Stand-Up Paddling, That’s What.
By Roger Lohr
Stand-up paddling (SUP) is now the newest contagious water chic. Statistics for stand-up paddling, which is among the fastest growing forms of recreation, is 70% male and a median age of 37. There were 150,000 paddleboards sold in 2011 (double the number sold the previous year) and according to the Outdoor Industry Association there were 1.2 million people, who paddled on a stand-up paddleboard in 2011.
So what’s SUP about? It appears that people are doing it whereever there’s water – on ponds and lakes, on rivers, and surfing waves on the shoreline. I’m thinking that destinations such as Lake Tahoe in CA/NV or Winnipesaukee in NH would be a vista-strewn experience on a paddleboard, but really, any water will do.
It looks like the easiest way to start stand-up paddling is to rent a board, find some calm water to help build confidence balancing on the board, and go with an existing paddle-boarder to get the sport’s nuances (including spiritual). It appears to be as easy as snowshoeing is on the snow – the paddleboard is about 10 to12 feet long covered with a nonslip deck pad.
As you might imagine there are different paddleboard models for different paddleboard genres such as touring, racing, surfing, performance or relaxation, for women, for yoga, and river fun. Select a paddleboard by how much you weigh, where you want to go, and how much experience you have as a surfer or windsurfer. You can buy paddleboard packages with the board, paddle and other accessories and as a combination.
Length is the key issue with regard to the paddle. A longer paddle provides a stronger stroke and a shorter paddle can offer a quicker cadence. But a sore back and shoulders are the price to pay with the wrong size paddle. It’s probably a good idea to try out different paddles because there are a variety of selection choices such as blade width, material type, handle type and whether it is one piece, adjustable, or able to be broken down into smaller pieces so it’s easier to take on a trip. Recommendations on the SUPConnection.com website: to get the right size paddle place the end of the paddle on the ground and raise your arm above your head while flattening your hand so the paddle tucks into your palm. Racers should reach as high as possible with the arm to get a longer paddle.
Other gear issues include paddleboard fins that are available to be installed singly or as a set to allow better maneuverability or more speed. A leash will keep you connected to the board and a flotation device can save your life in difficult situations. There’s also “SUP etiquette” to keep peace and get along with other paddle-boarders particularly when surfing waves and of course, it makes sense that stand-up paddlers be good swimmers.
Prices? New paddleboards start at about $800 and can go to $2,000 while paddles range at $80-400. Paddleboard packages are sold with the accessories ranging from $800 to 1,500. So get on out there on a paddleboard.
Roger Lohr is is the founder and editor of XC Ski Resorts dot com. He is also a prolific national writer on sports. Read more at XCSkiResorts.com.