What is Stand Up Paddle or SUP?

An aquatic sport where you stand up on a buoyant longboard and use a paddle to glide over water. Stand up paddle boarding or "SUP" is a popular sport all over the world as it tests your balance and skill in a fun session on the water. There are many places to stand up paddle in India as well as the sport grows through the surfing communities along the coastline.

Where did Stand Up Paddle Originate?

The origins of stand up paddle boarding probably date back to the 1700s undoubtedly rooted in historical Polynesian watercraft. Over the years these vessels used for fishing, hunting, and commute evolved into the modern-day recreational stand-up paddleboard. With advances in technology, the stand-up paddleboard is lighter, faster, and more portable than ever before. It is easy to buy a stand-up paddleboard and paddle at sports outlets in India.

An interesting fact is that fishermen in remote villages use bundled up styrofoam wrapped in fishing nets to create a vessel pretty similar to the modern-day SUP. This image from the coastal village of Pirapanvalasai in the Palkbay, Tamil Nadu (near Rameswaram Island) shows how the traditional fishermen use a DIY paddleboard to lay their nets or jig for squid!

What is the Stand-Up Paddleboard made off? 

Historically SUP's were made out of wood and evolved from that to modern foam core fiberglass epoxy or even carbon fiber composites. The most popular and portable SUP's are now inflatable and made out of variations of PVC or Hypalon fabric which are drop stitched between layers to maintain rigidity under high pressure. Yes! You can now roll up your SUP and carry it on your back to the beach, pump it up using a high-pressure hand pump and you're ready for a session on the water. A great example of a modern-day inflatable stand up paddleboard is the X500 touring inflatable stand up paddleboard paired with the 100 Adjustable paddlesspiral safety leash, and a double-action pump

Where can you Learn to do Stand Up Paddle Boarding in India?

There are many surf schools in India that offer stand up paddleboarding lessons. Besides the surf schools, there are independent instructors who teach the sport in rivers and lakes as well. As a beginner looking for stand up paddleboarding lessons in India we would highly recommend learning on flat water with an experienced Internationals Surfing Association - ISA certified instructor ideally working at a school that is a member of the Surfing Federation of India for a quality experience. Most SUP schools in India will have an introductory stand-up paddle course called the Discover SUP program where you can get your first experience with the sport in safe conditions.

Photo by Rammohan Paranjpe

Jehan Driver, ISA Flatwater SUP instructor and course director at Quest Adventure Sports Academy has developed structured training programs and quality standards for outdoor education in India. Having paddled extensively across the subcontinent with his stand up paddle he recommends a few awesome places to learn and practice stand up paddle boarding in India where facilities are available to learn the stand-up paddle, as well as rent, stand up paddle equipment in India.

  1. Rameswaram Island, Tamil Nadu
  2. Shambhavi River, Karnataka
  3. Kollidam River, Tamil Nadu
  4. Backwaters of Goa
  5. Backwaters of Marakkanam, Tamil Nadu
Through his experience paddling in different locations across the country, Jehan Driver developed tips to offer beginners starting their journey with stand up paddle boarding in India. 

5 tips for Stand Up Paddle Boarding in India for Beginners

To have a great first experience with stand up paddle boarding make sure you choose a school based in a location offering flat water conditions. This could be in the ocean or on a lake where the water is calm and still giving you a chance to gain balance and confidence with a SUP.

  1. Get Geared Up

For a comfortable first-time experience with stand up paddle make sure you have the following personal gear organized before you hit the water.

  1. Get the Safety Briefing

Make sure your instructor explains all the safety gear and protocols to you before you enter the water. This should include how to wear a personal floatation device (PFD), put on a safety leash, how to use a whistle, a brief about the location, and your route. It is important to follow these instructions throughout your experience to keep it safe and fun for everyone. Never enter the water without your PFD, whistle, and safety leash.

  1. Start Slow

Do not get frustrated if you are unable to gain balance right away. For most, it takes a few tries before you are able to stand up on the board and paddle in a direction you want. Keep trying and surely you will be able to go pro with the help of your instructor.

  1. Learn the Turn

It is important you learn how to turn early during your session. In case you happen to go in another direction you will be able to point your board towards the group. Turning is easy but skill derived so be patient and keep practicing.

  1. Get Familiar with the Equipment

Just like a good pair of shoes all gear needs to be run in. Your body and skill level will adapt to the gear, so in the beginning, start with a large buoyant board - the X500 touring inflatable stand up paddleboard is a good example. A large board will help you gain confidence and soon you will be able to SUP on any type of board. Try a variety of paddle lengths till you are comfortable - ask your instructor to assist you with this. A paddle-like 100 Adjustable paddles can be customized to suit your height.

So now that you know a little bit more about stand up paddle, take the first step, and sign up for a Discover SUP program at your local stand up paddle school. It will be addictive and you will soon want to have your own SUP kit. When you are ready to invest, always get yourself the safety gear first (PFD, Whistle, Hydration, First Aid Kit, Sun protection, booties, clothing) and then go for an inflatable paddleboard, adjustable paddle, pump, and safety leash. You can improve your level by signing up for recreational stand-up paddle lessons levels 1, 2, and 3 - where you become an independent paddler and are able to plan and execute your own SUP trips. There's a lot that goes into planning your own sessions and trips like weather forecasting, meteorology, navigation, local laws, gear maintenance, and troubleshooting, etc. so do not skip on the education. See you on the water soon! 
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