I’ve been stand-up paddling boarding for a few years now, but this summer I transitioned from a casual enthusiast to SUP addict. It began with an upgrade to a longer all-around touring (inflatable) board that was more stable than my first board. The Pacific Northwest contains hundreds of potential paddling destinations, and Portland being the city of bridges, there are lots of great options to get out after work close by.
As I was rehabbing from a cycling whiplash injury, I began to log more water miles while exploring many of the great local SUP destinations. Then the YouTube deep dive began, which in a matter of weeks had me dedicated to finally taking the time to learn proper skills and technique. This eventually led to the acquisition of a 3rd SUP, and my first hardboard. Like mountain biking, there’s a board optimized for every paddle experience, and once you’re hooked, it’s easy to acquire a quiver of boards as the N+1 rule applies to SUP as much as it does to bikes.
If you’ve been considering getting a SUP, here are five reasons you should dive straight in:
1. Standup paddleboarding is an ideal summer activity to beat the heat
This summer during the heatwave, the thought of getting on a bike when it was roasting outside sounded horrible. Playing in the water is ideal when it’s hot out, and even better, as residents of Portland, Oregon, AKA the “river city”, water is an easily accessible form of recreation. As opposed to mountain biking, which barely exists inside of city limits.
2. SUP is the perfect post-ride and cross-training activity
We have a lack of accessible mountain bike trails in Portland, which means driving a minimum of two hours (out and back) to reach quality singletrack. As regular riders, that drive adds up in the cost of fuel, not to mention our carbon footprint. If you’re already in the mountains, why not make a day or weekend of it?
Even if you’re already spent from a big ride, paddling can be a relaxing way to spend a day — or work muscle groups cycling doesn’t address. Done properly, you’ll be utilizing your shoulders, arm, back, and core — muscles less utilized on the bike, but equally important to keep conditioned for overall fitness.
3. iSUPs are easy to store and relatively inexpensive
iSUPs, AKA inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards, are relatively small and easy to store when rolled up and packed in a bag. Not only are they easy to bring along on trips, but compared to the cost of a performance mountain bike, quite inexpensive. You can get into the sport with a quality budget iSUP package starting around $500. (One of our favorite options is the Nautical series from iRocker)
4. Accessible for all levels of fitness and athleticism
The best aspect of stand-up paddleboarding is it’s for everyone, regardless of your fitness and level of athletic prowess. Plus the options for deciding the day’s adventure are always open.
Maybe you just want to paddle out to the island to lie in the sun with some friends and drink some beverages. Or you’re looking to get your paddle on, log some miles and get some exercise. There’s no reason you can’t do both in one day, which is why it has become one of our favorite post MTB ride activities this summer.
One piece of advice for beginners still working on their balance — paddleboards are best enjoyed standing up. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending the day kneeling; you do you! But if you prefer to sit or kneel, consider looking at boards that are compatible with a SUP Kayak Conversion Kit. A kayak blade attachment would be a good option as well, which will be more efficient in a kneeling or seated position. One of the reasons I purchased an iRocker SUP was the versatility of having a sit-on-top Kayak option for windy days in rough water.
Also worth noting is paying attention to the width of the board. If you’re interested in SUP yoga, or just want more stability, a wider board is better. (conversely, if you want to go faster, a longer narrower is better) Popular All-around iSUP models are typically 10’6″ to 11′ in length and 32″ wide. Boards optimized for SUP Yoga are easier to stand on and balance thanks to wider boards that are often as wide as 35″.
5. Standup Paddle boarding is a great social activity with an amazing community around it
Here in Portland, we have a robust SUP community with several local Facebook groups based in the area. My personal favorite is SUP PDX. The Facebook group is now over 4k strong, and is a valuable resource for those new to the sport, or looking to meet new activity partners. One of the members of the group created an amazing resource in the form of www.supmap.org, an interactive map of SUP destinations. (I’m also quite fond of the GoPaddle app for discovering new spots to try out)
Best of all, the group hosts an after-work happy hour paddle every week that is a great way to meet and socialize with like-minded enthusiasts. If you’re a SUP fan ready to take your paddling to the next level, the core group of regulars is extremely friendly, and everyone is always happy and willing to let you try their boards. The best part is it’s easy to move up to the next level, with a robust network of used boards.