the world. The beauty of stand up paddle boarding is it can be enjoyed by nearly anyone, including kids, the elderly and the inexperienced. Unlike surfing, the sport also requires no waves so it’s open to more people. If you haven’t tried paddle surfing, give it a try! Rent a board and paddle and hit local lakes, rivers or beaches to see how enjoyable this sport really is.
Walk on Water was founded to share water sports like kayaking and SUP with the whole world. Based in Hollywood, Florida, Walk on Water offers inflatable stand up paddle boards, inflatable kayaks, paddles and accessories, as well as rentals.