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Stand Up Paddle Boarding

When it comes to paddling sports – kayaking, outrigger canoeing and SUP – Hawai‘i reigns supreme.

Presented by November 20, 2015

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Stand Up Paddle Boarding

In just a decade, stand up paddle boarding (also called SUP) has shot to popularity. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, SUP had the most first-time participants of any outdoor sporting activity in the country. Why are so many people willing to give SUP a try? Two reasons: It’s simple to learn, and, you can go in stages. Kneel on the board until you feel comfortable standing up, for example, and stand up and paddle around on flat, calm water until you feel comfortable flirting with some waves. World-class-level SUP athletes ride giant, 40-foot waves, so the sport really can scale up or down depending on skill.

Stand up paddle boarding was seen in Waikīkī as far back as the 1940s, when the beach boys there would use paddles while surfing, to help them teach their clients and take photos of their vacationing charges. But the concept didn’t really catch on until the early 2000s, when big-wave surfers like Laird Hamilton and Brian Keaulana began using it as an off-season training exercise to build up core strength. By 2003, a SUP category was added to a popular surfing competition held at O‘ahu’s Makaha Beach, and images from that contest quickly spread, bringing word of the new sport to a global audience.

Hawai‘i has all the right ingredients for you to try SUP for the first time, or, to hone your skills: warm water, picturesque places to paddle, experienced instructors, and a variety of water conditions, from flat rivers to wave action. Good spots to SUP include O‘ahu’s North Shore; Kapalua Bay and Makena on Maui; Hilo Bay on Hawai‘i Island; and Hanalei Bay on Kaua‘i.

Sidebar: Paddling To Watch Whales

December through April is whale season, when an estimated 10,000 North Pacific humpback whales visit the warm waters of Hawai‘i to mate and have their offspring. Imagine yourself seeing these gentle giants at sea level, being right along with them in their natural habitat. Paddle sports are an ideal way to watch whales as they surface, slap their tails, and if you’re really lucky, do an acrobatic breach out of the water. (For your protection and that of the whales, stay at least 100 yards from a whale once you spot one.) Adults surface every 10 to 15 minutes for air, and calves come up every 3 to 5 minutes. The whale season peaks from January to March, and the whales tend to congregate around Maui.

Sidebar: Paddling Is Great Exercise

Go ahead, have that mai tai and fried musubi, because…

  • SUP torches about 615 calories an hour
  • Outrigger canoe paddling burns through 400 calories an hour
  • Kayaking burns 342 calories per hour.