Real Paddle Boarders Do it Laying Down

You know the feeling after a long paddle out to a remote surf break, or paddling hard into a big wave against the wind? Now imagine that feeling for 32 miles, or at least 5 straight hours. That sums up the intensity and insanity of the few "traditional" paddle boarders who take on the Kaiwi Channel every July. Now imagine the millions of people who have tried stand up paddling claim they are also "paddle boarders". Traditional paddle boarding, as its now being referred to, only a few years ago was the only paddle boarding the world knew, and now with the popularity of Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP), the traditional guys are fighting for their sport --and their name, amongst a bevy of inexperienced stand up "paddle boarders".

Though classified under the same category, and often times confused with stand up paddling-- real paddle boarders do it laying down, along side the ocean, not 6 feet above it. Prone paddle boarding is one of the toughest, mentally grueling and most ocean-sensitive paddle sports. The innate snes of feel each paddler requires to recognize each change in the ocean landscape, distinguishes the sport for only the true water men. On a paddle-board, you can fit into almost every type of bump, which makes you work with the ocean in a more intimate way than any other ocean sport--yet at the same time, any minor ocean change, such as a knot of wind, inch of tide or ripple of surf, effects your performance much more drastically. The lack of leverage from standing or sitting up, forces you to relate and adapt to the oceans current climate using a keen --almost subconscious --6th sense.

Stand up paddling is much different. You have maximum leverage standing, a towering, 6 feet above the ocean, and most of time you don't even have to get wet while doing it. In essence, the two sports are nothing alike, aside from the similar speeds they travel across the ocean and the fact that you are on a board.

Stand up also extremely novice-friendly--the obvious root of its popularity--because literally, anyone can do it. This creates a problem, when novice water men are wielding 7 foot blades and 14 foot boards in the treacherous open-ocean or crowded surf breaks.

This, among other reasons, is why, in spite its many participants, stand up paddling is surprisingly still struggling to find its place among many other traditional and modern paddle sports. Surfing, one of its' biggest overlapping sports, has ironically been one of its biggest adversaries. The size of stand up boards makes it easier to catch waves farther outside, putting SUPers at the top of the surfing hierarchy, which not only crowds local surf spots but leaving "traditional" surfers frustrated with the ease at which they catch them.

Traditional paddle boarders and outrigger style paddlers have watched the sport explode in a sense of shock and awe as it continues to gain national and international popularity, high prize purses and major sponsors. The sense of dismay comes from knowing highly technical sports, such as their own, will never gain as much popularity based on the difficulty of it. However, these traditional paddlers seem to find peace in the fact that they know they can always step up and grab a piece of the action.

Some of the greats have, indeed, broken into Stand Up and have taken top honors. Rooted in the traditional (and now minority) forms of paddling, they have "stood up" to get their hands on some prize money. Take the top four Battle of the Paddle finishers--Danny Ching, winner of the Molokai Solo earlier this year-- Travis Grant of Australia was on the winning Pa'a 'Eono crew--Aaron Napoleon, 11th in the Molo Solo, renown surfer, paddler, waterman and Jamie Mitchell, the king of "traditional" paddle boarding all stepped out of their usual sports to take top honors.

At least there is a sense of justice knowing that although the traditional paddle sports are still lacking financial backing, its easy enough to cross over to the more easily learned paddle sport and get some money.

Maybe the animosity comes from seeing fully clothed (and dry) SUPers leisurely paddling by, or someone paddling a whole race with the paddle angle backwards, or just the fact that Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Ritchie can both do it. (See Below:)

But compared to its "traditional" brother, there is no way they can match up. In other words, if your standing, your hair is dry, you can see your destination easily over the bumps, or you star in corny romantic comedies-- Don't call yourself a paddle boarder.

Agree? Disagree? Have a counter argument? email us or leave us a

Submitted by VelzyHawaii on Fri, 07/02/2010 - 1:07pm

Hmmmmm!.....this sounds a lot like the debate (or pissing contest, actually) about va'a compared to rudder steered sit-on OC.
The argument about paddlng stand-up being easier, is as good as the one about downwind paddling being easier than than va'a.......but hey! isn't it all about fun??

#1 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 2:38pm

Those guys/gurlz on unlimited prone boards are unreal fast. My hat's off to them. Prone has a fraction of the hype that sup does (and I paddle sup). Hats off to all prone paddlers.

#2 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 2:52pm

There is room for anyone wishing to cross the water no matter what one rides--I'm a converted OC and surfski paddler, and I don't care about the money or ribbons or what we're called. I just love the workout, and will continue to race, train, and improve my skills as a SUPer--in my first race I got my hair wet six times, and in my last it was only once. I also have a goals of going long miles like Jay and Anik Wild who just did 72 miles around Lake Tahoe in 22 hours. So whatever one paddles, enjoy your time on the water.

#3 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 3:15pm

What an excellent article. I agree 100%. Think I'll take my old Dennis Pang board down from the attic storage and go for a easy no broke the shoulder paddle out through Suicides to San Souci run before the sun goes down.

#4 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 3:45pm

I can't really view SUP as anything but super positive for both outrigger canoeing and paddle boarding. It is exposing a ton of people to outrigger canoeing, paddle boarding, and the ocean that otherwise would never have experienced any of it. I can't imagine that there will ever be a single paddle or paddle boarder that leaves their respective sport to SUP exclusively. Like you said in the article, the best SUPers come from other disciplines. So for the people who have been brought into this ocean world through SUP, they will be exposed to other forms of ocean racing that they wouldn't have.

I just think it's a shame to see animosity between disciplines. We should all build off of each ocean activity rather than isolate them. For example, look at Aaron Napoleon.... in my opinion, he is the epitome of what we should all aspire to be like.

#5 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 4:28pm

i tried SUP. crap, i even made an SUP at one point. now i'm glad that i made it. way better than spending a ton of money to find out i had no desire to do it ever again. does it bother me? nah.

the funniest thing about SUP is how often i hear people try to justify why they should be allowed to do it. like they feel guilty about. if it's fun for you then do it i say. but don't feel like everyone else in the world should like it as much as you. it would be like me trying to talk paddling with a non outrigger paddler. after about 30 seconds you see people's eyes glass over and they don't hear a word you're saying. pretty much all my surfing buddies SUP to some degree now. but i've never been able to get into it. maybe i'm just one of those grumpy old guys already.

prone paddle boarding is fun but very hard work. that description of being close to the water is spot on. nothing else like it. jaimie mitchell is a friggen beast. you made me want to dig out my stock dennis pang for a spin too...

now if i lived in idaho or something, maybe SUP would be cool cause i'd never have to get wet when it's freezing ass cold. then in the winter i could take the fins off the board and paddle it around on the snow. CCSUP (cross country SUP).

#6 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 5:04pm

They don't call it a donkey board for nothing.

If you spend enough time in the water, you cant help but be humbled by the ocean and show respect for others who feel the same. If I had a paddleboard, I would paddle it, same with SUP, 1man, v1, sponge, longboard, but I wont wear speedos, thats crossing the line.

#7 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 5:40pm

Did I miss something,,,,prone paddling? I thought the Aussie guy always or most always paddled on his knees and he wins.. Sort of a go between the stand ups and the lay downs. neck hurts,,,,kneeling my knees hurt. Stand up- everything hurts. I love my canoe.

#8 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 5:46pm

From a safety perspective, those things can be very dangerous in a crowded surfing lineup. Have you ever seen one in person? They're HUGE! Ultimately, I think it's mostly positive when more people get in the water, even if they're playing aqua poker or whatever the latest craze is.

#9 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 6:20pm

Being of the late 90's, mid 2000 era of traditional paddleboard racing, my feelings are this. SUP and traditional hands only paddleboarding are two different animals. Quite like the debate that raged when OC1 came into the Surfski only racing, back in the day of Marshall Rosa, Bob Twogood, etc. I am of the opinion that traditional hands only paddleboarding, whether prone or kneeling is one discipline. SUP is another. In the open ocean there is plenty of room for both. SUP however needs to forge their own racing agenda and not try to piggy back on all that the traditional paddleboard associations have done, nor try to believe that the two sports are the same. My opinion of SUP in the surfing lineup is another story.

#10 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 9:28pm

Paddlers and Surfers unite!

Seriously- the ocean is a big place, enough room for all of us. There are always going to be some beginners and novice SUPers, Surfers, Paddle boarders, and OC paddlers that get themselves into situations and places that they shouldn't be.

As a guy who primarily is on an SUP these days, I cringe at times that I see first time SUPers who try to get waves in the middle of a crowded lineup. Some of them look like they can't even surf a traditional board! Scary! That being said, beginners are always a bit dangerous, no matter what the craft. Safe to say we were all there at some point. If you are new to the surf- go somewhere small and uncrowded or SUP friendly to hone your skills before trying to drop in at a popular surf break. The fun part for me about surfing a SUP is that even crappy waves can be very fun- paddle over to another break that isn't crowded or vacant and catch a few sloppy crumblers and rip them up!

Thanks Velzy- I plan to dust off my Pang 12 foot stock paddle board and go on a run sometime this weekend.

#11 Fri, 07/02/2010 - 9:22pm

While were talking paddleboarding here's a short video clip i shot of Jamie Mitchell last month ... he sure can surf on that paddleboard and you can see the finesse required to surf at that level.


#12 Sat, 07/03/2010 - 12:55am

Eh! KGB! What you talking about "late 90's - mid 2000's? I remember you way back in the early 90's beating up Big Wave Dave folks out in the ocean. You was awesome!!!!! No shame about the age. Us guys all get age?
ps: You found the guys in the 2-man? Call me, we go talk to them.

#13 Sat, 07/03/2010 - 2:36am

The most succesful current race "prone" paddleboarder spends more than 50% of his time paddling on his knees during a race! SUP is a different version of paddling sports. Just paddle and enjoy what YOU are paddling at let others enjoy what THEY want to paddle. Who really needs to give a rats ass what anyone else is paddling as long as they are being respectful.

#14 Sat, 07/03/2010 - 3:46am

I'm with jc, i tried it when SUP first appeared and it did nothing for me. Why go slower, miss more bumps and lose the pleasure of flying the ama, it just felt so unnatural to me. But others like it and that's cool by me and if some of those SUPers end up in OC6 teams then that's a bonus.

As long as we share and enjoy the Ocean and people new to it respect it, not matter what you ride.

Just don't call yourself a Waterman ... only a select few can claim that Title.


#15 Sat, 07/03/2010 - 11:39am

Traditional paddle boarders have a good point about SUP being a different dicipline.....the single blade paddle puts SUP squarely in kanu territory.
Having just seen a doco shot where canoeing started, I see that the tradition is for men to paddle standing and women to do it sitting down.
Suppose that SUP with a double bladed paddle would be another kind of kayaking, if the blade configuration is the only difference between kayak and canoe.... Hey, a stand-on may not be a va'a, but is an OC --Outriggerless Canoe anyway

#16 Sat, 07/03/2010 - 8:03pm

does any else get super annoyed watching SUP-ers holding their blade backwards. I used to try and correct them, now I just grumble under my breath.

#17 Wed, 07/07/2010 - 2:12pm

We all can remember when we started paddling--I can. Had many questions and was lucky enough to have friendly club members help me with the paddle experience from surfski to OC and SUPs. Here in the Sacramento area, I'm just happy to see more people on the water, more people asking questions about our equipment whether it's an OC-2, OC-1, surfski or SUP. When I can, I help anyone who will listen or expresses a need to know. I'm lucky enough to work for REI where we have a bunch of recreational watercraft, and before they leave I'll explain how to make their paddling more enjoyable by paddling correctly. I usally won't stop anyone on the water who is paddling incorrectly because most are just trying to enjoy his/her self, and I'm just happy they're out there. There are many ways to help new paddlers, and one way is to give newbies the idea that there are many paddling sites with all types of video lessons. If we all do our part, we can increase our numbers. If SUP is less expensive to get into and gives paddlers enjoyment, support all who try.

#18 Wed, 07/07/2010 - 2:39pm

All they are saying is that Stand Ups shouldn't be called paddle boarders- because they are not. It's just ironic that the hardest ( paddle boarding) and the most novice-friendly ( SUP) are thrown together under the same category of "Paddle Boarders" . As the article outlines, they are far from being the same discipline. Stoked on the amount of people on the water-- but know that you are a Stand Up paddler-- not a paddle boarder.

#19 Wed, 07/07/2010 - 4:27pm

Yep! .... OC SUP

#20 Wed, 07/07/2010 - 6:43pm

Are you kidding me! Really guys. Who the hell cares what's it called. We all do what we do cause we enjoy it. Not because what it's called. If paddle boarding (on your belly) was called cheerleading, then call me a cheerleader. If SUP was called gardening, then call me a Gardner. I actually do both along with surfing and OC1. Every guy I know that paddle boards, SUP, OC1, or 6 man is out on the water for 2 reasons. For enjoyment and to simply pound!!!! Let's stop caring about the logistics of it all, and just pound!!


#21 Thu, 07/08/2010 - 1:29am

"Who the hell cares what its called"

Seems like you missed the point of this discussion entirely........paddleboarders do care what its called.

Maybe this will explain it better--

You are a gardener, right!........ so you mess about in a garden getting grubby. or at least as dirty as a farmer does in is days work.
Now if you go along to the agicultural field day with your wheelbarow, it doesn't mea thatyou ae a farmer.....get it ?

#22 Thu, 07/08/2010 - 11:06am

See that bridge? I built that bridge, but do they call me Kiri the bridge builder?
See that wall? I built that wall, but do they call me Kiri the wall builder?
But, you F*%k 1 SHEEP.............

#23 Thu, 07/08/2010 - 3:23pm

I've been paddling a 12' laguna prone paddle board for 5 years. I mainly use it to cross train for those winter north swells. I don't do much down wind runs. Not planning on crossing the channel or entering any races. I consider myself to be a paddle boarder and personally don't care if SUP's call themselves super man. Would I feel any different if I did race or cross the channel on my belly? I guess that's the big question. But for now, I don't care what the hell they call themselves. It doesn't affect "me personally"in anyway..............

I also shoreline fish, shallow water dive,short board, long board, OC1, and doing distance this coming season. So I'm not biased.
Am I a Water Man? Probably not.......if based on your standards.

This kinda reminds me of how we tried to clear the fact in the 90's that it's called body boarding, not boogie boarding. All logistics all not a big deal. Just pound.

#24 Thu, 07/08/2010 - 3:43pm

Here's my take on it....

Paddle boarder = propelling a paddle board with your hands only (prone or kneeling)
SUP paddler = paddling a SUP board with a SUP paddle
OC1/2/4/6 paddler = paddling a canoe using a canoe paddle

Pretty straight forward I think.

#25 Thu, 07/08/2010 - 4:56pm

Paddleboarder. Stand UP Paddler. Get it?

#26 Thu, 07/08/2010 - 4:58pm

OK you guys pulled me back into this one.

i realized there is one really great thing about SUP guys. it makes me feel pretty damn good when i go surfing past the slow ones on a stock 12 foot paddleboard without the advantage of a paddle.

that is super awesome.

#27 Thu, 07/08/2010 - 5:24pm

i'm still laughing at Kiricovers - or kirisheepf*@$er

#28 Thu, 07/08/2010 - 7:06pm

there is only one waterman, nappy.

cheers boss

#29 Fri, 07/09/2010 - 12:50am

Aloha Boss, you may want to reconsider your "only one waterman" statement. Leaving out George Downing, Wally Froiseth and Fred Hemmings alone could be a point of contention with a shit load of readers. There's a ton of true Waterman out there. Most of whom would prefer the anonymity.

#30 Fri, 07/09/2010 - 5:54am

I was out at Lake Chelan in Western Washington this weekend and saw a grandma go paddling by on her SUP with a poodle laying on the tail of it. Cracked me up.
I agree with Luke that it's great that people everywhere are being exposed to an aspect of outrigger canoe paddling.

#31 Sat, 07/10/2010 - 4:39am

Don't anyone dare call themself a waterman unless you can swim faster than Duke, surf better than Sunny Garcia, and paddle better than Kai Bartlett, or else!

#32 Sat, 07/10/2010 - 11:12am

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