32 inches. Upwind.
That’s all you need to know about Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP).
And from what we’ve seen all over the world, if you haven’t tried standup paddleboards, you will soon. The darned things are everywhere!
History? Well, according to COG’s research department, tow-in big wave surfer Laird Hamilton (you’ll remember him, a Kauai local, with his infant child posing shirtless for American Express magazine ads) telephoned a correspondent for SUP magazine, Ron House (SoCal surfer/board shaper):
I get a call from Laird Hamilton in 2003 and he tells me he’s been using a big board and a big paddle to catch waves standing, that he doesn’t lie down…I was trying to get my mind around it.
Evidently, House was not alone. Further, we’ve heard dispute about exactly how SUP innovation arose. Big wave “guns,” becalmed sailboarders, kite-boarders, radical Islamists…the waters are murky.
Nor were the big SUP boards universally admired along the point-break line-up. Specifically, we’ve noticed surf locals getting notoriously territorial about sharing “their” waves: Strong words and fisticuffs. But possible conflict here was quashed in a hurry. Early SUP adopters put out word: SUP was here to stay. COG reports Hawaiian strong men (re: the photos of Hamilton) and/or industry mavens applying “gentle” persuasion.
How gentle? Well, two years ago a dozen SUP exhibitors showed product at Salt Lake City’s summer Outdoor Retailer trade show. This (desert landscape of SLC) is not the Surf Expo in Orlando or the (now defunct) Action Sports Retailer show in San Diego. Last summer over 250 vendors showed SUP product at Salt Lake City. What the heck… that’s a 1000+% increase for vendors over two seasons. And every other vendor, that can make even tenuous connection, leapt on the runaway SUP bandwagon…tsunami?
What gives? Well, during the last year your COG correspondents stepped aboard SUPs in Byron Bay (Australia) and near the Eifel Tower, as well as at COG centers in Moab and Portland. Downtown, out-of-town, across the planet, SUP’s getting ridiculous.
So SUP gets around; lets get back to basics.
Hamilton’s right; SUP’s easy. But make sure the board you step onto is at least 31+ inches wide. Water geeks (“watermen,” in the local, sexist idiom) call this measurement the board’s (or boat’s) “beam.” Narrower boards give better paddling efficiency (for racing), but demand natural “balance” you don’t have right now.
Next, start your SUP paddling adventure upwind. That means, you paddle against the wind on your outward journey from dock or shore. When ready to turn for home, the wind’s a your back and, acting like a sail, you’ll (yep, we’re grammatically correct here…your body is now a sail) cruise effortlessly along. Reverse this itinerary-order to begin with, and you’ll struggle against the wind on the homeward-leg, when you’re most tired. And when you finally beach your board, you may be too tired to drink beer: a COG anathema.
So, besides a short learning curve, why do we see so much SUP now? COG’s guess, again: it’s easy. Plus the gear’s (a little) cheaper than kayaks. Also, they’re easier to maintain, transport and store for users and (here’s the big one) resort operators. If you’ve got a business near water, you MUST have a few SUP boards around; they’re instant revenue for modest investment.
“What can I do on a SUP that I can’t do in a kayak,” complained one of a COG relation after a maiden paddle on a windy Adriatic coast. We replied: ‘Nothing.” But you can see more and better while fully upright than sitting, your legs don’t go to sleep and, let’s be fair, there’s more to admire viewing an upright figure (paddling a SUP) than one sitting in a kayak shell. (We’re eschewing sexism here.) Sorta like the difference between strolling on the beach and sitting below decks on a sailboat…or something. And yes, our OCG correspondent had started his first SUP tour downwind on a very windy Italian afternoon. COG recommends the Grappa remedy.
Romance and revenue aside, what really caught COG’s eye was paddle boarding at night with the NOCQUA 2000 – White LED Light System, about $350 (http://nocqua.com). Sure you can put the NOCQUA light on a kayak but the view doesn’t compare.
Now CPG’s favorite (intermediate) SUP board is the French-made, BIC, Ace-Tec Classic model, 31.5” beam, $1495.00 MSRP, just over $1000 at retail. http://shop.bicsport.com/c/sup). In business since 1979, BIC offers 35 SUP board configurations for an adventure array. The Ace-Tec SUP line employs fiberglass, EPS-core construction for higher-end boards. Uniformly, across products lines for kayaks, sailboards, surf, SUP, paddles and small-boats, value, durability and performance predominate. Expect to see BIC SUPs as beach rentals, as well in performance quivers.
(Tech tips for entry-level SUP boards: 32” beam, flat-bottom, hard-rails yield best touring stability.)
By this point, as late-blooming surfers, the COG team thought we’d gained insight into the huge SUP enthusiasm: Surfing—sailboarding—kayaking—the industry needs something haoles can do more easily. Money talks.
Yet, while COG reviewed SUP boards, we noticed some tie-down toggles on the board’s deck.
“For SUP yoga and fitness classes,” the BIC sales rep told us. “It’s really popular at resorts; the guests just raft their boards together and do exercise routines.”
Huh? SUP fitness? Is this possible? What about all those yoga mats?
So disregarding SLC’s midday August heat melting the crosswalk, we hustled outside the Salt Palace to witness OR’s demo tank. The photos show more than you need to know about SUP fitness, which involves core-strengthening as we’d never imagined. COG interviewed professional SUP fitness instructors, for real. We did not get phone numbers.
OK. We’ve captured sunny SUP adventure, romantic lighting, fitness and BIC value. This pretty well defines the COG mission.
Everything else we’ve learned about the SUP craze, we can only outline: It’s not just yoga classes. Evidently, everybody’s doing everything on a SUP board. We think it’s, maybe, over the top.
Yep! SUP athletes are making first descents of the usual: Amazon, Ganges, Nile Rivers. First to paddle: USA East Coast, West Coast, Aleutians, UK circle, Greenland, Baja….we expect a solo circumnavigation of Australia and other large islands soon.
So naturally, SUP advocates cry out for SUP as the next big, summer Olympic Games sport. (Didn’t we hear this about ski-telemarking in the early 1980s, just before snowboarding “took off?”)
This list isn’t complete. But our SUP attention span is so done.
SUP Specific Gear for your $:
- Reality TV star and survival expert Bear Grylis “Scout” SUP
- SUP for Hunting & Fishing.
- SUP for Whitewater
- SUP World Tour
- SUP World Series
- SUP Rack & Rack Locks
- SUP PFDs, Hydration packs, Accessories
- SUP Paddles
- SUP Waterproof Speakers
- SUP Floating Hardware/Eyewear
- SUP Trailers
- SUP Sunscreen
- SUP Paddle Holders, Tie-downs, Water-Bottle Holders
- SUP Tandem
- SUP Clothing
- SUP Footwear
- SUP Fishing
- SUP Hunting: Blast and Cast