I paddled with a local meetup on Saturday. A mother had brought along her 9-year old daughter for a day on the water. They were paddling together in an AE inflatable tandem. Their paddling was hilarious when they first got on the water, so I guessed it was the girl’s first time paddling, but they were soon cruising.
I happened to be within earshot when we encountered people on SUPs and heard her ask her mother, “what are those people doing?” Then, getting more vocal, “What are they doing? Why are they standing?” Her mom replied to the affect they were paddle boarders, to which the girl exclaimed, “That’s stupid. Why are they doing that, THAT’S STUPID.”
If you are a canoe poler, as I am, you “get” stand up paddling. But I do think paddle boarding is kind of, well, not dumb, but limiting, at least compared to a canoe for standing or a sea kayak for cruising. So, the girl’s reaction made me laugh and think “the kid is calling it like it is.” Later, she told me the cookies I made were delicious, which knocked down my confidence in the kid’s judgement. And after lunch, somebody let her get on a paddle board and take it out. Her grin was ear to ear, and I asked her what she thought of paddle boards then. She goes “COOL.” Kids! No judgement at all.
Of course that grin and reaction would have happened no matter the craft. I’ve put many kids in many boats, and the thrill they get out of discovering they can make a boat go on their own, completely free of adult intervention, always brings out the grins.
The fascination for paddle boarding escapes me though many of my friends have crossed over. Sort of like why would you go cross country skiing when downhill is faster and so much fun?
Time for a cookie…
Cannot sit or kneel comfortably in kayaks or canoes.
Afraid of being trapped in kayak when capsized and don’t know about SOTs.
Don’t want to deal with the flooding of a canoe when capsized.
Like the simplicity of a board–no seat, no deck, no rigging.
Find it easier and cheaper to load and transport than a boat.
Last but not least, it is a new sport and therefore “cooler.”
Remember when mountain biking popularity became far more popular than road biking–when it was new? Then a funny thing happened. MTB racers discovered they were getting whipped by road racers who did both disciplines. The popularity of road biking resurged.
I’m not saying this kind of crossover will happen with SUPs and old-school paddlecraft. But I have a feeling some do both because they work different parts of the body to different extents.
I never understood the allure of SUPs until I met a 50ish guy who was performing some repair work at my home. After our conversation I got it, totally.
He noticed my boats and we started talking boats and he brought up his use of SUPs. He is a long time surfer. As he explained it, one the hardest things about surfing is the transition from laying flat on the board to standing. At 50, that becomes more difficult. So he now surfs his SUP, already standing up and with a paddle in his hand to carve the turns he wants, and move about on the ocean.
I thought sup was stupid at first, but after trying them out a few times, learned it was pretty fun. Created a challenge for getting around places, like a calm harbor, that I would barely notice in a long boat. Also the benefit of getting a good leg workout in while paddling, and a raised vantage point for seeing more underwater. Surf suping is really fun as well. The simplicity of the gear is nice as well, but the boards can be very fragile.
I think the thing that got me hooked on SUP surfing is that it is a new challenge that keeps you fit. You can’t just plop yourself on a surfing SUP and paddle around like a kayak, all of your motor muscles in your legs, back, core, and arms are firing to keep you upright, balanced for pitch, yaw, and roll and moving . Catching a wave is actually much more difficult than it looks on a short high performance SUP surf board and harder for me any way than wave catching on a traditional longboard. Finally I like the simplicity of throwing it in my car, driving to the beach and paddling out or going for a 3 mile paddle without all of the kayak loading hassles, you see a lot more of the fish and sealife and you have to stay alert and flexible. I feel much more connected to the ocean on a SUP than sitting inside a kayak. It’s not something couch potatoes get. More effort to do the same thing.
SUP surfing is different. The paddler is surfing, with a paddle, rather than just taking a paddling excursion.
I fully agree that standing vastly improves visibility into and over the water, and that is one reason I love standing in the canoe.
The footprint of a canoe in the water, at the waterline, has to be very similar to that of a SUP. So, for those who have tried stand-up paddle boarding, my question is, have you ever stand-up paddled a canoe? And how do the two compare?
I can think of one advantage for the SUP, and that is, when you fall out of a canoe, it’s tricky to get back in, and there may be an issue of emptying water out of the canoe. The SUP paddler just climbs back on and is back in business. Beyond that, it seems most of the advantages go to the canoe. Like being able to carry stuff in the boat.
I can see the attraction of SUPing when it comes to surfing. That may also be why I’ve never seen a single this-is-so-cool video of SUPing (and there must be hundreds of such videos out there) that didn’t involve going downwind on the ocean and taking advantage of the waves. For generating paddling power in an efficient fashion, which is more necessary when not aided by surfing action, the fewer “moving parts” connecting your paddle to the boat, the better, which I believe has a lot to do with why SUPers are generally pretty slow compared most sit-down paddlers in more-typical (non-surfing) paddling situations (the additional loss of mechanical advantage due to the extra length of paddle compared to the spread between one’s hands can’t be much help either). The post above comparing downhill and cross-country skiing seems relevant in that way. Both have their place, but one is faster when aided by gravity (both surfing and downhill skiing make use of gravity), and the other is more versatile overall, but even with the help of gravity, is going to seem less flashy.
I can attest to their speed. I’m no racer, but last year I entered a series of races in a small, local paddle festival. They had no class for my canoe but let me enter the performance kayak class. We went off first, SUPs second spaced by 20 minutes.
The start was into the tail end of an incoming tide. Despite my double blade and footbar, in short order I was left behind by the kayaks in my class. I settled into an easy cruising pace as my real purpose was to see the course as it snaked through the marsh islands. I paused twice, briefly, maybe 5 minutes total. At about the 3 mile mark the lead SUP passed me, followed closely by two more. Even with them having a 40 year youth advantage and being in racing mode I was stunned to see them. I had no idea that with only one blade someone could move an SUP that fast.
I think both you guys actually illustrate my point, even if that was not your intention. In one case, a relative old fart who says he was going at “an easy cruising pace” because he mainly just wanted to see the scenery didn’t get passed by two young men on SUPs until far into the race after he had stopped twice for a total of 5 minutes. If he did indeed stop for 5 minutes, assuming a travel speed of 5 mph, that means that at the 3-mile mark he had a lead of 2200 feet over the SUPers, so it’s not like the young pups blew the doors off of him. In the other case, it’s said that SUP racers commonly go 5.5 mph or more. Well, comparing racers to racers, if you look at the typical speeds of C1 racers it’s clear there’s not even a contest, and of course kayak racers are in a whole other league beyond that when it comes to speed.
I’m not “dissing” SUPs as being too slow to be useful or fun any such thing, so there’s no need to point out that really good SUPers can go faster than most of us lazy-bones paddlers will go on a typical day (and as another point of comparison, when rowing my very utilitarian guide-boat, I don’t find 5.5 mph to be even remotely challenging, but that speed is really close to the limit for the length of hull and going just a little faster becomes far more difficult in a hurry. Also, I don’t find 5.0 mph to be a difficult speed in my Bell Merlin II with a simple J-stroke, yet in a canoe race, using a J-stroke would put me way behind the pack right from the start). A comment like that is, however, a reason to compare fast SUPers to fast sit-down paddlers as a way of making a fair comparison. All I’m saying is that SUPs have certain aspects not working in their favor at those times when they are not assisted by waves, with disadvantageous leverage of the longer paddle being just one of those aspects.