A short introduction and history of surfing with a paddle
It is no secret that surfing is an ancient sport that has gradually spread throughout the world from Polynesian culture. Over the course of centuries - especially the last few decades - countless new variations and trends have kept emerging in surfing. On the islands of Hawaii, surfing has always been a spiritual and cultural part of society and still has a high value in the daily life of the inhabitants and tourists alike.
Stand Up Paddle Surfing, or short: SUP So it is no surprise that one of the major surfing trends of the last years, which has recently been coming over to Europe, originally developed on the islands of the surfer's paradise. We are talking about Stand Up Paddling or Stand Up Paddle Surfing, short SUP: Standing upright on an oversized board you move with a paddle.
Extra support when surfing down the waves When exactly paddles were used on large boards for the first time is not absolutely clear. There is evidence that even the ancient peoples of the Pacific island used paddles to move on boards and slide down the waves. Accordingly, SUP would be an early combination of the two traditional Polynesian disciplines of canoeing and surfing.
First followers in the 1960s Stand Up Paddling - also called Beach Boy Surfing - experienced its first popularity in its current form in the 1960s. At first, it were the beach boys in Hawaii who paddled out to sea with big boards and took tourist photos or kept a watchful eye on their surfing students - Duke Khanamoku as well as Bobby and Leroy AhChoy were the best known of them. An early legend in the field of paddle surfing was also John Zabotocky, who already used longboards and paddles in the 1940s.
Advantages of Stand Up Paddling in waves With an increasing focus on the development of modern materials and physically more effective shapes, the rather unwieldy longboards seemed to have disappeared for some time. The introduction of lighter shortboards seemed to have made the paddle redundant. It was great athletes like Laird Hamilton, Archie Kalepa, Dave Kalama, Loch Eggers and surfing legend Robby Naish who re-developed Stand Up Paddling and led it on new paths. The acceleration with the paddle allowed them to get into the wave quickly and also added extra stability in difficult turns.
High fun factor regardless of unfavourable conditions Soon other surfers started trying the combination of canoe paddles with surfboards. They re-discovered SUP as an effective training method that activates all muscles and helps to train many of the required abilities as well as being a surfing style in its own right with a high fun factor and less dependent on optimal conditions. It is a way of surfing also suitable for nature-oriented excursions on days without the right waves for surfing.
Growing choice of equipment In the early years of stand up paddling individual shapers and some smaller companies developed special boards and paddles adapted to the special features of the sport in close cooperation with experienced SUP surfers. But it did not take too long for the big brands to recognized the trend in recent years. With a wider range of equipment available through international distribution channels, SUP is now accessible to a much larger audience than a few years ago. SUP boards are usually between three and four meters long and 70 to 80 centimeters wide. The fiberglass or carbon paddles are available in various designs - including those with individually adjustable handle lengths. Ideally, the paddle should be around 30 centimetres longer than the paddler himself.
First "steps" on the board and with the paddle Getting started with board and paddle is not at all difficult but you should take care to choose a calm and quiet day for your first attempts on the board. Using a usual paddling technique equivalent to that in canoeing will soon allow you to cover some distance. Paddling on a board, your upper arm should always stay straight to allow you effective use of your power in each stroke. When paddling straoght on, both feet should be parallel with an angle of about 60° to the board. As soon as you get into a wave, step backwards on the board: On a wave you can surf SUP boards like any other longboard. Accordingly, the position of your feet and knees equals that on a usual surfboard.
Better overview You can use the paddel to control your speed as well as to help you with stability on the board. The advantages to surfing as usual are obvious: Standing on the board before getting on a wave allows a better view of how the wave develops compared to lying flat on your surfboard, your eyes at the waterline. Also, the paddle can help to get a good start into the wave.
Versatility makes stand up paddling so popular With SUP really everyone gets his money's worth, as it can be used as a physically demanding cross-training as well as a relaxed excursion on the water including impressive experiences of nature. It is no wonder that the sport has spread so rapidly. SUP is already very popular in the USA, Australia and Japan. And also in Germany you see more and more paddlers gliding over mostly calm waters. The number of those who fall for stand up paddling is likely to increase durther over the next years. The reason is simple: apart from great possibilities to have fun on the waves, SUP also gives you the the prospect of a relaxing paddling tour on windless days as an alternative for a great time out on the water, especially in regions with less than perfect surfing conditions.
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