The sport has taken off, thanks to a combination of many factors. World champion surfers such as Rob Machado, Laird Hamilton, Tom Carroll – even Kelly Slater – are out there advocating the sport. Celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey (pictured below), Jennifer Aniston, Paris Hilton, Kate Hudson and Adrian Grenier, are glamorising the sport by being snapped in action. Surf schools now offer SUP lessons making it easier to try the sport without having to purchase gear. Events have even been created for SUP’ers to compete in around the world, including the Noosa Festival of Surfing right on our doorstep. It’s no wonder this sport is gaining in popularity.
Fast forward fifty years since it really began, and I found myself on Waikiki Beach, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Being the very location where it all began, it was time to find out what all the buzz was about. During my 1 hour lesson with Hans Hedemann Surf Adventures - Waikiki, the benefits all became clear.
The Benefits of Stand Up Paddle Surfing
You can SUP almost anywhere, any time
Unlike traditional surfing which requires a decent swell, you can paddle pretty much anywhere there is water – harbours, lakes, open ocean etc. During Winter, surfers around the world flock to Hawaii for the huge swells, however in summer it’s relatively flat. SUP is a great alternative to keep up surfing skills and fitness, regardless of the wave size (or lack thereof).
It's a great core workout
After a few hours of SUP, one thing is certain – you’ll be feeling it the next day. SUP is an amazing all over workout, as it uses the combined strength of your arms, legs, back, while needing stability and balance to come from your abs and feet.
As you’re standing up, your angle of visibility is a lot wider. You can see both deeper in the water, and further out to sea, enabling you to pick the best waves to go for, and in places like Hawaii, avoid a shallow reef. As an Aussie tourist, I found the greatest benefit of the elevated viewpoint was being able to spot the turtles that casually swim past!
It’s beginner friendly
Although you might be a bit wobbly at first, stand up paddling is one of the easiest sports to pick up. For starters, a beginners board resembles a small table so is incredibly buoyant, unlike most surf boards which are smaller and less stable. Secondly, you’re already standing, so there’s no need to perfect the pop up required on a surf board. And lastly, you have a large paddle which you can dig into the water and lean into when you do get a little wobbly, rather than waving your arms about like a gymnast on a balance beam.
Want to Learn to SUP?
If you’re fortunate enough to head on over to Hawaii, then head straight to Hans Hedemann Surf Adventures at Waikiki Beach or Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu. They have some of the best (and friendliest) instructors around, including Hans himself, who spent 17 years on the ASP World Tour, and big wave surfer, Keala Kennelly. Visit the Hans Hedemann Surf Adventures website for details.
Back in Australia, the best place to start your SUP journey is at Seabreeze, where you can read SUP articles and tips, ask questions in the forum and check out the swell forecasts around Australia.