Stand Up Paddleboarding

15:00 August 31, 2015

By now I will venture to say that everyone has seen a standup paddleboard. They are the surfboard-like vessels easy to use for recreational pursuits or heart-thumping, race-to-the-end adrenaline junkies. Most likely you have seen a slightly inebriated father fall off of one at the beach in front of his family. Standup paddling (SUP) has risen at an astounding place, and not just in typically surfing capitals like Hawaii or California. Now, anywhere there is water, there is SUP. For New Orleans, the summer heat, a typical time for outdoor pursuits in other areas, make long paddles and days on the water very hard. Fall time and winter are perfect for SUP in New Orleans.

First off, why SUP? Because who doesn’t want to disguise their day outside drinking beer and having fun with friends as “healthy,” that’s why. Civilizations have been standing on boards and using paddles for thousands of years, but America’s own Laird Hamilton, a king among mere mortals, repurposed the vessel and made it into the pastime we have today. SUP targets all of the muscles in the body and is beneficial for men and women. Women, engineered to have a stronger bottom half of their body, must use the ‘Top T’ of their frame and will build excellent core strength and definition in the arms. Men, with stronger upper body strength, will have to utilize their core and legs and stay on the board while using their back and shoulders. It’s an all over workout and designed for easier cardio impact. Not to mention, the repetitive motions of SUP, coupled with the exposure to nature, combine to create a therapeutic experience.

It’s easy for beginners and experts alike to paddle on the same waters, but with different motives and on different boards. The wider and longer a board is, the more stable it will be. Bote (out of Fort Walton, FL) has a board called the Ahab, perfect for fishing and adventures. Once you strap a cooler to the back you can be pulling in redfish, grouper, and anything else you can find. Most fishing/adventure boards will be 14’ long and 35” wide to create a super balanced ride, especially for the bigger boys riding them. One board not to scoff at is the inflatable, which is gathering a lot of respect in the industry. Their ability to roll up and store easily/travel with, plus automatic pumps for easy inflation, makes these boards some of the best. Boardworks has a great selection of different types.

Now, in the heat of summer it’s difficult to get outdoors. Then as fall approaches, most people in New Orleans find it hard to put down the gumbo, step away from the Saints game shenanigans and venture outside when the temperatures start to drop. Honestly, I have the same problem. Colder weather here can mean harsh wind and very humid cold air. I used to use this excuse until I started seeing people SUP in Scotland and Finland. There are even sporting events which place riders in ice-cold river water to surf rapids. SUP isn’t just for the tropical beaches (although who wouldn’t choose that first). Wiggle into a wetsuit or just layer on windproof clothing and you can paddle from the middle of Saints season to after March Madness. People rarely fall in the water, and with the placid water of Bayou St. John there is rarely a chance of getting wet at all.

Although buying your own gear can be expensive, like most recreational activities, New Orleans luckily has a few places to rent gear. Nola Paddleboards, Muddy Water, and Bayou Paddlesports all have SUP boards to rent and/or purchase if you get the itch to pursue it full-time.

SUP has gained popularity and from that it will begin to splinter into a variety of different forms. Even Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, paddles for an hour a day in Delaware before venturing into work. No matter what type of water activity is your style SUP has an answer. Now, with summer winding down into the milder days of fall it will be a great time to get out and try to paddle. Even as the days shorten, companies such as Nocqua make it easy to stay afloat at night.

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