An Unsurprising SUPrising

Later this month we publish The Paddleboard Bible, just in time for spring and the gradual relaxing of Covid restrictions as we head towards the summer. In this blog, author Dave Price explores how a niche pastime a couple of decades ago has become the fastest-growing watersport, even before it became the ideal staycation activity last year.

2020 saw an explosion on our coasts and inland waters, a massive boom in stand-up paddleboarding (known as SUP), which is a combination of surfing and canoeing. The lockdown-induced desire to break free, aided by a beautiful sunny late spring, led to this cocktail of watersports bubbling up to much greater popularity, with individuals, families and small social groups taking the plunge. With every man, woman, and in some cases their dogs, embarking on SUP trips, safety is a significant concern.

As this spring begins it is vital that paddlers understand the role of flows, tides and different weathers. In some ways ‘Suppers’ may feel less at risk than kayakers, with not being trapped from the hips down. However, wind will have more effect on a paddleboarder, particularly when standing. Fortunately help is at hand! The Paddleboard Bible, being a complete guide to the activity, explains all the considerations necessary to plan a safe outing and many more things besides.

How long has SUP been going and where did it originate?

Many cultures and parts of the world could claim to have come up with the idea of paddling small canoe-like craft in a standing position. Much of the credit for originating the sport goes to Hawaii. It is believed that as early as the 16th century paddles were used with large surf boards. In the 1950s Hawaiian ‘Beach Boy’ surf instructors began paddling with surfboards to see swells earlier and to photograph their clients. In 1995 top surfers there began ‘Supping’ as a form of training and had paddles specially made. Around a decade later production paddleboards became available and SUP was diversifying from surfing into racing, touring, river paddles, yoga and fishing.

During the last ten years paddleboarding became the world’s fastest growing watersport, but last year took this to a much higher level. From leading brands like Red Paddle Company to budget-friendly boards at Decathlon, sales saw an increase of over 400% on the previous year. This is despite a growth in the number of brands. The explosion in inflatable boards (particularly but not literally) is also due to the ease with which they can be stored and transported, making SUP one of the most accessible watersports. The Paddleboard Bible has a chapter to help you choose the right equipment for your needs.

Why the sudden surge?

With more ‘staycations’, more time off work for some and less to spend money on for others, Supping became a source of joy in a challenging year.

Paddling is a great way to socially distance. Unlike walking or cycling, you’re not limited to tracks. You have the freedom to take your own path. Obviously steering helps and the book explains all the techniques you need! The air feels particularly fresh on the water and sunlight lowers the chances of virus transmission as well as providing valuable vitamin D. If you take a tumble, a refreshing dip will stimulate your immune system. The book has tips to help you avoid falling along with many games and challenges that could have the opposite effect, though laughter is the best medicine.

The benefits of ‘blue space’

Mental health has been in the forefront of people’s minds during lockdowns. Supping is particularly good for helping with this. ‘Blue space’ has become a term referring to the calming effects of water. Simply lying on a gently rocking board is wonderfully relaxing. A few minutes paddling on a river can wash your worries downstream. The physical side works off the frustrations of the day while communing with nature massages the deeper reaches of your emotional well-being.

SUP yoga is extremely popular. Yoga teachers sometimes suggest imagining a beautiful beach or lake. With SUP yoga you might not need to. Like yoga, SUP is particularly good for strengthening your core, realigning your spine and stabilising the muscles around problem areas like knees. The combination of the two activities is particularly beneficial and challenging! The Paddleboard Bible features SUP yoga but also more adrenalin fuelled branches of the sport including SUP surfing, racing and even white water.

Put the fizz in your physique

SUP is brilliant for physical health too, being a great all-round workout against the resistance of the water. You’ll feel and look your healthiest. For this reason it is very popular amongst celebrities such as actors and singers. Fortunately you don’t have to be famous to embrace this accessible sport. You’re not only in good company, you’re part of an inclusive, life-enriching, rapidly growing and undeflatable club! There are many local groups you can join too and the book’s final chapter describes the flourishing social side.

So it’s like walking on water; it’s a miracle cure for bad backs, dodgy knees and stress; sadly it can’t turn water into wine but it is pleasantly addictive and sociable and The Paddleboard Bible is your essential guide to enjoying it to the full!

The Paddleboard Bible (9781472981479) is published on 18th March, RRP £18.99. You can pre-order it with a 10% discount direct from our website here: