Combine surfing with kayaking and you’ve got stand up paddleboarding (SUP). SUP is the fastest- growing water sport in the world with gear sales up by about 200% in the past year, according to Cody White, certified PaddleFit instructor and co-founder of Finger Lakes Paddleboard. “The reason so many people are drawn to paddleboarding is that it’s an amazing full-body workout that improves your core strength, cardio fitness, balance, and flexibility with virtually no impact,” says White. “Plus, it’s fun to get out on the water and enjoy nature, so it hardly feels like exercise.
Even though paddleboarding is a total-body workout, people of all ages and fitness levels can try the sport. Unlike surfing, you don’t need waves to paddleboard, and very calm, flat water is best for beginners. “Surfing didn’t take over mainstream America because the majority of us don’t live by the surf, but the beauty of paddleboarding is that you can do it on an ocean, lake, and even a river,” says White.
Paddleboarding got its roots in Hawaii in the 1960s when the Beach Boys of Waikiki started standing on their longboards and using outrigger paddles to paddle out for a better view of the surf. The sport didn’t take off until the 2000s when pro surfers such as Laird Hamilton used SUP to continue training when the ocean was too calm to surf. Today SUP has gone mainstream, and the World Paddle Association (WPA) makes it easy to find races, meetups, and classes across the country. Try White’s tips on how to get started with this exploding sport for yourself.
Want to learn to ride for the very first time in one of the world's best SUPing destinations? Check out our list of "Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddleboarding."