Top 10 reasons why you should paddleboard

Have you been wondering why you should paddle board, or maybe even whether you could do it at all? I recently had the pleasure of chatting with epic West Yorkshire SUP enthusiast Jason Elliott about this very subject.  With plenty of insight from Jason, I hope to satisfy your curiosity here. First off, let’s clear up a few questions that seem to be on a lot of people’s minds.

What is the point when you could just….surf?

This is like asking why you should eat spaghetti when you could just eat pizza. Sure, both are the same genre but they hit 2 different spots. Paddleboarding offers something that neither surfing or for that matter kayaking can and that is an insane level of versatility. With a single paddle board you can surf, kayak and stand up paddle depending on your desire, ability and the accessories you have. There are fantastic kayak conversion SUPs out there designed specifically to this end. Many boards are also well suited to surfing using either your paddle as a tool to steer or doing it the old fashioned way with just your bare feet and hands. On that note, SUP surfing is a school all of its own. The added control of surfing with the help of a paddle to steer is a different ball game altogether. Plus, have you ever seen a SUP with a foil? You can do all of these things and more while investing in only one major piece of sporting equipment. This is a huge win for the multi-talented, easily bored, completely skint or decidedly indecisive among us.

How can I get started?

It can be nerve racking to start something new, totally from scratch, especially if you haven’t been very active in the past.  If you are hesitant to take the plunge, or worried that you will do just that, why not start with a lesson or 2. As Jason mentioned, there are several fantastic organisations in the UK that provide licencing for SUP instruction and lessons can be had for less than most people’s weekly pint budget. Check out the WSA, the ASI and the BCA online and you will surely find a qualified instructor within a 25 mile radius pretty well anyplace in the UK. Within 1 or 2 lessons, you’ll be standing and have a handle on getting your board going in a straight line. Most importantly of all:

“Don’t worry about falling in, you’re not made of sugar and you won’t melt”

1. Is it fun?  Will i even be able to paddle in a straight line?

Yes, it is FUN and you will enjoy yourself! There are as many SUP related activities as there are boards and that is to say there are a lot. Find a good all around board in the 10-11’ range and once you put in a little time to practice, expect to take 4 to 5 strokes on each side before swapping. You’ll be straight as an arrow in no time flat whether you choose to paddle kneeling or standing.

2. Low barrier to entry

One of the most difficult things about getting started with any new physical activity are the standard barriers to entry: age, skill, fitness level and pre-existing injury. Stand up paddle boarding is unique in that it is relatively easy to learn regardless of your starting point and none of these factors will stop you from hopping aboard.  Small children, elderly grandparents and every age group in between can and do enjoy this sport. A tiny tike just learning to walk can man a paddle board all on their own and therefor you probably can too. On the opposite end of the spectrum, anyone who is able to either sit, stand or kneel and has use of their arms can likely find a comfortable paddling stance regardless of advanced age.

3. It’s one of the most versatile sports around

In the age of one size fits all people want things that they can do more with.  The flip side of this is being left with something that does many things but none of them very well. With paddle boards this doesn’t tend to be a big issue unless you are on the competition circuit and engaged with the sport at an elite level. For 99% of casual users, even people like Jason who are very athletic, a single all around SUP will cover your bases well for casual paddling. You can can paddle on lakes, open water, canals and even down rapids with the same board. Cold climates or warm, seated or standing, one piece of equipment will get you on the water.  And better still, as you progress and gain ability, you’ll continue to find that your board meets your needs. This is because at the end of the day the speed and power you generate and the conditions you master come down to the time you devote to honing your own body to the activity rather than the extra equipment you buy. As your fitness progresses, so will your skills and you’ll be able to go from paddling on your knees on a flat to navigating your way through rough coastal water. All of this is uniquely dependant on you and what your interests are. The possibilities really are endless.

4. If you are injured, this is a great sport to get into

Many of us come to new hobbies packing old injuries and these can be both a legitimate reason and a great excuse to enjoy more netflix than exercise. If you are a looking for a gentle way to get your body moving once again, consider SUP. For people who are not too steady on their legs, taking a kneeling stance is a great start.  Alternatively you could get a convertible board and alternate between kneeling and seated paddling until you feel up to snuff. Other people may be able to balance and stand up straight off the bat but may want to concentrate on slow, smooth paddle sessions to rehab their shoulders and strengthen their core. The funny thing is, even if you never actually stand on your Stand Up Paddle Board, there is still plenty to do within the sport.


5. You’ll get a ton of action for your money

If I had to make a list of all the things you can do with a stand-up paddle board it would be a pretty long one. I’ll go over some crowd pleasers: stand-up paddling, surfing, kayaking, paddling rapids, canal-side pub crawls, taking the dog for a not-walk, spending time with the family, teaching your child or partner a new sport, beating your child or partner at a new sport, touring, racing, yoga, fishing, sunbathing, Pilates, improving cardio, building core strength, rehabbing shoulders, building massive upper body muscle, relaxing leisure time, SUPing in groups, taking time to yourself, ferrying supplies to your mega yacht…the list could go on and on. The main takeaway is that paddle boarding can be as intense or as laid back and relaxing as you want to make it and that is up to you.


6. Social or Solitary – you decide

They say there are 2 types of people; those who like team sports and those who do not. Maybe we should add a third type lest we forget the people who do not like any sports at all. Each of these persuasions can find a home in this sport or non-sport depending on their approach. There is a massive SUP community out there and with a quick search on FB, you will find a paddle board group.  It’s easy to connect with other people who are eager to pair up and get out there together. In that respect, your board is a ticket to meet people and paddle out in mass if you want it to be.  Alternatively, this is a fantastic activity for people who just want to decompress by their lonesome. To the wild-eyed ultra runners reading this, give your legs a break and get your shoulders going. You can still put in some serious mileage and cover massive territory using a different set of appendages and swapping turf for surf. And lastly, to those who can’t do, won’t do or just don’t like to do sports; your SUP can be used at the same intensity level you enjoy while gardening or walking to meet your friends for lunch. You have complete control over whether this a sweaty, strenuous affair or a slow-flowing and stylish one. You can even SUP in jeans and a leather jacket if you are so inclined…

7. Travel with your hobby

The best hobbies are the ones we can enjoy the most often and are preferably portable enough to meet that end. Inflatable paddle boards nail this on the head because they can be packed down into a bag and inflated on arrival. This means you can drive to the coast in your vintage fiat and bring your SUP along too. Flying with an iSUP is also easy, just be sure to secure the straps on the carry bag as you would any other and check it as either standard baggage or sports equipment depending on the airline and the size of your deflated board.

8. Paddleboarding ages with you gracefully

In my chat with Jason Elliott, one thing that became clear was his passion for water sports and his desire to continue with them through end of days.  He made the excellent point that there comes a time when you need to consider whether your hobbies can age with you. It’s also important to decide whether your hobbies are actually ageing you as so many high impact sports do. Paddle boarding is a no impact sport as gentle or aggressive as you’d like to make it. You won’t pulverise your knees as with running and you certainly won’t need to buy a whole new spandex wardrobe as with cycling. Race and tour now, keep your joints moving and your core stable later on with the same comfortably familiar activity. To my mind this is preferable to watching your ability diminish with age and not having the option to tailor your sport to meet your changing reality.

9. You can do it with the whole family

When done well, family time is a beautiful thing. Getting everybody out on the water and active together is a fantastic way to bond or reset the dynamic.  The beauty of SUP is that there are as many varieties of board as there are paddlers. Whether you’d like to get a board for each member of your clan or throw everyone on deck together, you will find a board to suit your family’s needs. Another option is to get an all around board that is versatile enough for a range of paddlers to take turns on and maybe bring along some seated passengers.  As a rule, 10’-11’ is a great length to start with and will accommodate an adult up to 6’ tall as well as a seated child (2 if they are small). Moving up to the 12’ range you can bring a seated spouse or partner (if they are compliant) or larger children (if they can still bear to be seen with you).

10. Dogs love to SUP

Is your dog your baby? Pets, not limited to dogs, love being out on the water with you and there is no end to animal and human paddling duos on social media. Inflatable paddle boards are ideal in this scenario because unless your pup/cat etc. has the talons of a velociraptor, they won’t damage your deck with scuffs or scratches like they might a hard board.  Getting your dog to stay on deck is surprisingly easy and even the most active dogs tend to sit back and chill so long as you are on the move. If you do stop and your dog decides to take a swim, it’s easy to get them back aboard because the height of your deck above the water is usually no more than 6 inches max.

SUp and dog surf

“Cecily Trowbridge: Guinness Book World Record-breaking AbbieSurfs on the Tower Adventurer iSUP via The Guardian” – Source

We could go on for days about why we think you should get into SUP, but we’ll save some steam for next time.  If you’ve got any questions or comments about getting started, leave a comment!

A big Bluefin thank you

Thanks to Jason Elliott, the absolute gent in the featured shot, for taking the time to share his thoughts and experience on standup paddleboarding. In addition to being well versed in the art of SUP among other things, Jason is the Managing Director of British Recycled Plastic.

Thanks to Stand Up Journal for their wild photo of the year contest and consistently awesome coverage of the world of SUP.

Thanks to The Inertia for giving SUP surfers a break in their article “Not all SUP surfers are kooks; here’s why”. It’s nice to hear the surf community throwing stand up paddle boarders a bone!

Reading next