Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP): Mind-Body Experience

What’s SUP? 

No, I’m not talking about what you’re doing right now. I’m talking about Stand Up Paddleboarding aka SUP, the water sport that has taken the world by storm.

Despite its recent meteoric rise to become America’s fastest-growing water sport, SUP is not all that new.

The earliest documented example of Stand Up Paddleboarding was Duke Kahanamoku in 1939, and since then, Stand-Up Paddleboarding continued to evolve. Through the 1960s the “Beach Boys of Waikiki” would stand up on their longboards to photograph tourists who were learning to surf, and before long SUP breached the mainland. It continued to grow in popularity among beach communities throughout California and now has penetrated the U.S. east coast shoreline, rivers, bays, lakes, and ponds.

As Stand-Up Paddleboarding spread, so too have the types of SUP. Personally, I am a flat water guy who enjoys touring around the Potomac River with Balance Paddleboarding.  But, there are a lot of folks out there that have adapted SUP to racing, white-water, and yoga. Unlike traditional surfing where the rider waits for waves, stand up paddleboarders maintain their standing position and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water. Fortunately, between the necessary balance to stand, core workout from the paddling, and water, it’s a great mind-body experience.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re nervous about your balance before getting in the water, strengthen your core and back muscles through planks, side planks, and even dolphin poses to target your shoulders, arms, and upper back. Even a little attention towards these types of exercises will help you to be more secure on the board. Another great gym workout to simulate SUP is standing on the Bosu ball with the rounded part towards the floor. It may be a little scary at first while your central nervous system (CNS) wakes up to activate the necessary muscles to allow you to balance. Don’t be surprised if you experience involuntary shifting side to side while standing on it. Though it will feel strange as your body finds its new equilibrium, don’t hop off. After a little bit of practice, you will be able to do air squats atop the Bosu ball, and once those are too easy, try pistol squats.

With all that being said, one of the reasons Stand Up Paddleboarding is so popular is its accessibility. Even if you have been inactive lately, you’ll find that your body will adapt quickly.

Get Up, Stand Up

Once you are ready, mount your board and stand up straight with your feet in a wide, evenly-spaced stance. Your weight should be relatively centered on the board as youl maintain an upright position with your back straight. Then, maintaining this posture, you will paddle a few strokes on one side to then switch to the other if you feel you are turning. That’s it!

It doesn’t sound like much, and to watch someone do it, it doesn’t look like much. But the magic is what is going on within your body. The work behind SUP is all isometric and resistance. Your legs and your core muscles are working at all times to keep you balanced on your board. At first, you will feel it. Your body is working many large and small muscles to hold you upright and stabilize you, as you and your board move over the water. These movements are not favoring left or right, front or back, but working your whole body evenly.

Like any other outdoor activity stand up paddleboarding deserves respect and attention, as it challenges you both physically and mentally. The more you delve into this rich world and the more you become aware of its intricacies, the more fulfilling it will become for you and your friends.


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