Robert Stehlik of Blue Planet Surf gives us a brief lesson into the history of stand up paddling, how it originated and where it is today.
Robert Stehlik of Blue Planet:
There are many examples of paddling in a standing position and it seems to come naturally. In this video, I’ll go over some of the earliest recorded records of humans standing up while paddling, a short history of SUP surfing in Hawaii, also know as Beach Boy Surfing, and how modern stand up paddleboarding and SUP surfing has become so popular worldwide.
Fishermen in Peru and Ecuador used reed rafts for fishing and for going in and out through the surf around 3000 years ago.
Hasake were used in Israel with records dating back to the roman empire and are basically big SUP’s with a two sided paddle. Hasake are still used by lifeguards in Israel today.
There are also many native tribes that paddled standing up in dugout canoes.
SUP Surfing was known as Beach Boy surfing. The culture emerged in Waikiki when first hotels opened. The most famous beach boy was Duke Kahanamoku- he introduced surfing to California in 1912 and to Australia in 1914, known as fastest swimmer alive with 2 gold medals in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920 and many world records in swimming. Duke was known to surf standing up on a long board, using a long paddle.
In the 1940, John “Zap” Zapotocky started used a big longboard and custom made wood paddles to surf in Waikiki until he was 91 and saw his sport boom.
Pops Ah Choy was a Waikiki beach boy well known for standing up surfing with a hard hat while taking photos of visitors surfing the rolling waves.
Ron “Canoe” Drummond surfed a canoe standing up with a paddle in Dana Point, California.
More recently, Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama picked up paddles and stood up on big longboards during an Oxbow photoshoot which started the moden area of Stand Up Paddleboarding and its global popularity today.
In 2003 Brian Keaulana added “Beach Boy Surfing” division to the Buffalo Big Board contest at Makaha and the sport started growing rapidly.
I was lucky enough to be involved in distributing the C4 Waterman boards, some of the first SUP’s available to buy which was around 2007. I was coached in SUP surfing and downwinding technique by early pioneers and C4 Waterman founders Dave Parmenter, Todd Bradley, and Brian Keaulana. The early explosive growth of the sport had leveled off before the pandemic but then blew up again during the pandemic as a safe way to get exercise while being socially distanced.
More SUP History trivia: The Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard Word Championship Race added a Stand Up Paddleboard division in 2006. Kevin Horgan won the race in 7:23:14. Travis Grant set the current M2O SUP solo record time of 3:59:52
In 2017, Gerry Lopez and Rainbow Sandals organised the first “Battle of the Paddle” race in 2008 with a $25,000 prize purse. The maximum board length was 12’6, which created a new category of boards.
These were the top 3 finishers of the first BOP;
1) Chuck Patterson
2) Thiebert Lucia
3) Aaron Napoleon
1) Jenny Kalmbach
2) Candice Appleby
3) Morgan Hoesterey
As of 2021, the global market for Stand Up Paddleboard gear is estimated at $1.4 Billion, growing at 10% annually, with the top 5 brands controlling a market share of about 15%.