Stand-up paddling in midst of popular boom


This article was originally published by the Honolulu Advertiser –

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

A year ago, there were 40 entries in a stand-up paddle surfing contest at Kuhio Beach, and almost all of them were professional surfers or experienced watermen.

At this week’s C4 Waterman/Honolua Surf Stand-Up Paddle Surfing contest at Kuhio Beach, there were more than 80 entries, including women, children and experienced businessmen.

“I’m not surprised at all, to be honest,” said Todd Bradley, one of the founders of the C4 Waterman company. “From the start, everybody we turned on to the sport got hooked. So to see all these kids and women and newcomers to the sport … I think it’s just the beginning.”

Stand-up paddling — also known as SUP — is the latest craze in ocean sports. It combines the basic elements of two sports: canoe paddling and longboard surfing.

Tom Holbrook, an executive vice president for Quiksilver, came from California to enter this week’s contest.

“I equate this to the early years of snowboarding,” said Holbrook, 56. “When it first came out, it was sort of this curiosity, and then it kept growing and growing. I see the same potential for (SUP).”

Jennifer Koki of Honolulu grew up longboard surfing, but recently started spending most of her free time on an SUP board.

“The first time I tried it, I stopped because it was so hard,” she said. “But I tried it again, and now I love it. You can paddle for long distances, and it’s a super good workout.”

Maui’s Tiare Lawrence was one of the first females to try SUP surfing. She paddles outrigger canoes and surfs, but said workouts on her SUP board are more effective.

“The fitness aspect is so rewarding,” she said. “When you go surfing, you’re lying down most of the time. With this, you’re standing up the whole time, so you work two times more muscles than surfing.”

At last year’s SUP contest at Waikiki, Lawrence had to enter against the men. This week, she competed in all-female heats.

“I’d like to see even more girls come out and try,” she said. “There are so many benefits. I hope one day we can have a contest with all women.”

What’s more, SUP boards can be used for paddle training or surf training. When the waves are flat, many competitors take the SUP board out for long paddles. When the waves are up, the competitors like to paddle into the surf.

“You can have as much fun paddling out as you do catching waves,” Holbrook said.

Bradley, Brian Keaulana and Mike Fox founded the C4 Waterman company in 2006. At the time, it was the only company that focused on the sport of SUP.

“The popularity has spawned many other companies to get involved,” Bradley said. “Some were already in business and added (SUP). Others started from scratch. We feel good that we’ve been able to drive the sport like that.”

Bradley’s two sons, 18-year-old Christian and 16-year-old Brendan, have become avid practitioners of SUP surfing. Brendan said the SUP sessions have helped him become a better shortboard surfer.

“It really helps your maneuverability,” he said. “At first, it’s tough to get the balance on a (SUP board). You have to get used to it. It’s very different from surfing. Not in the way you surf, but in the way you catch waves. But once you get it, it’s really fun, and I think it helps you become a better surfer.”

Chris Martin of Hawai’i Kai started SUP surfing last year. He said he likes the versatility of SUP boards.

“You can start in one place and just paddle around,” he said. “Then if you see waves over at the next spot, you can just paddle over and surf.”

Martin said he envisions a day when SUP boards become more popular than longboards.

“I think kids, once they start trying it, they’ll like it more than longboarding,” he said. “It’s just fun because you’re up on your feet the whole time and you can see so much more.”

One of the hurdles is the cost. A new SUP board and paddle can range between $1,000 and $2,500.

“It’s not a cheap thing to get into,” Martin said. “But you have to do your homework. The sport is growing, so there’s more manufacturers out there.”

The veterans of the sport also are cautious about it becoming too popular. Todd Bradley, for example, said people should probably not start SUP surfing without some previous experience in regular surfing.

“It can be dangerous,” he said. “You don’t want to put people who may know nothing about surfing into the waves. They might not know the etiquette and respect that comes with it.”

The final day of the C4/Honolua Surf Stand-Up Paddle Surfing contest is scheduled to run tomorrow at Kuhio Beach. There will be heats in professional, women, amateur and junior divisions.

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