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What’s SUP? New craze has arrived

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Stand-up paddling has seen a surge in popularity from its birthplace in Hawaii to places around the globe.
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A crowd of stand-up paddlers competed in a recent event.

Just add water.

Any kine … ocean, river, lake, stream.

It’s part of what makes one of the fastest growing recreation—and competitive—sports so attractive. Stand-up paddling doesn’t need decent surf or much experience on the water to be enjoyed.

SUP has taken off from its birthplace of Hawaii and rode a global wave. One knows its gone mainstream when boards and paddles are being sold at Costco.

While hard-core surfers are not exactly stoked about SUPpers dropping in on their waves, a number of veteran watermen are embracing it.

"The first time I saw them was when I was out (surfing) at Makaha," said Greg Pavao, who’ll be teaming with Nolan Keaulana in the SUP relay division of Sunday’s Molokai2Oahu Paddleboard World Championship. "I saw a few stand-ups hogging the waves and I was really against it.

"Then I decided to try it out, got on a 14-foot raceboard and got hooked. Twenty-four hours later, I was one of the (SUP) guys getting yelled at."

It has become a popular cross-training option for outrigger canoe paddlers, who are familiar with paddling grips and using core muscles to propel the canoe forward.

"Like one of my coaches used to tell me, ‘Use your naao, your core, to pull the boat, not the blade," said Terry Galpin, who’s been surfing for some 40 years. "It’s a great workout and it’s so effortless, you don’t realize you’re working out … until the next morning when it’s, ‘Auwe.’

"I’m not surprised it’s taken off. Anybody and everybody can do it, as long as you have a body of water. I remember the first time I was on one, about five years ago in Kaneohe Bay, and feeling I had found God. I was able to work out on my own terms and do something different than what I was so used to doing."


A list of a few businesses that offer SUP lessons, rentals, etc.:

» Hawaiian Ocean Adventures 247-3559; HawaiianOceanAdventures.com
» C4 Waterman 739-2837; c4waterman.com
» Naish Hawaii 262-6068; Naish.com
» Surf n Sea 1-800-899-7873; surfnsea.com
» RainbowWaterSports.com 1-800-470-4964


» Standuppaddlesurf.net
» Standuppaddlemagazine.com

Galpin is involved with Hawaiian Ocean Adventures, which is located near Kualoa Regional Park and offers Hawaiian sailing canoe and canoe paddling experiences for locals and visitors. SUP is a small portion of the business, but "people are thrilled," she said, "especially those who don’t live here. It’s something they did in Hawaii and can do back home."

Recreational SUPers say they enjoy taking leisurely tours of coastlines where there isn’t a beach access, as well as having almost a glass-bottom-boat view of marine life. It’s literally a balancing act, with spills a part of the experience.

"It’s making the water accessible to a lot of people who maybe wouldn’t go out in it, might be intimidated by a surfboard or even a kayak," Nakoa Prejean, the owner of Hawaiian Ocean Adventures, said. "Or maybe they’ve already done those things and they’re looking for another way to be out in the water."

SUP manufacturers have already anticipated that market with an inflatable. The iSUP is made with the same materials in military/commercial-grade inflatable boats and are especially attractive for people in apartments, or without transportation, or who would like to take an SUP on an airplane without the worries of damage.

"We can’t keep them in stock," C4 Waterman’s Liam Wilmott said. "We get them in and they’re gone."

The emerging SUP industry has incredible potential for growth. Besides the iSUP ($1,100-$1,125), paddles are continually being re-designed ($210-$525), some now able to be broken down into three pieces for travel ease ($270).

SUP boards are selling for as low as $469 (Costco, includes paddle) to $2,500 and up for serious racing.

As the sport continues to grow in popularity, so it does in visibility. SUP divisions are being added to more competitions, such as the Teva Mountain Games in Colorado and this week’s China Uemura’s Longboard Classic. Last weekend’s Haleiwa Arts Festival had an SUP competition for the first time.

"It’s huge and it’s only going to continue to grow," Prejean said. "Most people pick it up pretty quickly and you don’t have to be a crazy athlete to be able to do it."


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