Types of Stand-Up Paddling

Stand-up paddling really appeals to a wide variety of people due to the fact that it is so versatile.

It may have originated from surfing but over the years the sport has truly evolved.

An SUP board can be used for many different types of activities on the water. Below are the 7 most common types of stand-up paddling.


A stand-up paddleboard is basically a long surfboard. Surfers began using paddles to not only get to waves faster but to catch them easier.

Paddle surfing is huge in Hawaii as well as in other parts of the world.

It brings a different dimension to ‘regular’ surfing and although it was originally met with some opposition, it has now become extremely popular.

With a paddle in hand, surfers can cover greater distances and see waves coming from further away from the standing position.


Although paddle boarding began with surfing, it is now most well known as a touring paddling sport.

While not everyone can surf or even lives where there are big waves, most everyone can paddle.

Touring is for those who want to do longer paddling distances on their boards – essentially touring the waterways in their area.

SUP touring can be done on lakes, rivers, and ocean bays or even in surf and open water.

Touring is typically more about endurance and disciplined paddling. While touring you will cover longer distances and have more of a physical workout than simple recreational paddling.


Cruising is a term I like to use that covers the majority of people who are out for a recreational paddle.

While cruising you do not have to cover a long distance or paddle until your heartbeat is racing a mile a minute.

Cruising is easy paddling for the vast majority of people who want to have some fun, see some new areas, explore their local waterways and get fit.

Cruising can be done by any person of any age and is how the majority of us start out.

You can paddle for a while, then sit or kneel when you feel you need a break and paddle again when you feel like it.

If you are lucky enough to be somewhere warm, you can always hop off your board and go for a swim. Then get back on and start cruising again.

As your paddling skills and your fitness level improves you may decided to take it to another level and start touring, surfing or racing.

However cruising in itself is pretty awesome.


There are always the competitive types out there who love to take a sport to a whole other level.

SUP races can now be found all over the world. For paddleboard racing you will need a long board that is specifically designed for speed.

They usually have a large fin on the bottom that greatly helps with tracking.

Watching an SUP race is impressive. The strength and balance that it takes to compete at a high level is very inspiring.


River stand-up paddling is a very technical and adventure driven sport. River SUP’s are often inflatable.

It is hard for me to imagine keeping myself standing upright while paddling down a raging river, avoiding obstacles and debris.

However I know both men and women who not only do this but who love it.

There are different levels of whitewater stand-up paddling. When you first start out you will want to stick to slow moving rivers with less obstacles.

Check out the rivers first, know what you are dealing with and watch the water levels.

When doing this type of paddling you will most definitely need to wear a helmet.


The fitness aspect of stand-up paddling is outstanding. It will work muscles you didn’t even know you had, including your toe muscles!

Long distance paddling provides an awesome cardiovascular workout all the while building your core muscles and improving your balance.

The fitness benefits are becoming so well known that SUP fitness classes are popping up all over the place.

My personal favorite right now is SUP Yoga. Basically this is a yoga class done on your board out on the water. I’ll tell you right now, it is not easy.


When standing on a paddleboard you are able to see further down into the water. This can be a great advantage for fisherman.

I have seen people fishing from paddleboards in Hawaii as well as at home on rivers and lakes.

It’s a different experience than fishing from a kayak and requires a bit more balance.

However SUP’s are easy to transport and can be a great tool for the avid fisherman.

No matter which types of stand-up paddling you decide to do, you can be sure that you will not only have a great time but get a decent workout in the process as well.

SUP boards come in all different shapes, sizes and materials. There is truly one that will suit each persons needs.

See our inflatable SUP comparison chart for a list of all the different inflatable boards.

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