What started as a way for ancient cultures to fish and navigate waterways, modern SUP was pioneered by surfers in Hawaii and is now a high-adrenalin competitive sport. Competitions take place all over the world in locations ranging from California, Mexico, Florida, Perth and Spain, with shorter and longer races requiring different categories of boards. With surfing scheduled to appear in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it might not be long before we see SUP racing in the games too, with the Stand Up Paddle Athletes Association lobbying for its inclusion. Those with a more casual interest can simply rent a board for an afternoon or even try SUP-yoga. supathletes.com
‘Ready to Ride’ course
BSUPA Level 1
Learn the correct stance, technique, different types of turns and how to fall safely. The two-hour course typically costs from £30-£55.
‘Ready to Tour’
BSUPA Level 2
Get further paddling skills and details on how to plan your own adventures. A half- or full-day course costs between £60-£99.
‘Ready to Race’
BSUPA Level 2
Learn everything you need to know to enter your first race. A half- to full-day course costs from £75. bsupa.org.uk
Get the gear
Beginners keen to try the sport on flat water, surf, white water, rivers or lakes should buy a versatile Allround Inflatable Paddleboard. Prices start from £250, but a good quality board will cost between £699-£1,000.
Epic SUP events
Yukon River Quest, Alaska: Take part in a three-day endurance race involving wild camping, spotting grizzly bears and traversing a whopping 444 miles.
Red Bull Heavy Water, California: Watch the world’s best SUP athletes battle it out in San Francisco for an overall purse of $50k (£37k). It may be a mere 7.5-mile paddle but competitors can face surf as high as 10ft, huge swells and biting winds.
Nautic SUP Paris Crossing: Join hundreds of SUP athletes on a six-mile course on the River Seine, passing the French capital’s most iconic sights. There’s a longer race for the more advanced.
Published in the July/August 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)