Stand Up Paddle Surfing is an ancient form of surfing. 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 2 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 customers 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 surfing 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.
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. Carbon paddles cut weight and increase board speed and suddenly Stand Up Paddle Surfing has been reborn.
But is it new? Well no., its antecedents date back several millennia. Well before the emergence of the western religions and even before the development written languages. Cave paintings are all we have to go on but they show stick figures standing and sitting on what can only be logs -- later to be hollowed out with hot coals from a fire -- propelling themselves with some sort of sticks -- later to be developed into oars. So oars, paddles if you like, have a very long and distinguished history in the affairs of mankind Just note, if you will, 1) that there are more oar and paddle disciplines than there are sailing disciplines in the Olympics, 2) there are more oar powered boats sold every year than sailboats and 3) romance is more easily accommodated in a rowboat than in any sailing dingy, large or small.
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.
Now, onto the stage of maritime history strides the humble paddle held by an all too human paddler, both standing on and using distant relatives of that log and stick I mentioned above. Where will he take this new sport? An easy guess is that -- like its sister sports, skiing, snowboarding and windsurfing -- it will quickly morph into three or more sub-disciplines, each having its own more-or-less distinctive paddle and board design. Already there are point-to-point, course racing and wave events. Those will take care of themselves with or without my help. But the discipline I would find most fulfilling is the one that inspired the Serenity. Distant but still close to land; absorbed in how the waves work with board and the board with the waves; utterly lost in one's thoughts. Brief moments like these are.....well..... you know, priceless.Svein Rasmussen, Starboard Founder
Kicking off with a gruelling 25km downwind challenge, then knockout SUP slalom racing on Sunday, this hardcore endurance event will see New Zealand’s elite paddlers battling it out on the Waitemata next weekend for the coveted double King of the Harbour and NZ SUP Champion crown.Read more