Getting Started

A guide to the Wild World of Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Roots of Stand Up

Stand Up Paddle Boarding or Surfing, or ‘SUP‘ for short, is born from an ancient form of surfing with deeps roots in Polynesian culture. The Hawaiian translation is Ku Hoe He’e Nalu; to stand, to paddle, to surf, a wave. 

It may have been the very first form of surfing and was utilized in the 1960’s by surfing instructors to help them manage their students while out on the water – ‘Beach Boys’ as they were called. John Zapotocky (in the photo) has been credited as one of the first and he’s still at it today at age 91!

The sport is experiencing a huge resurgence thanks in part to watermen like Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, and Gerry Lopez who have adopted (or adapted?) the sport to help them train and ultimately paddle into bigger and faster waves.  Little did they know that the sport would find it’s way inland and it’s quickly becoming popular in locations like Lake Tahoe CA, Lake Havasu AZ, and now, most naturally, the Okanagan.

It’s an amazing feeling just to stand up for the first time and from there, the sport opens up a whole new world of exploration, exercise and adrenaline.  Overnight, a brand new industry has emerged and the sport has become the fastest growing water sport in the world and it’s not just a fad – it’s here to stay and you’ll know why the first time you ‘walk on water’.

Stand Up for Yourself!

A typical Stand Up Paddle Board is longer and more bouyant than a long (surf) board.  It shares a few characteristics with long boards and comes in many shapes and types of constructions. SUP boards typically have thicker rails (side of the board) to keep water from flowing over the sides of the board and the designs and shapes are evolving rapidly.  Shorter SUP boards are for lighter paddlers and/or advanced surfers while the longer boards are designed to hold more weight, are easier to surf on, and more buoyant for flatwater paddling.  Here’s a look at the different types of SUP’ing:

  • Surfing – Ocean
  • Surfing – Behind a boat or on ocean freighter’s wake
  • Surfing – On lakes such as the Great Lakes
  • Downwinders – Riding huge swells on the ocean
  • Downwinders – Riding with the wind at your back on lakes and rivers
  • Flatwater – Leisure paddling on lakes and rivers
  • Flatwater – Racing short and and long distance courses
  • Flatwater – Training, cross-training, fitness development, core training, recovery
  • Whitewater – River runs and surfing on Class I-V rivers

How about the Okanagan Region?  With it’s network of lakes and rivers, the area is quickly becoming a destination for flatwater and whitewater SUP’ing.  Okanagan Lake, at almost 130km in length, is the largest lake in the area and Kalamalka Lake is arguably the most scenic of all the lakes in Canada (Voted Top 10 by National Geographic).  Plus, there are many other lakes in the area including Mabel, Mara, Wood, Shuswap plus tons of  rivers and streams ready to explore.

Learning Curve (Zero-Standing in seconds)

Standing up on the board for the first time is a fairly simple achievement and doesn’t require any pre-training or experience. It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you get up for the first time too – The easy learning curve gives it broad appeal to all ages and types of fitness levels.

Of course natural balance is a bonus but assuming you have calm water conditions, you should be able to stand up in less than a minute.  From there, you’ll have to ‘feel’ out the board and get used to finding your balance as you start to paddle around.  For some, the transition will feel easy while others will need more time to get used to the ‘tipsy’ feeling of walking on water.  Longer boards with thicker rails (side of the board) have more ‘volume’ which will help you feel more stable and balanced.  As a general rule, if you weigh more than 180 lbs, pick a board that has a volume of 185 Liters or more. Click here to learn more about which board is be the best for  you on the Gear page.

Where to stand on the board?

The most common stance is facing forward somewhere in the middle of the board with feet about shoulder length apart.  In calm conditions, this stance will work great and necessary for you to paddle on both sides of the board properly. As you adjust your stance, your paddling on one side, or the other, will be somewhat comprimised.  Most boards have a hand-hold in the middle of the board which you can use as a starting point for placing your feet. Move them forward and the front of the board will sit deeper in the water – Move them back and the nose will come up but your tail will ‘drag’ more in the water. Eventually you’ll find the sweet spot.  Want to learn more?

In choppy water, boat wake and waves, you can adjust your stance with one foot more forward than the other as you become more comfortable on the board.  This will help stabilize your balance and when things get shaky, try to ‘stay relaxed’ and absorb the push of the water against the board.  See a few good examples of foot positioning below:

Stand Up for yourself – A few ways to get on board. Now…relax…..