SUP – What is it?

You’ve seen them at the lakes and on floating on the rivers. What is paddleboarding? Why all the hype?

Paddleboarding is becoming one of the fastest-growing sports. SUP is capable of delivering a full-body workout, paddleboarding is a great way to enjoy beautiful mountain scenery and the gorgeous Crested Butte nature. But, still what is paddle boarding exactly?

Read on and to discover exactly what paddleboarding is, why it’s becoming so popular, and how you should get started.

Paddle Boarding – What is it?

According to Wikipedia, paddle boarding participants kneel or lay face down, using their arms to propel a large surf style board. A spin-off of paddleboarding is stand up paddle boarding or SUP, is also referred to as stand up paddle surfing.

Short History on Paddle Boarding

The origins of paddleboarding have been traced back to early Polynesia. During a voyage to The Sandwich Islands in 1778 with Captain James Cook, ships artist created an engraving depicting paddle boarders.

During the late 1920s, Thomas Edward Blake began restoring historic Hawaiian boards for the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Blake built a replica of the olo surfboard ridden by ancient Hawaiian Kings. Blake drilled holes in the replica board to make it lighter. He then covered his creation to develop the first hollow-core paddleboard. During the next two years, using his newly constructed board, Blake won the Pacific Coast Surfriding Championship, the first US Mainland event integrating both surfing and paddling. Afterward, Blake returned to Hawaii to break nearly every paddling record, setting the one-half mile (800 m) and 100 yards (91 m) records that held until 1955.

Paddle Boarding Today

Modern standup paddleboarding started in Waikiki as early as the 1940s. John Ah Choy, a local Hawaiian surfer, became unable to stand up and lay down on his surfboard as he aged. Instead, he would stand on his board right from the break and propel out with a canoe paddle to surf waves. His two sons, Bobby and Leroy Ah Choy, and their friend, Duke Kahanamoku, started to mimic John Ah Choy’s paddling style while they instructed surfing to visiting tourists. Standing on their boards allowed a better view of the incoming swell and their students.

Steve West credits outrigger canoeing combined with surfing as the basis of SUP since the individual skills (board riding and paddling) already existed. In the 1990s, champion surfer, Laird Hamilton started using paddle boarding as a way of cross conditioning.

Stand-up paddleboarding has come along way from a by-product of surfing into touring, river, fishing, yoga, and racing disciplines.

The first publication dedicated to the sport, Standup Journal, started in early summer 2007.

Why is paddle boarding so popular?

The sport of stand up paddleboarding has become very popular in the last few summers here in Crested Butte. Many vehicles topped with inflatable paddle boards are seen throughout the town. Here are a few reasons why the explosion of interest in SUP.

1: Lose Weight – The activity paddle boarding burns tons of calories and is a great way to shed a few pounds.

2: Improve Core Strength – Stand up paddle boarding targets a variety of muscle groups and is also outstanding for balance conditioning.

3: Relaxation – Going for a SUP will ease your tension and provide relaxation. The sounds and sights of nature along with the rhythm of paddling will work to soothe your senses.

4: Enjoy Nature – Paddleboarding at Lake Irwin or a float down the Slate River has to be one of the best ways to experience nature surrounding Crested Butte in the summer,

5: Affordability – Our paddleboard rentals at the are affordable and convent with delivery. We provide everything to have safe fun for the day including our favorite spots to SUP in Crested Butte.

Beginner Paddleboarding

First, we recommend renting a SUP. Paddle Board rentals are available in any town with a body of water. Here in Crested Butte, Colorado the Float-Shack has been renting SUPs for over 5 years.

Choosing The Correct SUP

At the Float Shack, we recommend beginners look for paddleboards at least 34″ wide and at least 5″ thick. All of the different models will be plenty long enough. The wider SUPs will provide extra stability until you get comfortable with your balance on the water. Seeking a 5″ or 6″ thick board will add to the floatation giving you the opportunity to bring extra gear or a pet.

Inflatable or Hard Shell?

A common debate among stand up paddle boarders is the preferred construction. If you are lucky to have ample storage and plenty of funds, then add both inflatable and hard shell to your quiver. But, when space is limited look to an inflatable. A deflated paddleboard takes up about the same space as two rolled sleeping bags. The durability of the inflatable is incredible. Granted a hard shell will track more efficiently on the water. Don’t plan on winning many races on your inflatable SUP.

Paddles for SUP

The market today has endless choices of paddles for the stand-up paddleboarder. A similar construction is offered using materials like carbon fiber, fiberglass, and molded plastics. All SUP paddles will have a T-handle at the top, generally an adjustment and a curved or kinked blade. The curve or kink is designed to face the rear of the paddleboard allowing the blade to be removed from the water with less effort.

Life Jacket / PFD

Most states refer to Coast Guard Regulations for guidance on local boating laws. In Colorado, all children 12 and under must wear a Coast Guard Approved PFD at all times while on a watercraft. Those 13 years and older are not required to wear the PFD, but it MUST be readily accessible.

Your First Day Paddle Boarding

For your first day of stand up paddle boarding plan ahead. First off, check the weather. For the best experience, a warm sunny day with little or no wind is perfect. Head out to your favorite body of flat water and get ready for some fun.

How to Stand Up on Your SUP

Start with the paddleboard in knee-deep water. Place the paddle across the front of the SUP. With your hands flat but over the paddle shaft, place your closest knee on top of the paddleboard. Follow with the second knee. Now you will be in a hands-down kneeling position in the center of the SUP. Slowly sit up staying on your knees. Once comfortable with your balance, slightly rock the board back and forth to feel the tipping point. Paddle around on your knees until you feel good to stand. Then place the paddle across the board again. Your hands will be flat holding the paddle again, this time bring one foot forward to stand on followed by the next. Finally, stand up slowly. Your feet should be at shoulders width in the center of the paddleboard.

Tips for Paddle Boarding Success

  • Look forward. The more you look at your feet the more chance you have to fall.
  • Relax. The first few time on the water paddleboarding, remind yourself to relax. Balance is better under relaxed muscles.
A woman carries inflatable paddle board equipment to Jenny Lake in the Grand Teton National Park.
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