As it gains in popularity, it remains to be seen whether or not paddleboarding will elevate itself into the mainstream or remain a niche sport defined by extremists who continue to push various aspects of the sport to levels most of us cannot quite comprehend.
Will your next vacation that involves water sports include paddleboarding? For some vacationers, it may be a question of how much they can spend on a sport that is only available with sizable bodies of water nearby. So, let’s see how much that might be.
A beginner’s board at Legends SUP, a retailer with boards available online, begins at around $850 and goes from there on up to $1, 400 or more. A paddle – you will want one of those – starts at about $100. Wet suits, if one is needed, adds another $129 to the package at least. For others, a light backpack (there are no storage trunks on a paddleboard) or a life preserver might also be necessities.
Let’s not add in the cost of a car rack just yet, but that may come into play at some point. On the positive side of the ledger, however, it is also a sport where lessons are certainly optional. Look at some YouTube footage of paddleboarding to get the basic idea. Otherwise, the entire instruction booklet might just say, “Keep trying to stand up until you get use to it. Paddle. Have fun.”
While you browsing YouTube, you might be amused to find some of the footage of some races or paddleboard surfing at the beach to get an idea of how extreme the sport can go. One of the more extreme races, for example, is the Molokai-2-Oahu race in Hawaii across what is known as the Channel of Bones. It is billed as one of the roughest ocean channels in the world. Depths reach 2, 300 feet. Ocean swells routinely reach 30 feet in height.
Through this watery roller coaster, paddleboarders put it all on the line. These include Jamie Mitchell, who is a 10 time winner of the island to island event and Kanesa Duncan Seraphin, an eight-time winner.
Other notable achievements on paddleboards include a crossing of New Zealand’s Cook Strait by Annabel Anderson, the first woman to accomplish the feat.
Paddleboarding is not always a stand up activity, as many racers get down on their knees and paddle with both hands, the traditional style favored by surfers trying to cut their way past the breakers to line themselves up for a ride back to the beach.
I find it hard to imagine standing up for the entire “Full Moon” paddle from Cuba to Florida, for example.
It takes an extremists just to think up a race like that and paddleboard enthusiast Michael O’shaughnessy is just the person to do so. He not only dreamed up the 119 mile race, but he has won it several times.
What may be missing is the concept of paddleboarding that is arguably its most important function, which is as an enjoyable, fun, ride around a local bay for exercise or just to see the sights. Paddleboarding, as it happens, doesn’t have to be an extreme sport. For many, gliding quietly around a lake enough of an excuse to stand on a board. That said, it doesn’t have to be defined by extremes or as an Olympic-bound racing sport only few can relate to.
It also does not have be defined as a sport that is too dull for word. Just standing there paddling around might not appeal to the average teenager who needs instant gratification to get through the day. But the appeal to the health-conscious soccer mom set or the busy dad with a need to get away once in a while — but not too far away. This is like anti-jogging: about the same caloric burn, but on water and propelled by the upper body, instead of by legs and feet.
It might also become more popular is prices for equipment come down and it becomes more affordable for couples to own two boards or for families to own one for every family member. Paddleboarders are often seen by themselves, quietly moving across a lake or a bay, in part because one board might be all a family can afford. When that changes, the lone enthusiast will just be ahead of the pack, like a proud parent followed by a gaggle of paddlers.