What's SUP? Intro to Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Though its history dates back to the 1960’s surfing era, stand up paddle boarding is definitely an emerging sport in the Great Lakes region.   Also called “SUP”, stand up paddle boarding simply involves a surfer using a paddle to move through the water while standing on an extra-long, buoyant surfboard.

They say it’s the fastest growing water activity because it allows for a wide range of athletic types and ages to participate. This is definitely true!  People of all ages, shape, size and skill level can enjoy time on the water on paddle board.  My husband and I tried SUP for the first time on our honeymoon last year on St. John.  It was slower paced than our typical adventures, but we had a really fun time, enjoyed the amazing view (saw a bunch of sea turtles and sting rays) and actually got a great core workout. If you have not yet tried SUP, I definitely recommend adding it to your summer to-do list!        


If you don't have access to a paddle board, there are multitudes of shops that have them for rent.  I did a Google search for “rent paddle board Michigan” and literally got 100,000 results.  Any surf shop and most places that rent kayaks will also have SUP gear. Ask them about larger boards for beginners and also see if you can get a quick lesson. 


You can really wear whatever you'd like - shorts, t-shirt, swimsuit, a hat.  However, the essentials are a life jacket and sunscreen. There’s a good possibility that you’ll wind up in the water, but if we’re optimistic then you’ll stay relatively dry and exposed to the sun for a long time. Protect your skin with a waterproof, full spectrum sunscreen.  Wearing a life jacket is a really good idea - even if you’re a strong swimmer.  You may be moving relatively slow, but if you were to slip off the board and hit your head, the life jacket will keep you afloat.   


When we were in St. John we buddied up to the water sports guru at our camp. He gave us some really helpful tips.  When you first climb on your board, spend a few minutes riding on your knees to get a feel for the water. Once you've got the hang of it and can stay afloat easily, it’s time to start paddling.  While you’re in motion, slowly stand up. It’s actually easier to stand up when the board is moving than at a standstill.

Once you’re up, keep your knees soft and shoulders relaxed.  Successful paddle boarding requires balance – which comes from the muscles in your core.  Make sure you’re recruiting the muscles in your midsection and not just relying on your arms and legs to do the work.  Take nice, long smooth strokes on each side of the board, relax and enjoy the ride!  

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