May 02, 2021 6 min read

What is SUP?

What is stand up paddle boarding

Have you heard about SUP? Maybe it’s all your buddies can talk about, ‘sup dude, fancy a SUP today? Perhaps you are quietly thinking to yourself, what is SUP? 

SUP is an acronym meaning Stand Up Paddleboarding, a popular sport that’s taking over the water sports scene. Stand up paddle boarding is an absolute blast and there are heaps of reasons why you should learn all about it - and how to do it. Luckily for you, we know a thing or two about SUP, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

It’s a super fun workout and an escape to nature, all in one awesome package. Once you’ve had a taster, you won’t ever look back!

In addition to being a super fun workout, SUP also offers the chance to escape to nature and meet some wicked friends along the way. Once you’ve had a taster, you won’t ever look back!

History of SUP

Fisherman Stand Up Paddle Boarding History

First, where did SUP originate, and how did it come to be the popular sporting activity that it is today? 

The history of stand up paddle boarding shows a practical past; a way of fisherman collecting food for the villages in Peru and Hawaii. While the exact origins of stand up paddle boarding are a mystery, it is clear that it was used among islanders for transportation, fishing, and fun.

In 1778, Captain Cook was the first European to set foot on the Hawaiian Islands. Here, he discovered that the Polynesian locals took to the water with oversized boards made out of wood, propelling themselves along with makeshift paddles. This was a way of life for the locals and the island chief was typically the most skilled paddler.

Paddle Boarding History Laird Hamilton

Paddle boarding as we know it today emerged around the ’70s, again in Hawaii. Surf photographers needed a more stable board to get out to the waves in the channels, and they were keen to keep their cigarettes dry!

Big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, truly popularized stand up paddle boarding with the iconic cover photo on Malibu magazine in 2002. Laird is seen tackling a six-foot swell on an oversized paddle board, proudly holding an American flag as the paddle. This launched the sport into the spotlight across the world.


Who Can SUP

Paddleboarding with dog GILI Komodo

Stand up paddleboarding is accessible to everyone. Young and old, men and women – even dogs can hop on board a SUP! The possibilities are endless. There are even SUP boards specially designed for tandem paddling, like our GILI Manta Ray Multi-Person Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board.

Stand up paddleboarding does require a certain level of fitness and you should be comfortable with being in water and swimming. Falling off is all part of the fun, and a welcome relief on hot sunny days! 

Why Start Stand Up Paddleboarding?

Start paddle boarding

So now you know what SUP is, why should you get on board with the hottest sport this year? The list of reasons is ongoing. 

Not only is there an abundance of health benefits to paddleboarding, but you’ll also have fun, and look cool while you’re doing it! That’s a winner in our eyes.

Unlike hitting the gym, grabbing a paddle board gets you outdoors and takes you right into the heart of nature. So not only as you get an endorphin hit, but you also get a dose of Vitamin D and plenty of fresh air in green and blue spaces.

Health Benefits of Paddle Boarding

The list of health benefits of stand up paddleboarding is endless – it’s crazy how many calories you burn while paddle boarding! But here are a few to give an idea of how awesome this water sport is:

  • All-body workout
  • Core strength builder
  • Balance improver
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Calming and relaxing

Different Types of Paddle Board

There is a whole range of different types of SUP boards part of this sport. Determining which board you need is easy with the right guidance. You’ll be choosing the best SUP for you and hitting the water in no time!

Small and short SUPs are good for surfing, while longer SUPs are great for taking yoga onto the water. Something in the middle is a great All-Around paddle board that is a perfect versatile option for beginners.

The main difference in SUP is inflatable vs solid paddle boards. Inflatable SUP boards are gaining popularity as the materials and construction improve. They are rigid and provide incredible stability that rivals epoxy hard boards, as well as being super durable. 

SUP Activities

SUP Yoga using GILI Komodo

SUP is way more than just an acronym. It is a sport full of possibilities! There are several activities related to paddle boarding, each as fun and exhilarating to the next in its unique way:

Where To Stand Up Paddle Board

Stand up paddle boarding can be taken to almost anywhere, as long as there is water to float on! Some activities require specific location details – for example, SUP surfing needs to have swell and waves that can be found in the ocean or also on lakes.

The main thing is to make sure you research the location you choose to paddle, checking for potential hazards to maximize your safety. These can be the depth/shallowness of the water, the water temperature, the wind speed/direction, dangerous wildlife, strong currents, and even other people in the water.

The main types of water to SUP are:

  • Flatwater / Lakes
  • Ocean
  • Rivers

Keen to travel and check out new patches of water? Learn more about new destinations across the US (and the world) with trustworthy paddle boarding location guides.

Expert Beginner SUP Tips

Where to stand up paddle board?

Once you’ve decided to hop aboard the SUP craze, then the fun can begin! Learning how to paddle board is awesome. It is important to remember that we all progress at different paces – some people find paddle boarding hard while others pick it up easily.   

When you first start, remember these top tips to help you find your balance and learn quicker:

  1. Start by paddling on your knees. This will help you feel more stable as you get the feeling of the boards’ movement and the paddle technique.
  2. Look to the horizon and get moving forward. You will have better balance when you are moving, so just keep paddling.
  3. Keep a slight bend to your knees and stay relaxed. Don’t forget to breathe and smile. It’s fun, remember?
  4. Don’t be scared of falling in. We all fall in at times – even the pros. It’s all part of learning and sometimes a welcome refresher on those warmer days.

Essential Paddle Boarding Accessories

Essential SUP accessories

SUP (stand up paddleboarding) requires specific equipment to join in with the sport. You need a board, a paddle, and some water. There is also a selection of top paddle boarding accessories that are essential to a successful SUP experience:


🏆 What activity is SUP?

SUP is the acronym for Stand Up Paddle boarding, a water sport that can be enjoyed by anyone, almost anywhere. There are several activities within SUP that people enjoy including SUP Yoga and SUP Fishing. These incorporate the paddleboard for an alternative take on the activity.

👍 Why is paddle boarding so popular?

Paddle boarding is gaining popularity as people discover how much fun it is and how many health benefits come with it. Taking out a SUP is a great workout for the whole body, with a specific focus on the core. The mental health advantages of being outdoors and enjoying the activity are infectious, making more and more people wanting to try out paddle boarding.

🏝️ Is paddle boarding dangerous?

Paddle boarding does come with some hazards that every rider should consider in order to maintain safety for themselves and those around them. The paddler must consider their skill level and determine if the conditions are suitable for them. This includes wind speed, swell, currents, and other people/vessels in the water.

❓ Which is better: kayaking or paddle boarding?

There are some similarities between paddle boards and kayaking. Both take you into nature and provide a physical workout along with mental health benefits. We are biased, but paddleboarding is better for providing a higher vantage point over the water.

📦 Can you use a SUP for surfing?

SUP surfing is incredibly popular across the world. This uses a slightly shorter board for greater maneuverability and handling when riding the waves. However, you can give it a try using an all-around SUP board on smaller waves. 

📦 What is SUP yoga?

SUP Yoga takes basic Hatha and Vinyasa yoga poses onto the water. The paddleboard becomes the yoga mat and you find your balance, and zen, while floating. This is a great way to push your practice and harness even greater core strength and stability.

📦 What does SUP board mean?

SUP board refers to the equipment used in the paddle boarding activity, in essence - SUP means ‘stand up paddle board’ or ‘stand up paddle boarding’. Therefore, the term ‘SUP’ can be an object as well as an activity.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

Surfer, paddle boarder, and ocean lover. She loves traveling and discovering new destinations all across the world. When she's not writing, she's exploring the outdoors and enjoying fresh air.

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