Last updated

Paddleboarding in Squaw Lakes, Oregon Squaw Lakes, OR (DSC 0160).jpg
Paddleboarding in Squaw Lakes, Oregon

Paddleboarding is a water sport in which participants are propelled by a swimming motion using their arms while lying or kneeling on a paddleboard or surfboard in the ocean or other body of water. [1] Paddleboarding is usually performed in the open ocean, with the participant paddling and surfing unbroken swells to cross between islands or journey from one coastal area to another.




A view of Karakokooa, in Owyhee by John Webber A view of Karakokooa, in Owyhee by John Webber.jpg
A view of Karakokooa, in Owyhee by John Webber

Ships Artist John Webber accompanied Captain James Cook to the Sandwich Islands in 1778, and in the lower left foreground of his 1781 engraving is depicted a paddleboarder/surfer.

Thomas Edward Blake

Thomas Edward Blake is credited as the pioneer in paddleboard construction in the early 1930s. [2]

While restoring historic Hawaiian boards in 1926 for the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Blake built a replica of the previously ignored olo surfboard ridden by ancient Hawaiian aliʻi (kings). He lightened his redwood replica (olo were traditionally made from wiliwili wood) by drilling it full of holes, which he then covered, thus creating the first hollow board, which led to creation of the modern paddleboard. Two years later, using this same 16 ft (4.9 m), 120 lb (54 kg) board, Blake won the Pacific Coast Surfriding Championship, first Mainland event integrating both surfing and paddling. Blake then returned to Hawaii to break virtually every established paddling record available, setting 12 mi (800 m) and 100 yd (91 m) records that stood until 1955.

In 1932, using his drastically modified chambered hollow board, now weighing roughly 60 lb (27 kg), which over the next decade he would tirelessly promote as a lifeguarding rescue tool, Blake out-paddled top California watermen Pete Peterson and Wally Burton in the first Mainland to Catalina crossing race—29 mi (47 km) in 5 hours, 53 minutes. During the 1930s, Blake-influenced hollow boards (called “cigar boards” by reporters and later “kook boxes” by surfers) would be used in roughly equal proportion to solid plank boards for both paddling and surfing until the new Hot Curl boards led wave-riding in a new direction. For paddleboarding, however, the basic principles of Blake's 1926 design remain relevant even today.


Paddleboarding experienced a renaissance in the early 1980s after Los Angeles County lifeguard Rabbi Norm Shifren's “Waterman Race”—22 mi (35 km) from Point Dume to Malibu—inspired surf journalist Craig Lockwood to begin production on a high-quality stock paddleboard—known as the "Waterman." Its design, which has arguably won more races than any other stock paddleboard, remains a popular choice today.

Shortly after, L.A, surfboard shaper Joe Bark and San Diego shaper Mike Eaton began production, and soon with Brian Szymanski's North County Paddleboards (NCP) became three of the largest U.S. paddleboard makers, eventually producing nearly half of the estimated 3–400 paddleboards made each year in the U.S. today.

L.A. lifeguards Gibby Gibson and Buddy Bohn revived the Catalina Classic event in 1982 for a field of 10 competitors. Concurrently in Hawaii, the annual Independence Day Paddleboard Race from Sunset to Waimea was drawing a few hundred competitors, many using surfboards due to lack of proper paddleboards on the Islands. As paddlers began ordering boards from the Mainland, local surfboard shapers like Dennis Pang (now one of Hawaii's largest paddleboard makers) moved quickly to fill the local niche. On both fronts, paddleboarding has been consistently gaining momentum and popularity.

In 1996 the sport of paddleboarding was making a comeback. Once the domain of only dedicated watermen and big wave riders in the 1950s and 60s, the sport found a new set of acolytes on the North Shore of Oahu and in Honolulu at the Outrigger Canoe Club. At that time Hawaii's top paddler was Dawson Jones. After completing the 32 mi (51 km) Catalina Classic, from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach, Jones returned to Hawaii inspired to establish a race across the Ka’iwi Channel. In 1997, the race that is now known as the Paddleboard World Championships was born. The race sells out with both prone and stand up paddleboarders (SUP) from around the world who compete in solo and team divisions.


Paddleboarding may be added to the Olympics and the Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide whether it is represented by the International Surfing Association or the International Canoe Federation. [3]


Paddleboards are divided by length into three classes: Stock, 14 Foot, and Unlimited. Stock boards are 12 ft (3.7 m) long, and best for paddlers around 180 lb (82 kg) or less. Stock boards are easy to accelerate and fast in choppy water. But with their short waterline, they lack the calm water top speed of 14 feet or Unlimited boards.

14-foot class boards are arguably the best all-around board. At 14 ft (4.3 m) in length, they combine many of the best characteristics of stock boards with nearly the calm water speed of Unlimited boards. Only about half of all races have a 14-foot class.

Unlimited boards are the fastest boards afloat. Their speed comes from their long waterline and this also gives them a longer glide per stroke. Though usually 17 to 18 ft (5.2 to 5.5 m) long, the class is defined as "anything that floats" and boards over 20 ft (6.1 m) have been built. They can be difficult to handle in choppy water and their length makes them harder to transport and store. Modern Unlimited boards have rudders that are steered by a tiller between the paddler's feet.

There is an additional board class, the 10' 6". These boards are not used in the long ocean races that are run with the Stock, 14 Foot, and Unlimited boards, but are used in surf and sprint races. 10' 6" class boards are known by several names: Ten-Six, Sprint Board, Surf Racer, or Racing Mal.

Paddleboarding can also be done on various pieces of equipment, including surfboards. Paddleboards are made of fiberglass, epoxy, and/or carbon fiber. An emerging paddleboard technology is constructing them from epoxy surfboard, which is stronger and lighter than traditional fiberglass. The cost of new boards ranges from $1,500 to $3,500 for custom boards. Used boards that have been well kept are in high demand and can be sold fairly easily on paddleboard listing websites.

Vessel registration fees

Some locations are starting to charge registration or other access fees for paddleboard use on public waterways. [4]

Notable events

Notable paddleboarders

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duke Kahanamoku</span> Hawaiian swimmer, surfer and actor

Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku was a Hawaiian competition swimmer who popularized the sport of surfing. A Native Hawaiian, he was born to a minor noble family less than three years before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. He lived to see the territory's admission as a state, and became a United States citizen. He was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, winning medals in 1912, 1920 and 1924.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Surfing</span> Sport of riding waves

Surfing is a surface water sport in which an individual, a surfer, uses a board to ride on the forward section, or face, of a moving wave of water, which usually carries the surfer towards the shore. Waves suitable for surfing are primarily found on ocean shores, but can also be found in standing waves in the open ocean, in lakes, in rivers in the form of a tidal bore, or in wave pools.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Surfboard</span> Platform board used in the sport of surfing

A surfboard is a narrow plank used in surfing. Surfboards are relatively light, but are strong enough to support an individual standing on them while riding an ocean wave. They were invented in ancient Hawaii, where they were known as papa he'e nalu in the Hawaiian language, and were usually made of wood from local trees, such as koa. They were often over 460 cm (15 ft) in length and extremely heavy. Major advances over the years include the addition of one or more fins (skegs) on the bottom rear of the board to improve directional stability, and numerous improvements in materials and shape.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laird Hamilton</span> American big-wave surfer

Laird John Hamilton, né Zerfas, is an American big-wave surfer, co-inventor of tow-in surfing, and an occasional fashion and action-sports model and actor. He is married to Gabrielle Reece, a former professional volleyball player, television personality, and model.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Big wave surfing</span> Surfing waves at least 20 ft high

Big wave surfing is a discipline within surfing in which experienced surfers paddle into, or are towed into, waves which are at least 20 feet high, on surf boards known as "guns" or towboards. Sizes of the board needed to successfully surf these waves vary by the size of the wave as well as the technique the surfer uses to reach the wave. A larger, longer board allows a rider to paddle fast enough to catch the wave and has the advantage of being more stable, but it also limits maneuverability and surfing speed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Waveski</span>

The Waveski, previously known as the "Paddle Ski” is a surfboard where the rider 'sits' on top of the surfboard. Waveski surfing is a dynamic sport combining paddle power with the manoeuvrability and performance of a surfboard. A Waveski resembles a larger volume surfboard, with the addition of a hollowed out seat with seat belt, foot straps and double ended paddle enabling the rider to remain attached to the board for maneuvers and to 'Eskimo roll' if overturned. The waveski rider or surfer uses a double-ended paddle while seated. To turn the rider uses his weight to lean on the side rails and paddle to pivot or propel the board up the wave. The sport is categorized under the International Canoe Federation. The discipline holds biennial World championship events, the next of which will be held at the Nahoon Reef, outside the town of East London, South Africa.

Greg Noll was an American pioneer of big wave surfing and a prominent longboard shaper. Nicknamed "Da Bull" by Phil Edwards in reference to his physique and way of charging down the face of a wave, he was on the U.S. lifeguard team that introduced Malibu boards to Australia around the time of the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. He produced a "legendary" series of five Search for Surf films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Surf ski</span> Light boat that is paddled

A surfski is a type of kayak in the kayaking "family" of paddling craft. It is generally the longest of all kayaks and is a performance oriented kayak designed for speed on open water, most commonly the ocean, although it is well suited to all bodies of water and recreational paddling.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of surfing</span>

The riding of waves has likely existed since humans began swimming in the ocean. In this sense, bodysurfing is the oldest type of wave-catching. Undoubtedly ancient sailors learned how to ride wave energy on many styles of early boats. Archaeological evidence even suggests that ancient cultures of Peru surfed on reed watercraft for fishing and recreation up to five thousand years ago. However, standing up on what is now called a surfboard is a relatively recent innovation developed by the Polynesians. The influences for modern surfing can be directly traced to the surfers of pre-contact Hawaii.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Surfboard shaper</span>

A surfboard shaper is someone who designs and builds surfboards. The process of surfboard shaping has evolved over the years, and the shaper often tailors his or her work to meet the requirements of a client or a certain wave. Surfboard shapers can be independent or work in collaboration with mass-production companies.

Woodbridge "Woody" Parker Brown (1912–2008) was an American surfer and watercraft designer best known for inventing the modern catamaran. He was also instrumental in promoting the growth of surfing in the mainland United States; among his accomplishment in surfboard shaping was an early fin design.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Standup paddleboarding</span> Water sport

Standup paddleboarding (SUP) is a water sport born from surfing with modern roots in Hawaii. Standup paddleboarders stand on boards that are floating on the water and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water. The sport was documented in a 2013 report that identified it as the outdoor sporting activity with the most first-time participants in the United States that year. Variations include flat water paddling, racing, surfing, whitewater SUP, yoga, and fishing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alaia</span> Surfboard used in pre-20th century Hawaii

An alaia is a thin, round-nosed, square-tailed surfboard ridden in pre-20th century Hawaii. The boards were about 200 to 350 cm long, weighed up to 50 kg (100 lb), and generally made from the wood of the Koa Tree. They are distinct from modern surfboards in that they have no ventral fins, and instead rely on the sharpness of the edges to hold the board in the face of the wave.

Thomas Michael O'Shaughnessy Jr. is a member of the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame, a paddleboarder, surfer, adventurer, real estate agent and philanthropist. He is currently living in Ponce Inlet, Florida.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andrea Moller</span> Brazilian-American canoeist and surfer

Andrea Moller is a Brazilian-American competitive canoeist and surfer. She competes in every outrigger race large event, from one-man (OC1) to six-man (OC6) canoes as well as SUP long-distance races all year round. She is a professional Paramedic and mother, on Maui where she lives.

Roray Kam is a surfer, a multiple-time winner of longboard surfing competitions and an early participant in stand up paddle boarding in South Florida. He is a surfing coach and the founder of RK Ocean Gear, and in 2013 resides in Fort Lauderdale, FL and works for the Broward County Sherriff's Office. Kam has hosted a number of Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) events and races.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Surfing in the United States</span>

Surfing in the United States is a popular hobby in coastal areas, and more recently due to the invention of wave pools, inland regions of the country. It contributes to a lifestyle and culture in which millions participate and which millions more have an interest. USA surfing is the governing body for the sport of surfing in the United States, with surf leagues such as the World Surf League available in the country. Surfing can be traced back to 17th Century Hawaii and has evolved over time into the professional sport it is today, with surfing being included for the first time in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Blake (surfer)</span> American surfer and inventor (1902–1994)

Thomas Edward Blake was an American athlete, inventor, and writer, widely considered to be one of the most influential surfers in history, and a key figure in transforming surfing from a regional Hawaiian specialty to a nationally popular sport. Assessing Blake's significance, sociologist Kristin Lawler wrote that

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Olo board</span>

The Olo, Olo board or Olo surfboard is a traditional long Hawaiian surfboard that was used by Hawaiian Chieftains for surfing. The Olo surfboard was the largest out of the three types of traditional surfboards that were used by the Hawaiian people. The Olo is twice as long as the modern surfing longboard, measuring up to 5.18 metres (17.0 ft) long, 16.5 inches wide and nearly 6 inches thick. The board was more than 76.20 kilograms (168.0 lb) and was used for surfing large waves and even tsunamis, the boards were strictly meant for Hawaiian Chieftains and Kings.


  1. Go Paddleboarding!. Capstone. August 2022. ISBN   9781666345780.
  2. "1930s Era Hollow-core Surfboards & Paddleboards; Thomas Edward Blake: March 8, 1902 - May 5, 1994". Vintage Wooden Surfboards. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  3. Mathier, Victor (June 16, 2017). "Let's Settle This in Court: What, Exactly, Is Stand-Up Paddleboarding?". The New York Times . Retrieved June 16, 2017.
  4. Oregonian/OregonLive, Jamie Hale | The (January 3, 2020). "Kayakers, paddle boarders face new Oregon fee in 2020". oregonlive. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  5. "Fastest crossing of the English Channel by paddleboard". July 18, 2006.
  6. Howard, Jake (August 2011). "The Other Guy With 10". ESPN. Retrieved August 1, 2011.