The History of Paddle Boarding - 8 Crazy History Facts You Probably Didn't Know About SUP Boarding

The History of Paddle Boarding - 8 Crazy History Facts You Probably Didn't Know About SUP Boarding

Hello Students. Welcome to SUP History 101.

This is a crash-course in the history of one of the world’s most popular modern sports- Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Now, most of you probably assume SUP board history began in the recent era. And in terms of the the diverse, multi-disciplinary sport we know today, you would not technically be wrong. Contemporary SUP has only been developed over the last 2 decades or so.

However, for thousands of years, spanning the entire globe, humans throughout history have use the method of stand-up paddle boarding for a vast array of purposes.

So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Class, open your SUP Textbooks to chapter 1...

CHAPTER ONE: ANCIENT SUP BOARDING

The Original Gangsters of SUP

Image source: fitocean.com

In the anthropological sense, SUP boarding is not a new idea. In Fact, the human drive to stand on two legs is what evolutionarily sets us apart. Traveling  across bodies of water while standing upright is in our DNA, and has provided the human race with a more efficient way to hunt, explore, fight, and have fun. Modern SUP boarding taps into our inner prehistoric nature.

Let’s review some interesting and historical SUP facts about its earliest known forms...

*DID YOU KNOW THERE WAS SUP BOARDING IN THE BIBLE?

Image Source: sundevilserviceandsupply.com

SUP boarding has literally been taken to Biblical proportions! One of the most important stores in the Old Testament began with a SUP board.

When Moses was spotted floating in the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter, Queen Bithia, in 1275 BC, she was floating on a watercraft which she stood up on to gain a better view of the tiny baby stuck the reeds.

*DID YOU KNOW PEOPLE WERE SUP BOARDING IN PERU 3,000 YEARS AGO?

Image source: andina.com.pe

Even 3,000 years ago humans were taking a stand on water. Peruvian fishermen were some of the earliest known stand up paddlers. The watercrafts they used were made of reeds and moved through the pacific surf using a bamboo paddle. The vessel was called a Caballitos de Totora. This translates to “little horse made of reed”- as steering the wily, little craft was akin to riding horseback.

The paddle they used was a double ended, split, bamboo shaft, not unlike a modern kayak paddle. When paddling out, they would straddle the reeds like a horse.  But it was on the way back to shore when the real SUP fun would begin...

The ancient fishermen of Peru not only used these Caballitos de Totora for fishing, they also enjoyed it much like surfers do today. As they would paddle towards land they would use the waves to propel them back. It is believed the more skilled boatmen would stand and steer using their paddles, perhaps to show off, or just for fun. Even the earliest of SUP users knew how to enjoy themselves.

*DID YOU KNOW THERE WAS A TYPE OF SUP USED IN ISRAEL OVER 800 YEARS AGO? AND IT’S STILL USED TODAY!

image source: commons.wikimedia.org

The Middle Eastern SUP board roots date all the way back to 800 AD -1300 AD with the Hasake boat. For thousands of years, throughout the waters of the Persian Gulf, Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Sea of Galilee, fishing has been the lifeblood of the people. The exact birthplace of the Hasake boat is unknown, but it is believed its contribution to the nautical world came about during the Islamic Renaissance.

The ancient Hasake boats had very similar dimensions to the modern day SUP, and like most small water vessels was used for fishing. Though the Hasak has found a different use today.

To this day you can still find a significant amount of Hasakes in Tel Aviv, Israel, being used for all kinds of purposes. Though some are used for leisure or fishing , the Hasake has become the primary rescue device for the Tel Aviv lifeguard. Proving again how versatile SUP boards can be.

Looking for a versatile board of your own? Our all around boards are inspired by thousands of years of human innovation!

CHAPTER 2: POLYNESIAN ROOTS

Hawaii We Still SUP Today

SUP boarding has roots across the globe, over thousands of years. However, ask any avid SUP surfer where modern SUP first took off and they will tell you it’s undeniably the Hawaiian islands.

Let’s review some interesting facts about Hawaii’s contributions to SUP Boarding…

*DID YOU KNOW HAWAIIAN PEOPLE STOOD UP ON BOARDS AS BIG AS 5 METERS LONG?

The first outsider encounter with native Hawaiian surfing traditions was European Captain James Cook in 1788. He witnesses the villagers riding the waves on carved Koa tree boards. The chief of the village always had the largest board, sometimes reaching as much as 5 meters long (that’s over 16 feet!). Due to the weight and size of the boards, it was necessary to use a paddle.

*DID YOU KNOW SURF SCHOOL, CAR WRECKS AND CIGARETTES ALL CONTRIBUTED TO THE EARLY DAYS OF SUP SURFING IN HAWAII?

image source: johnpopsahchoy.webs.com

Fast forward to Hawaii in the 1940’s, during the advent of surf culture, on the island of Waikiki. When famed surf instructors Duke Kahanamoku and the AhChoy brothers were teaching beginners to surf, they would bring paddles out with them. In order to better view their students, and incoming swells, they would often stand and use the paddle to steer between them.

Bobby AhChoy had extra motives for using the surfboard as a SUP. After a car wreck left him unable to kneel or swim, he was able to join his brothers on the water by stand up paddling. And, as it’s told, he also claimed standing up allowed him to keep his cigarettes dry while riding the waves.

*DID YOU KNOW  JOHN ZAPOTOCKY, THE FATHER OF MODERN SUP SURFING, RODE THE SAME WAVES IN HAWAII FOR 60 YEARS?

image source: sup magazine

John Zapotock is considered the father of modern stand up surfing. He first moved to Hawaii in the 1940’s and instantly became inspired by Duke Kahanamoku and the AhChoy brothers on their stand-up boards. John was one of the few outsiders to become an icon amongst the original beach boys. So much so- they gave him the nickname “Pearl Diver”.

John Zapotock rode the waves of Waikik on a SUP board for six decades. For 60 years he would grabs his board and paddle from the same rack he kept them on the majority of his lifetime until he died at 95. He was truly a living SUP legend.

We have Polynesian inspired boards for when you want to ride the waves like the original beach boys of Waikiki!

CHAPTER 3: CALIFORNIA SUP

It All Goes Back to Cali

Image source: supracer.com

Hawaii was the epicenter for modern SUP and SUP Surfing in the mid 1900’s. However, surf culture later in the century began to grow stale, elitist, and commercialized- stuck in the beach boy days of the 1960’s. It was the SUP boarding scene in California that breathed new life into board based watersports come the 2000’s.

There were several dudes in California who helped pioneer SUP boarding into the modern version we know today. Let’s review a few interesting facts about these guys...

*DID YOU KNOW WE HAVE RICK THOMAS TO THANK FOR THE THRIVING SUP COMMUNITY?

Image source:magzter.com

One of the most integral figures in SUP history has to be Rick Thomas. He introduced the sport to the West Coast and defined the spirit of today’s SUP community. Rick Thomas’s refreshingly upbeat mentality helped SUP boarding thrive on new shores when he brought SUP boarding from Hawaii to San Diego in 2004. His foresight and passion for the sport was the genesis of SUP boarding in America.

Infact, San Diego surf icon, former owner of Mission Surf, Bob Long once said he believed any SUP boarder in California is 6 degrees of separation from Rick Thomas.

*DID YOU KNOW LAIRD HAMILTON RODE A SUP IN A HURRICANE?! (DO NOT TRY THIS)

Image source: lairdhamilton.com

Moving up the coast to Malibu, Laird Hamilton, another hero of SUP boarding, was making waves in the SUP community as well. Famous for his daring big-wave surfing and good looks, he also became a champion for SUP Surfing. Though he gained a some flack from surfing purists, he believed SUP was a return to the original Hawaiian traditions.

In 2014 Hurricane Marie caused swells off the Southern California Coast so immense Laird couldn’t resist. So, he decided to take on the triple overhead waves outside his Malibu home with a SUP board- making headlines and breaking records.

Though you should not SUP in a hurricane, these Heavy Duty boards will take on the toughest of waves!

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