What is SUP? An Introduction to Paddle Boarding

You go to the beach and all of a sudden, you see a SUP shop and dozens of people in the water standing on some kind of a board with a paddle.

Are they sailing? Not quite, but they’re also not surfing, so what is it?

It is stand up paddle boarding, and here today we are covering all the basics like what is SUP exactly and what is paddle board and how you can start.

Ready? Let’s paddle into the world of SUP then.

What is SUP?

As by the name, it stands for Stand Up Paddling, and whether you go to a river, lake, the sea or the ocean, I’m sure you’ve noticed people doing it. Sometimes you may even see 2-3 people up to 8 on a board paddling or simply enjoying floating on the water.

From families enjoying the smooth sail to yoga enthusiasts practicing poses in the water, to surfers, racing junkies, fitness people, or simply individuals who like to paddle and explore the depths of the water. 

I’m sure you’ve also seen how there are a plethora of boards on the market. Different sizes, shapes, colors with tons of cool gear and accessories that make this water sport safer and even more fun.

So, how do we get into all that? Let’s start by talking about…

Bluefin-Backpack-Tom-Sideview What is SUP
I am always looking out for new paddling adventures

What is SUP: The history of SUP and board inventions

This sport started on the Hawaiian islands first centuries ago. But it didn’t start off as a sport. People back then used these types of boards to cross the water from one place to another and to fish from them.

Then, in the 50s and 60s, there were some inventions of more modern boards that can be used for all sorts of sports. Still, SUPing truly gained popularity somewhere in the 2000s when a multitude of boards started appearing on the market—from epoxy ones to inflatable PVC boards in all shapes and sizes, suiting everyone’s needs.

Aqua Marina Vibrant Best Paddle Board Children 2020
No matter what age you are, everyone can SUP!

What is SUP: Why is SUP so popular now?

Apart from the relaxing nature of floating on water, stand up paddle boarding is very popular because of its fantastic health benefits. You can get a full-body muscle workout on water, plus you are out in the open where you absorb sunlight and fresh air. How is that not amazing?

Paddle boarding is so versatile that it supports paddlers from any age and activity level because of its simplicity to be learnt. It also advances your body towards your best shape possible.

As an intense activity, it burns tons of calories, but you don’t even feel it, which really is the best for those of us tired of the gym.

Probably another thing that makes this sport so accessible is the invention of various types of boards that have become more at-hand to all people. It used to be that there were only hardboards or epoxy boards for paddle boarding that weren’t only quite expensive but were also hard to transport, store and get to the water with.

Now, not only are there higher-quality lighter epoxy boards with lower prices, but also, when the invention of inflatable paddle boards came about, it changed the whole game.

Tom-How-To-Paddle-Board-Sweep-Stroke
Inflatable paddle boards are my favorites because they are so easy to transport

Here’s how much you should expect your good epoxy or inflatable board to cost. There are many options on the market, and that article gives you the best outlook on the prices.

Back to the benefits of owning an inflatable board, you no longer have to have a big garage or another storage place that’s safe and dry for your year-round board storage. You can now easily pack a 9, 10, or even 12+ foot paddle board into a backpack along with the pump and other accessories and you are good to go.

With that said, before we go on to what is paddle boarding and the whole SUP meaning, it’s important to note that not all paddle boards are made the same. Apart from the price range, you need to know how to choose the right paddle board for your needs.

This is because there are many types of paddle boards for various activities on water that we’ll talk about a bit later here in the text, so knowing exactly what you need is crucial.

F2-SUP-Wild
Once you get experienced you can try higher speeds and braving waves

What is SUP: The Future of SUP

With so many people interested in stand up paddle boarding, it is only natural that there will be the future development of all boards to do further and faster. To offer a smoother sail and to be used for an increasing number of activities.

Once for paddling only, now you can use your board in all types of water conditions. So, from waves and white water rapids to tranquil lakes, and for everything from surfing to yoga, your board supports it if you pick the right type, of course.

Practically, the longer and narrower your board is, you can expect it to be faster. Narrow boards are usually for more experienced paddlers since they compromise stability for speed and maneuver. In this category, you can find the racing paddleboards or touring which are often more than 12 feet long. However, the shorter and narrow boards offer more agility and responsiveness in waves.

On the other hand, you have the rounder, wider boards that are more versatile and support all kinds of activities like smooth paddling, fishing, yoga, and exercises, and they are excellent for first-time paddlers.

Other articles that might be interesting to you

Paddle board yoga
You can practice Yoga on your paddle board (if you’re not as stiff as me…)

What is SUP: What’s your SUP board type?

In the beginning, I would suggest that you rent a board a few times just to get a feel for it before you buy your first board.

Of course, to learn how to paddle board, you need to be persistent.

Fall 100 times, stand up 101, and paddle away, I like to say.

So, don’t get discouraged if you’re under the board more than you’re over it in the beginning. We have all started that way.

Now, with that said, let’s review all the types of boards on the market, the possible activities, and how your board can affect your paddling.

F2-SUP-Family

What is SUP: The Different Types of Stand Up Paddle Boards

Firstly, there are 3 different types of paddle boards.

  • Inflatable ones
  • Epoxy boards
  • Soft top paddle boards

The inflatable board gets all the attention and popularity not only because it’s slightly cheaper, but also because it’s the easiest board to manage when not in water. It does not require plenty of storage space, and it can be the easiest to protect and store when not in use. Don’t worry, though, just because they can be slightly cheaper it doesn’t mean they aren’t high-quality. These boards are constructed with military-grade, drop stitch technology. However, make sure you pick one that’s made of 2-3 or more layers of PVC so that it is rigid enough and durable in all conditions.

The epoxy board or hard board are the firstly-invented paddle boards, and they have been around the longest. These boards are irreplaceable when it comes to performance in certain conditions. And since they have been around for most of the time, they had the most chance to be developed for all sorts of water activities. Epoxy boards are constructed of EPS foam and multiple layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin. This type of durable construction prevents all kinds of damages and scratches.

The soft-top paddle board is the one type made mostly for leisurely paddling with the family on a peaceful lake or ocean bay. Their soft top is made so that the paddler can get more stability through the spongy, soft material. This makes these boards extraordinarily beginner-friendly and able to withstand all activities.

Stand Up Paddling Together
Everyone can pick the board they want (Picture: Aqua Marina Paddle Boards)

What is SUP: The Different Types of Activities

The SUP meaning nowadays is very versatile because there are tons of activities you can do in the water. There are many paddle boards designed for specific outdoor sports, such as:

  • Yoga
  • Fishing
  • Relaxing paddling with your dog
  • Racing
  • Touring
Isle-Megalodon-dogs
SUP: Not only for humans (Check out the Isle Megalodon)

With that, let’s look into which boards are great for what activities.

All-Round SUPs

These boards are ideally suited for those just starting out with paddle boarding. Thanks to their wide shape and large size, all-round boards offer excellent stability and are great for yoga, relaxing paddling, touring, and even taking someone else on board.

Touring SUPs

These are perfect if you’re looking to paddle great lengths and carry some additional gear with you like camping bags, cameras, and more. They are wide but longer than all-around SUPs while leaves more room for additional kits.

Multi-Person SUPs

Perfect for families or paddling adventures with your friends, these big paddle boards can fit up to 8 people on top. Plus, you have many straps and additional space for all the gear you might be bringing on board like food, drinks, cameras, camping gear, and so on.

Aqua Marina Mega Family SUP Group Action

Yoga Boards

Doing yoga on a SUP requires a board that’s wide, long and super-stable so that you feel safe on the water at all times. It is also great to have a full-length deck pad for additional stability.

Racing SUPs

With a much sleeker shaping, these racing boards are long but narrow. With such a design, they are perfect for experienced paddlers who don’t need much stability from their boards but need speed and agility.

Surfing SUPs

These paddle boards also offer sleek shape and speed, but unlike the racing SUPs, they are shorter too. This is to increase control and maneuver over the waves. These boards are extra-durable and rigid, also more stiff than all other boards, which offer exceptional performance for all types of surf.

paddle-board-surfing

White Waters SUPs

Boards specifically designed for rapids should have high sides to allow them to break out of the water. These boards are made to be extra-durable and sturdy but also light and nimble to take on any speeding water.

Windsurfing SUPs

These boards are usually the type of all-around SUPs, or SUPs only made for paddle boarding with a twist. They have the ability to be converted into a windsurfer SUP.

Children’s SUPs

With a much lighter design, these boards are wide and stable but shorter to fit a child and make them feel stable and secure on the water. Children’s boards are also quite easy to carry and maneuver so that a child can learn paddle boarding with ease.

THURSO-SURF-Prodigy-Pink-Children-Girls-Paddle-Board
You can learn how to paddle at a very young age

What is SUP: How to stay safe when paddle boarding?

Safety comes first when paddle boarding. The following accessories won’t only make you feel safer on the water, but they’ll also make the whole SUPing experience more pleasurable.

So, here’s what boards come with:

Inflatable board packages usually come with:

  • Hand pump
  • Snap-in fin
  • Paddle
  • Leash
  • Carry backpack

Epoxy and soft top paddle boards usually come with:

  • Fiberglass fin
  • Leash
  • Paddle
Bluefin-Cruise-Tetris-Challenge
The Bluefin Cruise offers a complete package with everything you need included

Apart from the packages that boards come with, there’s also the gear that you will need based on the type of paddling you do. Here is your basic pack.

Paddle boarding checklist:

What is SUP: The wrap-up

SUPing is fun and exciting, and it offers a lot of possibilities for staying active and enjoying the water. However, staying safe is the number one priority of all paddlers, so it should be for you too.

No matter what the day is like, the items from the checklist above should always be with you. There’s also one principle to follow, and that is:

When in doubt, don’t go out!

If the weather seems to you that it might be unstable, wait for a little or skip it altogether, unless you’re paddling really close to the shore, but then again, where’s the fun in that?!

So, to be safe, avoid paddling where rain, strong winds or storm is about to come.

Weather conditions where there’s water can change really quickly, so it’s better to stay safe than risk it. Always check the weather forecast but also the tide information to be safe. Otherwise, you aren’t the only one in danger but also your potential rescuers.

Also, make sure you always dress appropriately for the weather. Wetsuits are always a great idea for an added protection of the cold waters and the sun and wind. There are some great in-depth articles I’ve created before on wetsuit information like temperature guide for buying wetsuits, and how wetsuits work, and how to properly take care of one

Make sure you gather up all the needed information before you buy a wetsuit or go paddle boarding. There are also waterproof packs and bags of different sizes that help your food, phone, and other tech stay dry and safe. So, be sure to gear up!

And that would be all my fellow paddlers. You are now informed on SUP meaning and what is paddle boarding. I’ve enjoyed this sport for many years now, and I still do. From rivers to lakes and oceans, paddle boarding has something for everyone and is a fantastic way to get away from everything and admire nature while staying active.

Simply get yourself your new favorite board, some accessories, transport it safely to your favorite spot, and you’re ready to hit the water.

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)