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SUP history and evolution starts with a Hawaiian heritage. Today Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is an emerging global sport, but it can be traced back to the early days of Polynesia, and archaeological evidence shows this type of paddling is not a new phenomenon. Pictographs have shown ancient Hawaiians paddling a long board with a long paddle. This was probably a practical mode of transportation.

SUP history and evolution made its way into modern times by becoming an new form of surfing. Surfing instructors managed their students by standing on the board beyond the surf zone. Standing gave teachers a higher view point, thus increasing visibility & reaction time to ocean swells.

Today SUP is classified as a sport or leisure activity and has taken on many different forms including: 

  1. SUP Surfing 
  2. Flatwater Touring
  3. Fitness / Yoga
  4. Racing
  5. Whitewater

Due to the varying forms of stand up paddleboarding, many different shapes and sizes of SUP’s are being constructed today. Similar to kayaks and canoes, each board is designed with a particular function in mind. 

For example, shorter, lower volume boards with lots of rocker (curvature front to back) offer the quick maneuverability and handling needed for paddling surf conditions. A shorter paddle is also utilized when riding surf (i.e. 6” above head).

Accordingly, longer, narrower boards with a flat hull and streamlined nose & tail track better and paddle more efficiently in flatwater. As such, these types of boards are ideal for touring & racing and are paddled with a longer paddles (i.e. 8” above head).

Note: Hybrid boards exist as well and are a design that combines features found in surfing SUP’s with touring/racing SUP’s. 


Currently stand up paddleboarding is the fastest growing segment in paddlesports. It is also one of the fastest growing sports in the world! Below are a few reasons why SUP history and evolution led to the popularity of the sport here in North America:  

  • Easy Access – light weight on & off the car, almost any access point on & off the water), graceful simplicity and quick learning curve
  • Physical Benefits – strong core workout, which also integrates lower muscle groups like legs not activated during kayaking or canoeing 
  • Refined Balance – cross-over athletes are increasingly training with SUP to refine their balance points & stay in shape during the off-season of their preferred sport 
  • Paddling Experience – SUP’s higher vantage point enables the paddler to see deeper into the water for more of a visual 3-D experience
  • Versatility – Leisure paddlers enjoy the stable, user-friendliness as it provides a portable platform to swim, read, or sunbathe on as well as the different forms of stand up paddleboarding available

So let’s get out on the water to see, play, and learn some of the many benefits Stand Up Paddling (SUP) can offer YOU! Come visit on On-Water Paddlesports Centre and test paddle the SUP of your choice!

We hope you enjoyed this article. Should you have any suggestions or changes to improve it, please call 613.376.6220 or email

Come Paddle With Us! 

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