SUP offers surfboard challenges, and more
By David Higgins
Stand- Up Paddle Touring and Surfing is the fastest growing water sport in America.
When an avid surfer goes out and buys a Stand Up Paddle (SUP) board because this year’s summer conditions on Okinawa did not provide many good waves to surf, it means something. SUP boards are great for flat water touring around Okinawa. There are some beautiful spots to SUP, and it’s wonderful to be able to see the ocean and get a different perspective from the usual snorkeling that is popular here.
For those who have no idea what a SUP is or have never seen one, a SUP is a large surfboard. It is about the same length as a long board, but the board is much thicker. Because of its buoyancy, in order to move there’s no need to lay on it like a typical surfboard. Instead, the rider simply stands up on it and uses a paddle.
One of the main reasons to buy a SUP is to use it for water touring. SUP touring on calm water isn’t very difficult, but even an avid surfer like, surfing waves on a SUP is quite the challenge. There is a big difference between being on a surfboard and surfing on a SUP because with holding a paddle, there’s a different standing position. In choppy wave conditions, when standing up on the SUP board means putting both feet forward until catching a wave, then jumping into the classic surfing position the wave is caught.
SUP is the fastest growing water sport in the United States. However, along with all the hype, some issues have surfaced. Unfortunately, SUPs are not welcomed with open arms in the surfing community. Surfers are known to be territorial about their surf breaks and, unfortunately, SUPs are interfering with the surfer-ocean equilibrium.
Because SUP boards are bigger than regular surfboards and need a paddle, they take up more space with the added danger of swinging the paddle around at a surfer’s head level. This is why SUP enthusiasts should keep their distance from surf breaks that are heavily crowded. Another reason for SUPs to keep away from crowded surf breaks is the space a SUP board takes up in the surfing lineup. Most surfers will line up waiting for waves, and a SUP board’s radius is simply too big to line up with other surfers.
Stand Up Paddle is one of the most enjoyable sports around. While go to the gym to get their workout, others take the SUP out to the beautiful Okinawan ocean and go paddling around, getting a workout in the fresh ocean air. One of the favorite parts of stand up paddling is when able to find some private, secluded waves and take the challenge to ride them. The learning curve is quick; The thrill of riding a wave often only takes a week or two of practice. This would usually take months of practice on a normal surfboard. Lucky for Okinawans, there are plenty of surf shops that rent SUPs or give lessons.