Stand up paddle surfing and stand up paddle boarding (SUP), (Hoe he'e nalu in the Hawaiian language) are sports originating in Hawaii as an off-shoot of surfing.They enable surfers to paddle farther into the ocean than is typical or to paddle standing up as a sport unto itself. It can be traced back to the very early days of Polynesia. It's most recent history dates back to the 1940's when the beachboys (surf instructors) on Waikiki beach used to stand up and paddle out to the break using a one bladed paddle. The reasons for this are two fold. First it allowed them to have a better visibility over their group of surfing instructors and allowed them to call the sets easier as their upright position meant that they could see the swell long before the prone surfers. Secondly it allowed them to keep their wealthy customer's camera dry and allow them to take pictures of them surfing. As time moved on board designs and fashions changed, the paddle was all but lost in the history of surfing. A few surfers in Waikiki continued to use a paddle but they were very much in the minority.
Fast forward to the first part of this century and the paddle made a return to surfing in the hands of some of the world's most famous watermen. They were re discovering stand up paddle boarding to allow them to keep in shape for the bigger days of tow surfing as well as adding a new dimension to their skills. Standing up and paddling out through the waves is a totally new experience, most of us are more used to lying down and ducking under the waves.
A 2013 report called it the outdoor sporting activity with the most first-time participants of any in the United States that year. Paddlers race on lakes, large rivers and canals, ride breaking waves, and glide over long distances along sea coasts, often using tail winds to aid the trip.
Modern technologies have allowed the boards to come down a lot in weight and modern understanding of board design has allowed the large boards to be maneuvered easily on the waves and on the flat water for cruising. Carbon paddles cut weight and increased board speed and suddenly Stand Up Paddle boarding has been reborn.
Here in New Zealand we can also draw a cultural reference to stand up paddle boarding. Ancient Maori and Pacific legends say Hawaii is the birthplace of Maui, and Aotearoa is where Maui died. Modern SUP traces its roots to Hawaii and Tahiti, where our Pacific Ancestors were using the paddle hundreds of years ago, and just as Aotearoa, Tahiti and Hawaii share the same legends, so too do we share the paddle. Traditionally in NZ the Maori waka ama paddle is shorter and used while seated in a waka (canoe), but the stroke and style are similar, and many of our strongest SUPers have been paddling the waka ama for years.
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