SUPping by the Seaside

Voyager upon life’s sea:—
To yourself be true,
And whate’er your lot may be,
Paddle your own canoe.

Dr. Edward P. Philpots: Paddle your own Canoe; 1854
The 2020 Great Crossing.

Considering it is a relatively new water sport, stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP as it is colloquially known, has become extremely popular. In its current format (or more correctly, formats, as we will see shortly), SUP resurfaced in Hawaii (where else?) when big wave surfers started using paddles to help propel themselves into catching suitable waves. Used more often in smaller surf – these days the surfers use tow-in jet skis to catch the monster waves – paddling whilst standing on a surfboard became an art in itself. The longboards used by the big wave surfers were ideal, but specialised SUP boards were not long in being specifically developed.

Like all water-borne sports (with the exception of skiing, we must add), SUP has its roots in antiquity. It is not known exactly where and when paddlers started standing up in their boats and on their boards, but there are records of various forms of proto-SUPping (to coin a phrase) that date back 3000 years. Various iterations developed in Peru, Israel, Italy and China, amongst other places, and there is even a strong contention that Africa might have seen the earliest form of stand-up paddling. Mostly using river-based canoes, warriors would stand up and paddle – the better to see the enemy and approach stealthily. (In the northern hemisphere punting was the chosen method of propelling flat-bottomed boats – not particularly practical at sea, unless you have an extremely long pole.)

In Hawaii stand-up paddling on boards was practiced as long ago as the 16th century; a nation that lived and loved the ocean. The five metre boards they used were not designed primarily for pleasure: they were transport, and paddles helped immeasurably. As noted above, when surfing became popular, paddling was reintroduced as an art. SUP reached the surfing community in California in the early 2000’s, and here it took off in popularity. In 2013 it was the sport that had the most first-time participants in the USA, and a recent poll estimates that over two million Americans participate in the sport. In Israel, SUP has been used for practical purposes: lifeguards utilise specifically designed wide-boards for similar reasons to their early African counterparts – they can see further, and are already in the water and capable of reaching a troubled bather quickly.


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These days SUPping has taken on many forms, as we alluded to earlier. The wave-riders are still very active, but SUP can take its riders on many journeys. Touring has become very popular, and is practiced on the ocean and on inland lakes, dams and rivers. As a sport it appeals to people on many levels too; it is a superb way of creating and maintaining fitness, it is the perfect way to enjoy touring, it lends itself to fishing and other solitary ventures, and it can be extremely competitive. There is even SUP yoga in America! (Once again – where else?)

Boards come in various forms and materials.

Boards come in various forms and materials depending on their intended use. Most are built in the same way as surfboards, with moulded epoxy resin surrounding an expanded polystyrene foam centre, giving a board that is both lightweight and strong. There are inflatable boards available too; these are more portable than the epoxy boards and are more commonly used for leisure activities. Boards range in size and style too; obviously based on their intended purpose. From 2m carbon rockets to 4m touring boards, there is a SUP for everyone who loves being on the water. A highly recommended sport!

And by now you are probably wondering what this all has to do with Waterfront Charters. Good question; easy answer! We love SUP, and are involved in promoting the sport here in Cape Town. When taking a break from keeping things sailing smoothly, our Admirals can be found propelling boards across the Atlantic, keeping fit and keeping an eye on weather conditions.
Coming up shortly is the 2020 Great Crossing: an annual event when intrepid SUP fanatics paddle from Big Bay to Robben Island…and back. It’s an event that draws SUP riders from far and wide, and is renowned for it toughness and the camaraderie of a long-distance event. Waterfront Charters stunning motor catamaran Enigma will be following the paddlers as they push their way across the Bay; we will be carrying friends and family members of the paddlers as well as those who love SUPping but are unable to paddle on the day. That day, we might add, is flexible: due to weather, any Saturday between 22nd February and the 15th of March might be chosen; BOOK HERE to ensure your places. Weather conditions will be available on our website, making sure that guests don’t miss out.
SUPerb viewing is guaranteed!