By Cathy Hall – Providence
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is the fastest growing water sport worldwide. If you haven’t yet discovered why that is, it’s time to get you out on the water to try it out for yourself. There are many reasons why SUP is catching on so quickly, including the fact that it is incredibly versatile. With roots in surfing and outrigger canoeing (OC), stand-up paddleboarding reflects many of these influences, with board and paddle shapes and paddling techniques being the most prominent similarities. But surfing and OC have limitations that SUP does not.
We live in the Ocean State, and as the name implies, there is a lot of water here. In addition to the ocean, we have many lakes, rivers, and salt ponds. These are all excellent places to paddle. The variations in board shapes and sizes, the ease of transportation, and the minimal gear necessary to paddleboard all lend themselves to new disciplines limited only by your imagination.
The largest emerging segment of stand-up paddlers right now is recreational paddlers. These are the people who like to get out on the water, paddle around, get a workout, see the scenes, and just have a great time. Maybe the whole family even goes out with the family dog or baby riding on the front of the board. This is where the accessibility of the sport shows itself so prominently. Anyone can do it and have fun. Plus, after only a lesson or two, you will be well on your way to becoming a stand-up paddler.
There is a fast growing stand-up paddleboard race culture. You can find races popping up everywhere, from the whitewater races of Ottowa, Canada, to the massive 32-mile downwinder that just took place in Hawaii, to a 3-mile race that launches right from Narragansett Beach, drawing you out through the surf break, and many things in between. Whatever your pleasure—long races, short races, races through the surf zone, flatwater races, whitewater races, and more—if you have that competitive drive and want to test your mettle against others, SUP racing might be for you. Many races are including kids’ divisions too, so the next generation is getting hooked young.
If you prefer something more serene, you can practice yoga on your paddleboard. There are a lot of SUP yoga certification courses now illustrating how quickly this area of the sport is growing. Usually you anchor your board out in the water and go through a practice. So if yoga in the studio isn’t challenging enough for you, get out on the water where the floor under your yoga mat is in constant motion.
Surfing is about the rush! There is nothing like the feeling of flying when a wave picks you up and you ride it in.
Downwinding is a specialty where you pick a line with the wind at your back. The goal is to catch the swells and link them together to carry you to your destination, where you usually leave a second car or have a ride back. This is basically surfing waves before they break in open water.
Fitness classes such as PaddleFit are becoming all the rage too. These are classes designed to combine paddling with traditional fitness elements like push-ups, sit-ups, squats, etc. It takes the gym out on the water.
You can find lessons, clinics, camps, etc. to develop your skills in many of these disciplines. Check out your local SUP shop, organizations like the American Canoe Association (ACA) or PaddleFit for instructors and classes. The pros travel around and do clinics in their areas of specialty, particularly in conjunction with big paddle events, so keep your eye out for those. Any training you can get will give you new ways to enjoy the sport.
It is a very exciting time to be part of paddleboarding. Things are happening fast…equipment and events are getting better and more plentiful, and the community is growing very quickly. Paddleboarders, by and large, share a spirit of generosity and support that isn’t always found in other sports. This is part of what makes SUP so special. Whether you’re looking for a really fun workout, or just a reason to get outdoors and enjoy the weather, paddleboarding will not disappoint.
Cathy Hall is the co-owner of Neverbored Board Shop in Smithfield, which is currently Rhode Island’s only stand-up paddleboard and snowboard shop. She is an ACA, PaddleFit Level 2, and WPA certified stand-up paddleboard instructor who loves introducing people to the world of SUP. Her goal is to build a paddleboard community in RI and share her passion for exploring new places on her SUP with everyone.