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Jun 21, 2016

A 4-Tip Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Over the course of the past decade, stand up paddling has taken root across the world, attracting leagues of converts and enthusiasts.

And while we may have been privy to the sport here in Hawaii for longer than most, it seems today that SUP is omnipresent. And not just among people with access to the ocean either; anywhere with a large enough body of water is fair game. The benefits of SUP are layered and include everything from upper body, core, and cardio workouts to simply getting outside and experiencing nature. If SUP sounds like it could be your new favorite way to workout or relax, you're in luck as we've outlined a handful of hints to keep in mind before you hit the water.


Know Your History

Like any sport or pastime, it's important to know the backstory. While it's nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact birth of stand up paddling, the sport traces its lineage back thousands of years. Despite the surge of SUP in popularity today, cultures from all over the world (Peru, Africa and of course Polynesia) have been standing on large crafts and propelling themselves down rivers, through reefs, and even into waves for countless generations. Even Duke, the father of modern day surfing, could be seen stroking his way through the lineups of Waikīkī, standing tall on a longboard with a mighty paddle in his grip in the 1930s and '40s.

However, Leroy and Bobby Achoy, famed Waikīkī Beach Boys, were some of the most prominent SUP surfers in Waikīkī's heyday. It was actually the Achoys who introduced John Zapotocky, largely regarded as the father of the modern SUP surfing, to the sport. For 60 years, Zapotocky could be seen in the waters off Waikiki, even as an elderly man, enjoying himself in the ocean.

It wasn't until 2004 that SUP surfing began to gain popularity in the mainland when Rick Thomas brought a board and paddle back to California from his trip to Hawai'i. From that point on, the sport has gone viral.


Buy the Right Board

Now that you've had your brief history lesson, you're ready to hit the water. But first, you'll need the right board. Much like finding the right-sized shoe for your feet, you'll need the right board for your approach to the sport. Typically, there are five different types of SUP boards on the market: 1) Inflatable 2) All-around 3) Surf models 4) Racing and 5) Yoga boards.

If you're new to the sport, we recommend opting for an all-around model as it pairs well with just about any endeavor. But if you're more experienced and want to take your SUP out into the surf or are interested in entering a race, either the surf or race models might be a better fit. Of course, if you can't find a place to store a 10-foot-plus board, you can always opt for an inflatable model. And if you're keen to start taking yoga classes on a SUP (your core will thank you) consider a wider, Yoga-type SUP board.


Grab the Proper Paddle

When it comes to picking out the perfect paddle, you'll find a wealth of options at your disposal ranging from carbon fiber models to fiberglass to wood or plastic. Light, stiff paddles - we like carbon fiber - will optimize your paddling ability without sacrificing your muscles. Also, keep in mind that you should opt for a wider blade, which maximizes the power from each stroke. The length of your paddle is also paramount. As a quick rule of thumb, your paddle should be about 10" longer than your height. A paddle that's too long will overwork you quickly, while a paddle that's too short will force you to hunch, placing unwanted stress on your back.

Perfect Your Form

If you take the time to master your SUP form while you're learning, you'll reap the benefits for the rest of your life. A good technique will enable you to paddle faster, longer, and stronger—all without causing injury. So what's the trick? Well, a lot of practice. But if you follow these rules, you'll be ahead of the pack: 1) Once you plant your blade in the water, imagine that you're bringing your body to the blade, not the other way around. 2) Maximize each stroke. To get the most out of each paddle, ensure that you're reaching well out in front of you with each stroke. 3) Let the entire blade dig into the water before you make your pull. 4) While lightly gripping your handle, use your core, hips, and arms to pull the paddle. 5) Build a rhythm. Just like if you were running, dancing, or swimming, finding your paddling rhythm will enable you to glide faster through the water.

Now that you've read through our handy hints, you're ready to hit the water. And there's no better place in Honolulu to SUP than at Ala Moana Beach Park, located directly across the street from Ward Village.

Check out the Ward Village Surf Cam before heading out!

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