Truly, much like many other aspects of life, fashion or culture, everything old is new again. The same can be said for sporting activities, where today’s activity has existed for over 5000 years before being rediscovered in Hawaii during the last century. What makes this rediscovery even more poignant is that this isn’t something that was ever strictly Hawaiian or even Polynesian, as unrelated records of this activity have been found in China, Peru, Italy, Africa, and Israel. Welcome to the one of the latest (but far from the newest) sporting activities – stand up paddle (SUP) boarding/surfing.
And while different cultures used to stand up and paddle their reed watercraft as far back
as 3000 BC., the modern rediscovery of standup paddling started in only the 1940s from the Hawaiian Waikiki beachboys (surf instructors) standing up and paddling out using their regular surf boards and a one bladed paddle while teaching their students how to surf, and went beyond the Hawaiian shorelines to reach mainstream popularity in 2004.
And, naturally, our term first emerged in a March 5, 2004 print of the Honolulu Advertiser which reads: “The event..will add a new division this year, beachboy-style surfing, or standup paddle surfing.”; moreover, just over 3 years later, dated October 23, 2007, under the Fitness category of the pop cultural website www.popsugar.com, it’s written that people are: “Running for SUPing.” Rather than attempting to break every word down, perhaps it would be best to explain just exactly what today’s activity consists of. Essentially, SUPing is a combination of rowing, surfing, and boating, where a person stands/balances on a board that is very much like a surfboard in appearance and uses the paddle either for propulsion or for steering.
Though it likely sounds more difficult than it actually is, stand up paddle boarding is making a good name for itself, especially with first-time participants. Looking at a 2013 report from the Outdoor Foundation, SUPing was listed as the most popular activity, and, by 2015, nearly 3 million Americans alone had tried the sport.
Judging by appearances, much of this attraction seems to be from the fact that, unlike more extreme sports in specific locations, like regular surfing that requires waves of a certain height, participants can set their own pace – so this activity can be performed just as easily on a placid, shallow lake or the totally tubular waves of a surfing mecca. Aside from the user-defined pace and skill-level, the sport is also developing a growing potential as a leisure activity, with the (re)evolution of SUPing as a form of water-based tourism, a location for yoga, or, obviously, for fishing.
Considering its current rediscovery and growth, we may go from quizzically asking “What’s SUP?” to confidently asking each other “How do you SUP?”.