A few summers ago, my cousin brought a strange new contraption to our beachside family reunion. A Stand Up Paddle Board (or SUP). I watched her glide around the lake with ease and assumed this was one of those crazy sports for super fit, balanced folks. If I attempted it, I thought, I would probably make a fool of myself (flashback to that teenage summer when I tried to learn to skateboard).
But then I stepped outside one afternoon to find my retiree Mom sweeping across the small bay on my cousin’s SUP. She has since bought her own board, which now has a special place reserved in the car for our summer family reunions. (I know because I’ve been squashed up against it a couple of times.)
But how difficult is SUP, really? What should first-timers know? And what led to this new summer sport? We spoke with a few local SUP outfitters to get the scoop.
The SUP Boom
Brent Ackland at Northern SUP suggests that the popularity of the sport has to do with how easy it is to get started, especially when compared to surfing. “How many people would say they want to try surfing? But there’s barriers getting into it,” says Ackland. “SUP gives you a similar sensation to surfing and yet, with a couple quick lessons, you can hop on a board and be on the water.”
Mike Valin at Happy Paddling adds that accessibility is behind the SUP boom. “It’s a single-person vessel that’s lightweight and easy to move,” says Valin. Inflatable models are simple to store, he adds, and even the fiberglass models are much lighter and easier to transport than a canoe or kayak.
“But it looks tricky!”
SUP is an approachable sport for folks of any age or fitness level. “My niece has been paddling with me since she was eight years old,” says Ackland. “And my parents, who are in their mid-seventies, also paddle.” Plus, the risk is minimal. “If you have a safe environment, the worst thing that’s going to happen is that you’re going to get wet,” says Valin. Rosanna Shillolo at Sunrise Yoga, which specializes in SUP yoga, continues: “A common concern is of falling off the board. It happens—and it’s fun! Especially on a hot day.”
If you’re nervous about trying SUP for the first time, local outfitters provide affordable lessons and rentals. “SUP is for everyone,” says Ackland. “But having an instructor can help you shorten your learning curve.” Valin agrees. “We always recommend taking a class, course, or clinic to get the nuances of the sport,” he says.
“And then you do YOGA on it?”
SUP is really a meditative activity. “When you paddle, your inner monologue generally stops because you’re using your spatial awareness and balance,” says Valin. And Shillolo assures that SUP yoga is really not as intimidating as it sounds. “My classes are always geared to all levels of fitness,” she says. “I’ve had seniors come out to classes with no previous yoga or paddle board experience, and they were so impressed with their ability to follow along with the instruction. I teach people of all ages, sizes, and ability and the outcome is always the same: pure bliss.”
All our SUP experts agreed: if you’re thinking about trying SUP, you’ll only wonder why you hadn’t tried it sooner. As Shillolo says, “it’s sure to become your new healthy obsession!”