The Chine bLog family is back from a tropical vacation to Puerto Rico. While there, I did get my paddle on: I finally explored the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) phenomenon. No photos exist, this by fortune, not by design. There was a strong breeze and the water was choppy. My windsurfing experience served me somewhat from a balance standpoint, but it was definitely a “first outing” performance. I enjoyed it, made a little progress, and fulfilled a long-overdue need to try this paddling form.
So, what do I think? I don’t see myself rushing out to add a paddleboard to my fleet. The skills and body motions required are unique, and there is no doubt you get a different workout than in a canoe or kayak. I like to take in the surroundings and explore while I paddle, though, and, while there is no doubt one could use a paddleboard in this way, it feels like these craft require more concentration on balance and such than I would care to devote.
It is clear that stand-up paddleboarding is the latest thing in recreational small boating, getting some of the mass-audience buzz that kayaks did 15 years or so ago. If paddleboards continue to be a big piece of the paddling establishment, I would be completely fine with it. From a holier-than-thou, natural-power-purist standpoint, paddleboards are absolutely legit, especially if the lot is liberally sprinkled with non-plastic offerings like Chesapeake Light Craft’s Kaholo. Many people can and should have fun with them, and I hope they do.
This said, though, I expect stand-up paddleboarding to be like windsurfing, not like kayaking. Windsurfing got huge buzz in the 80s and then tapered when many recreational users found the sport too hard to do routinely. Kayaking came on because of its simplicity, particularly with beamy recreational designs. You still see a good bit of kayaking rental traffic because the kayak form is genius in allowing someone to cover some distance without having to get too distracted from the surroundings. I think stand-up paddleboarding will prove to be too hard for the average recreational user to enjoy over a longer term, and this wave will crest and the sport will be left to a smaller number of core enthusiasts. We’ll see what happens, I guess.