Stand-up paddleboarding is extremely simple in principle – and practise. The name describes it perfectly: you stand up on a board, and paddle!
According to Wikipedia: Stand up paddle surfing (SUP), or in the Hawaiian language Hoe he’e nalu, is an emerging global sport with a Hawaiian heritage. The sport is an ancient form of surfing, and began as a way for surfing instructors to manage their large groups of learner surfers, as standing on the board gave them a higher viewpoint, increasing visibility of what was going on around them — such as incoming swell. To begin with, this started with using a one-bladed paddle, whilst standing on a normal length surfboard. The popularity of the modern sport of SUP has its origination in the Hawaiian Islands. In the early 1960s, the Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards, and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf. This is where the term “Beach Boy Surfing”, another name for Stand Up Paddle Surfing, originates.
Actually, the exact roots of the sport are quite hazy, as standing up on or in surfboards, canoes, coracles and a whole bunch of other ethnic watercraft, is something that has been going on for thousands of years, and paddlesports have a huge cultural connection right across Polynesia and the southern Pacific. However, in its modern form, the activity of standing up on a surfboard-shaped board with a single bladed paddle, was developed by renowned Hawaiian watermen Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama in the first years of the 21st century. Initially they saw it simply as a way of keeping in shape during the off season for big wave surfing, but soon realised its potential in many other areas. For several years it remained the exclusive activity this hardcore group of Hawaiian big wave surfers, but then it spread to mainland USA and started to gain momentum .
A big factor in its sudden jump to worldwide popularity was when the windsurfing brands began to take notice. They already knew how to build large boards to go fast in a straight line, and had the distribution networks in place to get the product out to watersports communities worldwide. As a result, the sport morphed very quickly from a surfing orientation to a flat water leisure activity, and exploded in popularity. The US Outdoor Industry Association’s 2013 Participation Report identified it as the outdoor sporting activity with the most first-time participants of any in the United States that year.
The somewhat clumsy name for the activity is to distinguish it from the long-established sport of paddleboarding, where participants kneel on a long surfboard and paddle with their hands. However, you will still often hear the stand-up version referred to just as paddleboarding, as ‘stand up paddleboarding’ is a bit of a mouthful. For this reason also, it’s often referred to as SUP or SUPping.