What SUP? Stand-up Paddle board

Laird boardIf your are an outdoor athlete and you haven’t seen a stand-up paddle board (either in person or in a magazine or on line), then you just haven’t been paying attention. This Polynesian/Hawaiian sport is taking the paddling/surfing world by storm. Search hard enough and you’ll even see photos of Lance Armstrong doing it!

Stand-up paddle boarding is something that I’ve wanted to try for quite some time, and due to my current work situation (at Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park, FL) I had the opportunity to borrow a board and take it for a spin on my day off.

So, I loaded up the board and paddle and took it out to Fort Desoto Park on the Gulf of Mexico. Well, it was 80+ degrees and sunny–a typical day in paradise. After offloading the board and attaching the leash (don’t want to lose a borrowed board), I set out across the grass flats in a relatively sheltered area.

Amazing view! The first thing I noticed was the perspective on the water. The people from the shop warned me about it–that it was a way different point of view than from the seat of a kayak. When they said that, I sort of chuckled to myself–but, they were right. Looking down into the water while standing (and wearing my polarized sunglasses) was a point of view not typical to the kayaks (or even canoes) I paddle.

The water was clear and I could see to the bottom. One of the first things I noticed were the live mollusks–sea shells. I saw a number of small whelks and tulip shells–as well as some spirally whelk egg cases. A little further along I saw a whelk that was probably close to 12 inches long.

The grass flat were pock-marked with sandy “holes” of various shapes and sizes–and along the fringes I’d see schools of bait fish moving in unison and darting away as the shadow of the board passed over. In one sand hole I saw two large snook traveling together–beautiful.

Of course, I noticed how the board paddled. I already knew they were not as fast as a surf ski, most sea kayaks or an outrigger canoe, but the shallow water also dragged down the speed. So, the workout I got from the paddling was more strength endurance oriented–attacking my core (abs, obliques, lower back) and my upper body when I was doing the proper, rotation-emphasized, stroke.

I spent two hours on the board–paddling with and against the current and with and against a pretty stiff wind. Into the wind was challenging as you are presenting the full surface of your body for resistance.

Though the workout was not a intense and the boat not as fast as my kayak, there was definitely something about the stand-up paddle board that intrigued me. Maybe it was the simplicity of it all? I figure the simplest way to move across the water is to swim. The next level up is paddling something (a log or a board) with your hands. Stand-up paddle boards are the next step.

While the primal nature of the board appealed to me, it was something more–something about feeling less in something and more a part of the environment. There was no kayak or canoe separating me from the water. I felt more out there–more exposed, naked to the elements.  I had no place to retreat to (like the cockpit of a kayak)–it was just the board, the paddle and me.

For more information on stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) try these sites:




The board I paddled was the Laird (Laird Hamilton–guru of big waves and stand-up) 12’1″ made by Surf Tech.


The paddle was the Spanker by Werner Paddles.


So, if SUP is something you’ve been aching to try–find a place (like Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure in Florida) to take a demo for a spin and enjoy what is truly a great workout and an awe-inspiring, primal point of view.

~ by kipwkoelsch on May 9, 2009.

One Response to “What SUP? Stand-up Paddle board”

  1. I like the way you described how you felt on the board. I definitely had a very comfortable, peaceful feeling while on it which actually surprised me since I thought it would feel very unstable. With the right outfit I could have been in an Athleta Catalog photo shoot :-).

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