“Is paddle boarding a sport” is one of the top search terms on Google. Why? Well, perhaps people want to ensure they’re describing their new hobby correctly when discussing it with friends and family. You tell us.
In answer to the question, we’d say unequivocally yes. Without wanting to stir up the whole ‘what constitutes a sport?’ debate, Oxford Dictionary defines sport as "an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment".
Paddle boarding ticks all the boxes. Physical exertion? You certainly feel the burn after a few hours on a stand-up paddle board (SUP). Skill? It’s a skill to say upright! Competitive? The first thing anyone does after becoming comfortable on a paddle board is find someone to race against.
If you’ve got a little (or a big) competitive streak, you can indulge that side of you on your SUP. Here are four exciting ways to use your SUP, depending on how competitive you’re feeling:
1. Flatwater games
Some of the best games come from using a bit of imagination (well, technically they all do). There’s nothing stopping you from creating your own fun out on the water with your SUP.
We’ve seen it all out there, from dragon boat racing (put the nose of one sup up onto the tail of another SUP, creating a 'train' and then paddling in unison and in perfect coordination…hopefully) to a simple game of frisbee. Just check you’re keeping within navigation rules for the body of water you’re playing on.
2. SUP polo
SUP polo is a cross between stand-up paddle boarding, water polo and lacrosse, played on inflatable SUP boards with paddles. It is played on a sectioned-off area on flat water outdoors or you can play in a swimming pool. A bit of organisation is clearly needed, as well as five other keen paddle boarders (three on each team).
The ball is played using specially designed paddles with a scoop in them and players can only use their paddles to touch the ball and try to fire it in the net. It’s a short and highly entertaining game – just be prepared for lots of falling in!
3. SUP racing
SUP racing is divided into categories based on equipment, participant experience, age and race type. In other words, there’s a race for everyone. SUP racing is an adrenaline sport and one that has been taken up by more enthusiasts than any other form of paddling – you can readily see tens or hundred of competitors in a single race.
4. SUP surfing
Did you know that the sport of stand-up paddle boarding actually originated in Hawaii as an off shoot of traditional surfing?
It makes sense. Starting from a standing position and having the power of a paddle makes it easier to catch waves. But SUP surfing has its own unique challenges and skills to develop in order to become proficient. As a beginner to the sport, you should be mindful of big waves and riptide, Start in small (knee to waist high) surf and light wind days while you pick up skills and learn from other surfers. Most SUPs will be great fun in small waves but bigger waves might need a dedicated design and more skill so have fun out there, but don’t find yourself in a situation you’re not ready for.
We hope we’ve shown you there are more ways to use your SUP than just aimlessly drifting along the flatwater – although let’s be honest, that can be just the ticket on some days!
Get out there and create your own fun.