WhatSUP?

Yoga? You’ve been saying ‘OHM’ long before trendydesigner yoga bags became fashionable. Bosu Balls? Ditto. You’ve been bouncingand balancing on that blue dome way before it became the next ‘it’ piece offitness equipment. Such a trend setter would surely know what’s up with SUP.

Stand up paddle surfing, or SUP, may well be thebiggest thing to stir up the waters since Jaws’ famous fins rippled the water.Stand up paddle surfing, or stand up paddle boarding, or beach boy surfing, orby any other name, is causing quite a hooplah in the water world.

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SUP, as with surfing, originated in the waters of Alohaback in the 1940s, where beach boys and other legendary surfers began standingup on the boards and paddling to keep a better eye out on their flock of surfstudents, and to snap photos of their first rides. The big, heavy boards backthen kept the sport from growing, but a few dedicated beach boys kept onpaddling.

Fast forward a few decades where modern technologyshrank the size and weight of everything from cell phones to computers, even thesurf board underwent a makeover, or as you could say, a make-under. Thesubtraction of weight from the boards and paddles, and the addition of speedand maneuverability proved to be a winning equation for the sport. Especiallyin the last few years, SUP has really gained momentum and popularity, throughsurf star Laird Hamilton, and contests sponsored by big names such asQuicksilver and Red Bull.

Jim Brewer, a local SUP enthusiast, has watched thesport grow in Santa Barbara over the last three years. An avid surfer hiswhole life, Brewer first tried SUP through a friend. From the moment he stoodup on his board, he knew the waves would never be the same.

“A few years ago, stand up paddling wasn’t popular.There were very few people doing it, and all the surf shops thought it was afad. But I knew it would be big,” said Brewer. And big is exactly what SUP isbecoming. Especially on the small Santa Barbara waves.

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“The conditions here are great for paddle surfing,” Brewerexplains. “With a paddle, you can catch the waves earlier than if you weresurfing. So with a paddle board, you can ride even the small waves you wouldn’tbe able to on a surf board.” This should be great news for Santa Barbara surfers.”With SUP, you can surf all year round.” No more waiting till winter for greatsurf.

And no more need for wetsuits either. Because you arestanding up on a board that is bigger, thicker, and wider than regularsurfboards, there is no need to protect yourself from the bone chilling watersof Santa Barbara. And since paddling can work up a good sweat, especially onwarmer days, the option of not having to wear a wetsuit is a welcome one.

According to Brewer, a lot of people first start standup paddle surfing because it’s great exercise. “It’s a good cross trainingmethod. The paddling movement starts from the core, so you get a full coreworkout.” SUP also does wonders for improving your balance and coordination,and training your legs for strength. “With SUP, you don’t have to jump up fromthe board every time you want to catch a wave, so people who normally couldn’tsurf can still enjoy riding waves with SUP,” he explains. That makes SUP a funactivity for the whole family. “I couldnever convince my wife to go surfing with me, but now she loves to paddle surf.In fact, she’ll even go out on her own without me!” laughs Brewer. “And my kidslove it too.”

While many may start paddle surfing for its exercisevalue, they quickly learn it can offer a lot more than a workout session. SUPcan be described as “Yoga on Water,” TM a meditative dance at thewater’s edge[1].Brewer sees paddle surfing as meditation with your eyes open, and feels a deepsense of calm as he breathes and relaxes on the board while paddling into thevast horizon. It is the sense of connection with the body, the mind, and thewater, that keeps bringing people back to paddle surfing. Especially here inSanta Barbara, where we are blessed with a beautiful coastline, paddle surfingoffers the perfect opportunity to get intimate with its serenity.

SUP can offer tranquil meditation sessions on thewater, not only on the waves of the Pacific Ocean, but on the surface of lakesas well. For the adrenaline junkies out there, there are SUP races down theColorado River, speeding among the gushing white waters. And for the extremethrill seekers, SUP can be kicked up quite a few notches on the notoriouslymonstrous waves of Maverick, Pipeline, and Jaws. SUP is a versatile sport thatcan fulfill the excitement needs of just about everyone.

With such a wide appeal, it’s no wonder SUP is fastbecoming a major water sport. For local residents who can’t wait to experienceSUP, many surf shops now sell paddle boards and gear. Brewer has opened a store entirely dedicated to stand up paddle surfing, called Blueline Stand Up Paddle Surfing , and will offer rentals aswell as lessons for those who would rather not brave the waters alone.

The gorgeous summer weather and the long, sunny daysmake for a perfect time to give stand up paddle surfing a shot. Try it out andbrag to your friends about all the waves you caught, right in the middle ofsummer. And you’ll have bragging rights forever for being on the frontline ofan exciting new water sport. Ready, set, paddle!

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