Alan Bergman – For those who love being on the water, seeking an upper-body and core workout, along with some fresh air, but prefer a “vessel” that’s less confining than a canoe or kayak, a standup paddleboard is a perfect solution.
Standup paddling (SUP) is growing leaps and bounds in popularity, here in New Hampshire and throughout the country. Between 2010 and 2015 (the most recent year that this data was compiled), the number of Americans who participated in SUP jumped from approximately 1.1 million to 2.8 million, according to statistics compiled by the Coleman Company. These participants averaged 5 annual outings each, making a total of 13.7 million SUP outings in 2015.
Participation increased across all age groups and demographics surveyed. It is probably safe to assume that there are even far more standup paddlers today.
WHY SO POPULAR?
So, why has SUP exploded in popularity? The most common reason cited is the relative ease with which one can get into this sport. It takes very little equipment and preparation . . . essentially a paddleboard and paddle, and, of course, a PFD (life vest). Add to that a body of water – be it a lake, large pond, lazy river or bay – and you’re ready to start.
Another factor behind the growing popularity is the fact that most first-timers quickly learn how to handle the board and the correct way to react to different water conditions. Many SUP neophytes reach their comfort level pretty quickly after a short lesson and a half-hour or so on the water.
Typically, paddlers start out on their knees and rise to a standing position once they feel properly balanced on the board. Today’s boards are sturdier than earlier models, making it that much easier to quickly become proficient. Once up, paddlers can proceed at whatever pace they prefer, paddling hard to maximize their workout, or more mellow, taking in the surrounding scenery and perhaps socializing with others on the water.
Many yoga practitioners have been moving their workouts from land to water.
Paddleboards manufactured in the last five years or so are so sturdy that an ever-increasing number of SUPers are using them as platforms for practicing yoga. Yes, once balancing on the board becomes second-nature, it becomes a great place to reinvigorate, recharge, as well as soothe one’s mind.
SUP yoga, also called paddleboard yoga, is a great way to practice Downward Dog, Chair Pose, Warrior Pose and other moves; adding the elements of water and sunshine to one’s routine. When practicing yoga on a paddleboard floating on the water’s surface, one must be perfectly tuned in to his/her balance and breathing.
SUP yoga can make the asanas or poses that much more rewarding. Meditation and mindfulness can be enhanced, muscle tone can be improved, and greater inner-tranquility can be achieved, all with the help of the surrounding water and the great outdoors.
ABOUT THE BOARDS
Standup paddleboards tend to be larger than most surfboards. The larger the SUP, the more sturdy and stable it is. When selecting a board to purchase, one’s weight in relation to the volume of the board is an important factor. The heavier the paddler is, the lower the board will be in the water. Ideally, the board should sit as close as possible to the water surface, which simultaneously enhances stability while it reduces paddling resistance.
Many paddleboard manufacturers have created charts to help determine the “best” board size. Typically, the charts factor in body weight, height and paddling ability, in relation to board volume.
The vast majority of boards are manufactured between 9 feet and 14 feet in length, with the 10-12 feet range being the most common. Widths most typically are between 2 feet and three feet. The hulls are either displacement hulls, which have a pointed front-end nose, or planing hulls, which tend to be more rounded at the nose and more suitable for mellower paddling.
Most beginner boards have the planing hull, and also sometimes channels along the board’s bottom to assist with tracking (going straight). Other types of boards include fitness and touring paddleboards, racing SUPs and surfing SUPs.