What is SUP? How did it get started? How popular is it?
Stand Up Paddle Surfing, (or Boarding, Paddling, or just ‘SUP’) can be traced back to its Hawaiian heritage and the popularity of the modern sport of Stand Up Paddle Surfing also has its origins in the Hawaiian islands. In the early 1960s the ‘Beach Boys of Waikiki’ would paddle out on their long boards with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf.
The recent renaissance of SUP can probably be tracked back to 2000, when Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama dreamed up the routine of paddling their tandem boards as fitness workouts. It didn’t take them long to realize how much fun this aspect of surfing could be. Surfing historians note that in 2004 Brian Keaulana introduced SUP as a division at his father’s famous surf event and party, Buffalo’s Big Board Classic. It was very popular, got a lot of media coverage and SUP was up and running.
Rick Thomas is credited as being the first modern surfer to bring Stand Up Paddle Board Surfing to the mainland in California in 2000 as an alternative way to train while the surf was down. Stand Up Paddling/surfing has since become huge in the States as well as Europe. Custom surf shaper Jimmy Lewis, created one of the first modern production boards, the All Around. From a competition point of view, SUP Surfers now have their own divisions in many outrigger and paddleboard races.
SUP is very versatile because “No Waves, No Wind, No Problem!” One form of SUP is trekking long distance on flat water. A local popular route is from Avila Pier to Pismo Pier. Or, one can also SUP on lakes and rivers. However, when the surf is up, you will see seasoned SUPers riding the waves at Shell, Oceano and Pismo Beach.
Stand up paddle surfing offers surfers the ability to catch more waves in a set, as well as offering a better view of incoming sets. Also, with the aging of baby-boomer surfers, it is a great core workout and can be easier on the muscles and joints. Board size varies from 12’ down to 7’6” or so. Width is typically 29 – 33”. The longer/winder boards are idea for trekking while the shorter/narrower boards can maneuver in the surf better. Paddles should be about 4 – 6” longer than the height of the paddler.
It should be noted that in 2008, the United States Coast Guard classified SUPs as vessels. This reclassification makes it necessary, in theory, for Stand Up Paddle Board Surfers to wear a personal flotation device in certain areas (which includes Avila Harbor).