There has been a real surge in the popularity of stand up paddle boarding in the last few years. The sport has become more and more popular in Cornwall and perhaps nowhere more so than in Newquay.
With some talented local SUP-ers and shapers based in the town, the sport has gone from strength to strength. For some, this is a wonderful thing to see happening, but for others (including many shortboarders) it’s viewed with some cynicism.
As more and more people enter the line up to practice their new hobby on giant boards, can the shortboards and those on ‘big boards’ really live in harmony?
Accused of wave hogging and being a potential danger to other surfers, stand up paddle boarding is not without its critics. But where have all the SUP-ers come from? Have people really traded in their longboards for something bigger…have windsurfers traded in their sails for a paddle…or is it just people ‘giving it a go’?
Whatever the reason, stand up paddle boarding is certainly on the up. So whether you love it or hate it, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to SUP-ing…here are the NewquaySurfer arguments, for and against.
For Stand Up Paddle Boarding
1) Its harder than it looks
I’ve heard plenty of surfers moaning about stand up paddle boarding on the basis that its too easy to catch waves and therefore it’s a lesser sport than surfing. Having tried it a few times it’s not really that easy…it is genuinely harder than it looks.
2) Laird Hamilton says its cool… so it’s cool
Big wave legend Laird Hamilton is a massive advocate of stand up paddle boarding. There are plenty of impressive videos of Laird charging heavy surf on SUPs posted on the web. But Laird doesn’t limit his SUP fun for the bigger days either – whether it’s 20ft Jaws or a flat Hawaiian lagoon, Laird will SUP it.
It’s not uncommon to see pictures of Laird with his wife and the kids all stand up paddle boarding to the shops on Maui.
So, if Laird thinks its cool…it’s cool!
3) Stand up paddle boarding is cutting-edge
SUP-ing is a new sport, so those taking part and spreading the word are early adopters. By definition this makes stand up paddle boarders quite cutting edge if you think about it.
4) Its healthy – SUP-ing keeps you fit and strong
Carrying an SUP to the beach is a workout in itself – the boards are insanely heavy. If you’ve never tried paddling into a wave on an SUP, then just try carrying one!
Some of the models do have a carry handle that makes them a little easier to transport but its still no walk in the park. To make matters slightly worse, if your learning on an SUP you’ll probably need the biggest size.
If you’ve never thought about driving your car right onto the beach and mowing down a load of tourists so you can stop 5 metres from the waters edge…you will now.
5) It’s a lesser evil than kayaks, windsurfers or kite–surfers
Surfers stop whinging, its better than 10 kayakers in the line up. There are still relatively few people in the water who SUP and its closer to the art of surfing than a number of other sports that require less skill, effort and commitment. Anyway…is SUP-ing really that different from longboarding?
6) You can surf more often and have more fun
SUP-ing allows people to surf waves in all conditions. It’s pretty undisputed that even on small days you can have fun on an SUP. When shortboarders are grovelling for waves and sinking into the sea, the SUP-er can leave their frustrations behind and tear up small waves like there’s no tomorrow.
7) You can carry on enjoying surfing, even when you are older
You won’t be in your twenties, surfing every day and sporting 6 pack abs forever. So for those who can’t get in the water as much, or for folks who are getting older (with their shortboarding days closing behind them) SUP-ing is a great way to carry on surfing and to enjoy the ocean.
Against Stand Up Paddle Boarding
1) Stand up paddle boarders have a tendency to wave hog
Lets face it, even very gifted shortboarders will struggle to get onto waves anywhere near as early as those on stand up paddle boards. There is a feeling amongst many shortboard surfers that stand up paddle boarders hog waves and often ignore surfing etiquette.
2) Just because Laird Hamilton does it, doesn’t make it cool
Laird Hamilton may not be your role model anyway…and after all he hydrofoils too, and you don’t do that….though it sort of looks like fun.
3) Stand up paddle boarding is an old mans sport that won’t get you laid
Stand up paddle boarding tends to score low in the cool stakes and this is partly to do with its image as a middle-aged pastime. Lets face it, your never going to look that cool riding knee high waves with a small boat under your feet holding an oar. And collapsing on the way to the beach underneath a 15-stone SUP probably won’t wow many members of the opposite sex either.
4) SUP-ing is less skilful than shortboarding and longboarding
SUP-ers paddle with an oar, stand on top of a small boat of a board and most can’t turn or carve on a wave. Elegant and edgy SUP-ing is not!
5) It’s an expensive hobby only for the well-off
A new SUP will cost roughly twice as much as a new shortboard. This tends to align the sport with other yuppy-elite past times such as windsurfing, golf and ascot. Added to the fact that you need something roughly the size of a bus to transport one around, it’s probably time to take that job in the city you’ve always avoided…yet another dagger into surfing’s hippy dream.
6) SUP-ers are hijacking surf spots
More than a handful of SUP-ers on a break and it ruins it for everyone else. If you travel a fair bit overseas, you will have probably seen certain breaks now totally dominated by stand up paddle boarders. The situation has got so bad in some spots that it is virtually impossible to surf a shortboard – even if conditions are hollow, barrelling and perfect for shortboarding.
7) Major health concerns: Get hit by an SUP and it might kill you!
This is a major objection by virtually everyone else stood in front of a SUP-er heading towards shore. Whilst the same could be said of a longboard or epoxy mal, stand up paddle boards are perhaps one of the most dangerous objects you could have coming right at you in the surf. This is made worse by the fact that some SUP-ers don’t wear ankle or knee leashes in the ocean.
When the surf goes overhead accidents can happen and the sight of stray SUPs smashing up people and their surfboards is sadly becoming more and more common.
So what do you think? Is stand up paddle boarding a great invention and a fun new form of surfing? Or is it the spawn of the devil and something you loathe to see in the water?
Let us know in the comments below!