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SUP? What’s So Great About Paddle Boarding Anyway?

woman stand-up paddle boarding with dog, Do more of what makes you happier place t-shirt

Why is stand-up paddle-boarding so popular and fiercely loved? Because it’s equally great for body, mind, and soul. In short: SUP makes you healthier and happier.

With stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) continuously growing in popularity, have you been wondering if you should jump on the paddle wagon? Here are 15 reasons why we think you could benefit from paddle boarding.

And if you’re already a SUP enthusiast, you know it makes you feel awesome. But have you ever thought why? This list might clarify why you love it so much, help you appreciate some of its benefits more, and give you inspiration to help someone else get on (the) board.

Reasons Why Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) Is So Great

1. It’s surprisingly easy to learn. It’s not as challenging as learning how to ride a bicycle or how to swim. However, you should probably know how to swim if you get on a SUP (you know, in case you fall in). Most people are comfortable on a SUP within minutes. You don’t have to be an athlete or any particular age group to get started.

2. You choose your level of exercise and environment: paddle hard against the choppy sea, catch a big waves as you paddle surf, gently float down a river, move swiftly across a lake, get into racing, or do that yoga in a cove, etc.

3. Excellent physical exercise for a healthier body.

  • Strength: Stand-up paddle-boarding is excellent for core strength, since the body’s core muscles are responsible for keeping balance. But legs and feet-muscles (!) are also getting busy and stronger. Of course, arms and shoulders will get a major workout if you’re actually paddling and not just floating down a river.
  • Cardio workout: No matter if you paddle hard or just gently moving, paddling will benefit your heart, lungs, overall health and stamina… and burn calories.
  • Low impact exercise: especially compared to outdoorsy cardio exercise like running, which can be hard on the joints.

4. Generally improved mental abilities. The physical exercise improves cognitive abilities by “waking up the brain” and by reducing distracting stress and anxiety. New studies also find a direct connection between being active and a protein that “rejuvenates the brain” – helping with memory and focus.

5. Generally improved mental health. The exercise alone (not to mention the beautiful nature or other SUP-related factors) is known to reduce anxiety, depression, and tension – and uplift mood and motivation.

6. Boost to self-esteem, confidence, and sense of independence. You don’t need anyone else to go paddle boarding, and there’s no need for competition with anyone else. It’s just you standing tall as you glide along calm waters that makes you feel contented bliss. Or it’s just you mastering the waves that makes you feel empowered.

7. “Turning off the monkey-brain chatter” or “natural moving meditation“. Whatever you want to call it, while part of your brain is focused on keeping balance and the methodical, rhythmic motion of paddling, it turns off some of the “monkey-brain” chatter that so often pulls us out of the here and now. Paddle-boarding keeps your subconscious busy enough to clear your mind and provide a feeling of zen. Like other meditation, this can help you bring calm and balance into your life – or it can help you focus on something you need to figure out.

8. Being in nature – which is good for the soul. Connecting to nature and its soothing rhythms, makes people feel grounded, present, alive, more well-balanced – and happier. Paddle boarding offers many ways to get closer and feel more connecting to nature.

  • The obvious: you’re simply outside in nature – water below, sky above, fresh air in your lungs.
  • On a paddle board you get to explore places you couldn’t reach otherwise – and now you have them all to yourself. Case and point: seeing baby pelicans on channel islands.
  • It’s all in the angle! Standing up on a board gives you a much better perspective than in a canoe or other floating device. A wider view without blinding reflection will allow YOU to see that manatee those people in the kayak are totally oblivious to. Ever watched sting rays glide by below you while you’re standing safely above them? Wow.
  • You’re so quiet – you can approach wildlife without disturbing them in their natural habitat.
  • Being part of the natural flow as you float along a river or the tides or catch a wave back to shore.
manatee in weeki wachee river seen from stand-up paddle board vantage point, not seen by kayaker standing in water
Manatee in the Weeki Wachee River seen easily from the stand-up paddle board vantage point – but not by anyone else.

9. SUP is so much more than “just paddling”. It’s easy to combine with something else that makes you happier: e.g., yoga, birding, fishing (especially sight-fishing), socializing, meditating, snorkeling, etc.

10. You can bring your dog! Not sure exactly why, but for some reason dogs seem quite content to be on a paddle board – because the dogs we know could just jump off and swim back to shore if they wanted to.

11. You can bring a cooler with drinks and snacks since the board is flat and probably has elastic bands for fastening.

12. SUPs are versatile and expandable. All depends on what you like and how you want to use your board. You can get an inflatable stand-up paddle board (iSUP) and carry it in a backpack up a mountain – or you can get a board that allows for attaching accessories, e.g., chair, umbrella, fishing pole holder, motor (yup – you don’t even have to paddle).

13. All the physical benefits of being outside: Vitamin D from the sun, more oxygen, and (especially important right now during the covid-19 pandemic) a safer way to be social by being the circulating fresh air.

14. Costs. Some might say paddle-boarding is not expensive to get into – with prices for a new board as low as $300. Well, that’s definitely cheaper than a boat – but a lot more expensive than an inner tube. So that benefit is debatable.
However, you can definitely try out a SUP for cheap via a rental or even for free. If you have a friend with a board, they’re probably happy to let you try it. They’ve probably been trying to convert you for a while, which is why you’re reading this.
Maybe your local water sports store might offer free tests and classes. For example, where we are (on the Gulf Coast between Clearwater Beach and St. Pete), Watersports West offers free paddle-board demos several times a week.

15. You can pretend to “go exercising”– when ultimately you’re just sitting on your board in the water chatting with a friend one board over. Hey, we think hanging out with friends in nature is a legit Happier Place. Enjoy!

One additional timely benefit for these coronavirus pandemic days: Besides being in great outdoors where airflow is ideal, social distancing while having fun with others is much easier on a SUP because you’re naturally separated by at least the width of your boards.

woman on stand-up paddle board on crystal-clear Florida river, Weeki Wachee, Happier Place
Oh the places you can go on a SUP… like gliding down the Weeki Wachee, a crystal-clear river in Florida.

Now that we created this whole list of what’s so great about stand-up paddle boarding – and not just SUP physical health benefits, but also how it improves mental and emotional well-being and soothes the soul… we realized we forgot the main thing that’s so great about standup paddle-boarding: it’s fun! And of course, that matches our core principle and happier-making method: Take a break. Go outside. Have fun.

What’s Not So Great About Stand-Up Paddle Boarding?

It all depends on the weather. If your lake ices-over in the winter, you can’t go paddle boarding. (On that note: does anyone want to write a post about “what’s so great about ice fishing?”)
And if you live by open water, you might not enjoy going out on windy days.

What's so great about stand-up paddle boarding anyway? 15 Reasons why it makes people happier and healthier. HappierPlace
What's so great about stand-up paddle boarding anyway? 15 Reasons it's terrific for body, mind, and soul. HappierPlace

Let’s Inspire Each Other

Do you know of any other reasons why SUP is so good for you? Anything in your experience that’s not so great? What’s the coolest, most exotic, highest-up-in-the-mountains, or furthest-out-to-sea you’ve paddle boarded? Tell us about your most memorable animal encounter or most exciting trip yet. Or ask a question.

Please leave a reply in the comment section below.

17 thoughts on “SUP? What’s So Great About Paddle Boarding Anyway?

  1. I’ve never actually gone stand up paddleboarding but I would love to try it one day! Thanks for all the info on this fun little activity.

    1. With your spirit for adventure and fun, you should definitely give it a try.

    2. I love paddle boarding. I have a stable wide board I learned on and a lo g flat bottomed board that is fast and fun on flat water but just as much fun in the chop. The other benefit is notentioned is getting an awesome tan. I live in Vermont, nekid on the water is legal, so I have the dark even all over tan and it’s great because it just happens from atop a paddle board.

      1. Thank you for your comment! Must be nice to have two different boards – so you can pick for the conditions. I’m still on my first board, which is a bit of a hybrid – more focused on stable, but not the slowest one in the bunch.
        Didn’t know that about Vermont rules. Always thought all of the USA forbids public nudity. I’m from Germany and found those Puritan rules always a bit puzzling. Good for you to enjoy that all-over than where you can!

  2. This is the new in-thing and a lot of my friends have got paddle boards except for myself, with the lovely weather we have had today, I am so tempted to put in an order for a few boards for us to use on our next trip to the lake

    1. It is spreading quite quickly in popularity. You’re lucky that you have friends with boards already. Maybe one of them will let you give it a try? Or by the time you make it to the lake again, they will already have a place that rents them.

    2. Hi from the lovely town of stives Cambridgeshire UK don’t always have the type of weather you have but there’s plenty of wonderful river around here enjoy the beautiful countryside and photo .
      Would love to speak to anyone in the world and swap photos of where they paddle.

      1. Do you paddle board on the river then?

        1. Hi Lucy Yes i do do paddle on my river it called the river ouse my favorite places are the Hemingfords and Houghton mill in Cambridgeshire google it and you will see it charm and my home town of stives and it’s unique bridge crossing the river .
          Stay safe wish you a happy Christmas to

        2. I paddle on the Toms River here in NJ. Sometimes too rough but when it’s calm, paradise!

  3. I love the idea of stand up paddle boarding! I bet my dogs would love to tag along like yours did, too!

    1. It’s super fun – and for some reasons dog seem to really like it. Probably because they just love to go on adventures with us. Hope you and your dogs get to give it a try.

      1. So true. I decided to try my pup on the board. I didn’t have to train him. He jumped on and that was it. He even cries when we are done. Last week he let me know he wasn’t ready to stop by dragging the board back to the water and hopping back on.

  4. I have never tried doing paddle boarding. It does look like it would give you a whole body work out. Maybe after the lockdown restrictions have been lifted in our area, I will check where the nearest place would be for e to experience paddle boarding.

    1. I really hope you do get to try it after the lock down – and depending on the restrictions and safety where you live, you might even be able to try it sooner than you think. It’s actually a great way to be safely away from people and in the fresh air. And while it is a whole body work out – it’s really subtle. I remember thinking it would be challenging and maybe hard to stay upright, but it’s not as difficult as it looks IMHO.

  5. I never tried it tbh but a friend of fine can’t get enough of paddle boarding! I would love to try it, seems very interesting.

    1. It was like that for quite a while for me: friends would swear on it, but I hadn’t tried. When I did, I was hooked in minutes. That’s why I thought it might be a good idea to write about why it’s actually so awesome. Give it a try… and get converted ūüėČ

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