Historically, Africans, and indeed many other river based and coastal cultures, have stood up within their canoes and upon rafts and paddled standing for thousands of years. Conceptually therefore, the idea of standing and paddling using an extended canoe paddle is far from being a new concept. Many ancient cultures from Africa to South America used boards, canoes, and other watercraft propelled with a long stick (or paddle) to fish, travel, make war, and even ride waves. Warriors in parts of Africa stood up in dugout canoes and used their spears as paddles to move silently into enemy territory. For nearly 3,000 years, Peruvian ﬁsherman used a craft called a “Caballitos de Totora”, a small craft made of reeds that is so called because its instability made it like riding a horse. They used a long bamboo shaft somewhat like an elongated kayak paddle, and after a day’s fishing they would surf the waves in just for fun. In fact, its quite possible that this is the true roots of all surfing, let alone stand up surfing.
Polynesian and Hawaiian culture have mixed paddling and surfing for many 100’s of years but the practice waned with the rise of surf culture in the 60’s. The modern sport of paddle boarding as we know it today was “rediscovered” in the early 2000’s in the Hawaiian surf culture as famous surfers such as Laird Hamilton looked into the past and started making custom paddles to take with them surfing. Soon it became a popular movement and today is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the western world.
Technology has quickly made boards stronger and more durable and with the invention of inflatable paddleboards the portability, hard-to-damage, and easy storage brought paddle boarding from a niche within surfing to the mainstream. Using the innovation of drop stitch technology, inflatable paddle boards have improved mightily until they have become the preferred board choice for many SUP enthusiasts.