A Brief History Of Paddleboarding

We’ve already explained the basics of stand up paddleboarding (SUP), the sport that’s making waves worldwide, in a previous post. An innovative offshoot of surfing, paddle boarders stand on their boards and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water.

It’s quirky, active, adventurous, and a heck of a lot of fun. But where did it all begin?

How SUP started

While records of early forms of SUP date back as far as 1,000BC, across regions such as China, Peru, Italy and beyond, the modern version of the water sport has a much clearer heritage.

Picture it: Wakiki Beach, Hawaii, circa 1940. The Hawaiian water sport revival is in full swing, propelled forward by the Wakiki Beachboys’ legendary surfing classes for scores of excited tourists.   

This scene is where modern SUP began, as instructors stood up on their surf boards to watch their trainees as they practiced on the waves, balancing and moving with a paddle.

While immensely popular for a time, World War II put a dampener on tourism and beach activities, submerging watersports into a lengthy quiet period.

SUP comes back

Recently, however, surfing stalwarts Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton revived interest in SUP by mastering and later promoting the growing sport.

The new millennium saw the SUP current continue to strengthen, with the ‘beach boy surfing’ division being added to Mākaha’s famous ‘Buffalo Big Board Contest’ in 2004.

The same year saw renowned surfer Rick Thomas introduce SUP to California, sparking a new wave of interest in the sport. SUP’s revival quickly gathered pace, resulting in the formation of four SUP epicentres, each with its own ‘leader’: Rick Thomas in San Diego, Laird Hamilton in Malibu, Bob Pearson in Santa Cruz, and Ron House in Dana Point/San Clemente.

California becomes the new home of SUP culture

As a result, California became the catalyst for worldwide SUP adoption, and by 2005 the sport had rapidly diversified into racing, touring, rivers, fishing – even yoga.

The diverse disciplines the sport now incorporated paved the way for its first dedicated magazine, Standup Journal, to circulate in the summer of 2007.

In 2013, a report compiled by the Outdoor Foundation found that SUP is America’s fastest growing watersport, with 56% of participants trying it for the first time in 2012.

Later findings indicate that not only is it the fastest growing watersport – it’s the fastest growing sport, bar none.

The future of SUP

With the sport’s unique fusion of surfing heritage and a range of different ways to enjoy going out on a stand up paddle board, it’s little wonder why SUP continues to make a splash just about anywhere there’s water.

And the tide’s doubtful to turn any time soon, as the sport’s continuous evolution and accessibility to all new adopters the world over to dip their toes into the world of Stand Up Paddleboarding.

Paddle board evolution

SUP has changed drastically since its earliest days on Peruvian rivers and Chinese gorges – surviving everything from collective apathy to World Wars, before morphing into its current status as the world’s fastest growing sport.

The earliest SUP boards were understandably primitive and crafted from elemental materials such wood, reeds and bamboo. Today’s models, however, are fashioned from several different materials such as carbon fibre, which boasts a considerable strength to weight ratio that aids quick manoeuvrability while offering stability on the waves.

Many of our SUP boards are made from cutting edge Tri-tech materials, composed of polyester mesh, PVC and drop stitch material. This triad is formed by a PVC layer on either side of the polyester mesh body, providing protection against extreme nautical conditions, while the drop stitch material – which Bestway calls ‘wonder material’ – is also used for the likes of high-pressure rescue lifting bags and floating docks. For premium Tri-tech SUP boards, check out our Hydro Force Fastblast Tech or the Hydro Force Cruiser Tech.

Aside from high tech materials, SUP boards also come in inflatable variants for maximum buoyancy that aid rider stability – our Hydro Force Caspian being a prime example.

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