Way back in the mid 18th century Captain Cook was discovering all kinds of cool stuff in the South Pacific. But one of the most awesome things he saw was how the locals got around on the water at all these islands they were visiting. They stood up in their dugouts and on long planks of wood with paddles. They would paddle around standing up like that fishing, riding the waves and just carrying on about the weather and how to make a good paddleboard. Cook was quite impressed. We know this because that is what he wrote in his journals and his shipmates drew sketches of the awesome paddleboard scene. Just how long had this standup paddling been going on for is anyone’s guess, but suffice to say it was probably a really long time.
Fast forward, about three hundred years and although stand up paddle boarding never went away in all that time, it did not become an actual sport/industry. That phase began in the 1930’s when Thomas Blake drilled big holes into his eighteen foot surf board to make it lighter and then covered the holes so that the board was watertight, giving it added buoyancy. People then began racing these paddleboards and lifeguards used them as rescue craft. In the 1960’s people began the use of paddleboards to teach surfing as taking movies and pictures of surf students learning how to surf became more prominent. People also began to paddle their long boards for training and to hone their waterman skills.
And then, around the late nineties the modern era of paddle boarding arose due to the efforts of two legendary big wave surfers, Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton. When the surf was too small to ride their short boards they grabbed some long boards and a long outrigger paddle to extend their ride for farther distances. Pretty soon they were having so much fun that the idea of surfing while paddling in and out of the wave all the time began to make sense. Laird then enlisted veteran board shaper Ron House to design boards with enough volume to stand on and paddle while also incorporating the latest surf design and tech so that it would ride like a surfboard. The sport known as stand up paddle boarding began to flourish shortly thereafter.
A few years prior, expert watermen Mike Takashi and Robert MacNamara combined a variety native Hawaiian paddling traditions like outrigger racing and long distance prone paddling with these new stand up paddleboards. Consequently, the boards took on a longer and sleeker profile with displacement shapes that sliced through the water and travelled much faster than their surf-oriented counterparts. Stand up paddleboard racing soon became a staple in the fastest growing water sport worldwide. Today, there are many professional paddleboard racing and surfing events around the world including the prestigious Molokai race where stand up paddlers traverse the thirty-two mile wide Ka’iwi Channel that runs between the islands of Molokai and Oahu.
Today stand up paddle boarding is enjoying a great expansion in participation from all varieties of athletes and recreationalists. It is very easy to learn and you don’t have to be athletically inclined or even in good physical shape to do it. It is very much a ‘go at your own pace’ sport because you are completely in control of every aspect of it.
It is also a great way to stay healthy in mind as well as body because you can do it anywhere there is water. Pick your favorite lake, beach, river, pond, harbor or cove and enjoy the scenery. Bring your dog and your fishing rod and enjoy the peace and quiet on a lazy summer evening or first thing in the morning. Stand up paddleboarding offers something for everyone whether you like to compete, surf, fish, fitness train or just take in the outdoors while you glide across the surface of the water enjoying life. The sport will undoubtedly grow from where it is now and the technology will keep advancing so finding the most awesome paddleboard for you that much easier.