From the lakes of Wisconsin to the coast of Lima, Peru, stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP, for short) is taking the sport of surfing to the most unexpected places. Still, the sport remains firmly rooted in the Hawaiian Islands.
Back in the 1960s, Waikiki beach boys would paddle out on their longboards using a modified canoe paddle. It was longer than a traditional paddle, enabling them to stand up and stroke. It was easier this way to survey the ocean and snap photos of tourists learning how to surf. Eventually it became a sport unto itself, with professional contests at world-class surf breaks and long-distance races across treacherous waters.
Stand-up paddleboarding is easy to learn—though riding waves takes some practice—and most outfitters on Oahu offer lessons for all skill levels starting at about $55. It’s also a great workout; you can burn off yesterday’s dinner buffet, strengthen your core, and experience the natural beauty of the island’s coastlines all at once. Once you’re ready to head out on your own, half-day rentals start at $50.
If you’re looking to learn, go where there’s already a SUP presence. Avoid popular surf breaks, unless you’re an experienced stand-up paddle surfer, and be wary of ocean and wind conditions. You’ll want to find a spot with calm waters, easy access in and out of the ocean, and a friendly crowd that doesn’t mind the occasional stand-up paddleboarder.
Equipment and Lessons
Hans Hedemann Surf School. Get professional instruction in stand-up paddleboarding right in Waikiki, where the sport originated. This school offers group lessons, semiprivate lessons, and private training. Lessons are also offered through locations at the Park Shore Hotel in Waikiki and Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku. Park Shore Waikiki, 2586 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815-6614. 808/924–7778; 808/447–6755; www.hhsurf.com. From $75.
Hawaiian Watersports. Paddle off the shore of picturesque Kailua Beach. This safety-conscious outfitter offers both equipment rentals and 90-minute and 3-hour group or individual lessons. A one-stop shop for water sports, they also offer kiteboarding, surfing, and windsurfing lessons as well as kayak tours and equipment rentals. Discounts are available online if you book ahead. 171 Hamakua Dr., Kailua, Hawaii, 96734. 808/262–5483; www.hawaiianwatersports.com. Rentals from $29, lessons from $74.
Paddle Core Fitness. Paddling is a way of life for Reid Inouye, who now shares his passion for the sport with students. (He's also the publisher of Standup Paddle Magazine.) His company offers introductory classes as well as fitness programs for serious paddlers. Lessons and workout programs are held in the flat waters of Ala Moana Beach, where there's a designated area for paddling, and you can have either group or private lessons. Ala Moana Beach Park, Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96814. 808/200--0574; www.paddlecorefitness.com. Workout programs from $25, lessons from $75.
Rainbow Watersports Adventures. When you spot this company's colorful Rainbow Watersports van at the bay near Haleiwa Beach Park, you'll know you're in the right place. You can get a two-hour private or group lesson on Oahu's North Shore. All lessons are held in a spot popular with the resident green sea turtles. The company also offers a 3½-hour coastal eco-adventure trip including snorkeling and lunch. Their Twilight Glow Paddle lets you glide through calm waters illuminated by lights mounted to your board. Haleiwa Beach Park, Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, Hawaii, 96712. 800/470–4964; 808/372–9304; www.rainbowwatersports.com. Lessons from $69.
Surf 'N Sea. With stand-up paddleboarding lessons for every skill level, Surf 'N Sea is a great place to start. Beginners can take the introductory lesson to learn proper paddling technique. A one-hour session focuses on honing your skills. More advanced paddlers can book surf trips that take you out to several North Shore breaks. 62-595 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, Hawaii, 96712. 808/637–3008; 800/899–7873; www.surfnsea.com. Rentals from $20; lessons from $55.