While they’ve yet to show up on the beaches of Costa Rica the way that they have in places like Cardiff Reefs in Southern California or Ala Moana on O’ahu, you can be sure they’re on their way. Maybe not quite to the extent that breaks located near highly populated areas have already been experiencing, but they’re coming nonetheless.
“They” are the droves of people who have taken to stand-up paddleboarding over the past 5-10 years. And their arrival onto the scene has generated one of the fiercest ongoing debates taking place in surfing today.
Stand-up paddleboarding has become somewhat of a proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room that is surfing. Regardless of what side of the line it falls, nearly everyone has an opinion on where and how the SUP should be used and enjoyed. And for a variety of reasons, opinions that are formed about this relatively new way of riding water seem to be strong and backed with passion.
The talking points both for and against SUP’ing are many. However those listed below seem to be among the most common-
Another form of expression: For as long as people have been riding waves, there has been an inherent desire and curiosity to ride boards of all different shapes an sizes. This is part of the SUP appeal; the experience of wave-riding in a new way. In the film “Water Man“, Pipe Master Rob Machado put it this way- “All the different things that people are doing on surfboards is like different artists. That’s surfing to me, riding everything and anything that’s out there”
Waves not required: You can do it in Ohio. You can do it in Russia. You can do it when the ocean is flat. You can do it on lakes….Simply put, you can do it anywhere and it’s available to everyone.
The Old Man and the Sea: After getting caught inside and receiving a brutal beatdown at Laniakea on the North Shore this past winter, my 59 yr. old father went in to get his shoulder checked because it felt weak and his ability to paddle had diminished. The doctor’s response after examining the MRI went a little like this- “Well, it looks like it’s time for you to take up stand-up paddleboarding.” For those who have reached the point where duck-diving and busting through closeout sets have become too much of a physical challenge, riding a SUP can be a welcome alternative that isn’t quite as hard on your body.
It’s like playing chicken with a rhinoceros: Question- What’s 10-12 ft. long, 2-3 ft. wide, weighs 20-30 lbs. and comes flying toward your face backed by a wall of water? Answer- Go to any break frequented by stand-up paddleboarders and you’ll find out very quickly. SUPs are big…really big. Having a stand-up paddleboard barrel toward you sans operator will put the fear of god in you very quickly, and that’s something nobody wants to deal with when heading out for a session.
Wave-poaching: For those who get easily frustrated by longboarders that sit way outside and pick off wave after wave like it’s going out of style, wait until you have a handful of SUPs in the line-up. How do you paddle-battle someone who has an actual paddle in their hand?
No room at the Inn: Line-ups worldwide are crowded enough as is. Now, the same people who cut their teeth by riding a SUP on lakes in Wisconsin and Winnipeg are naturally going to want to try it in the ocean. The continued rise of stand-up paddleboarding will eventually mean SUPs in places all across Central America and other relatively uncrowded surf havens. Ask yourself- Does your favorite wave in Costa Rica need more people on it?
For every Bonga Perkins, Garrett McNamara and Laird there’s an aggro-Joe and clueless-Clifford that give stand-up paddleboarders a bad name. This isn’t exactly unique to stand-up paddleboarding, it’s just that the consequences are much more critical when you’re dealing with planks of that size.
I’m curious to see where some of you stand, especially those who have had specific experiences or run-ins with stand-up paddleboarders. And if you do stand-up paddleboard, here’s a chance to enlighten those who don’t.