Stand Up Paddle Boarding Surges During Pandemic

Stand Up Paddle Boarding has blown up in popularity and experience. 

Don't worry about not knowing much because we'll give you the rundown here.


Like most outdoor recreational activities, Stand Up Paddling (SUP) has exploded in popularity in the age of Covid-19. One year ago, the world collectively absorbed the reality of life existing solely within the confines of their own home.


inflatable paddle boards

Gyms and restaurants were strictly verboten, but the human condition cried out for the tonic of the great outdoors as well as the comradery that their psyches craved. Our once happy homes began to feel more and more like stockades.

Paddle boards let us get out of the house

As we spent more and more time in our homes, we realized just how much of us are working every day and completely ignoring the outside world. With so many free hours cooped up as things dissolved into a chaotic state, we wondered if this could be our last chance to use this as an opportunity to explore the world we have neglected as a society. The question that was asked universally (or at least globally) was: what can I do to get out and enjoy nature and exercise?


paddle board

Origins of the paddle board industry

Enter stand up paddle boarding, a sport that had been revived on the margins in the 1990s by big wave surfer Laird Hamilton after its modern invention in the 1940s by the beach boys of Waikiki who found paddle boarding to be the perfect mode of transportation for keeping track of their surf students. The sport entered the mainstream consciousness in 2007 when it was introduced to the US mainland by a Hawaiian transplant.

SUP renters became buyers of inflatable paddle boards


inflatable paddle board

Many of today’s SUPers had rented paddle boards in the prior decade and considered buying one but were deterred by the early pricing of epoxy paddle boards which ranged between $1,299 and $1,999; not to mention the storage limitations of most homes that were hard-pressed to find room for a board that is minimally 10 feet in length. Liveries that rent gear noticed that they were losing customers as former paddle board renters were able to find the perfect board online. Customers could now have a personal floatation device without breaking the bank.

Inflatable paddle board and hard SUP prices have dropped


paddle board with a pointed nose

As economies of scale developed, hard stand up paddle board retail prices fell below $1,000 but the real driver of today’s paddle board business spike was the development of the inflatable stand up paddle board or iSUP.

Inflatable paddle board technology has improved


glide inflatable paddle board

Inflatable technology inflatable SUP technology is so remarkable that today’s paddle boards are practically as rigid as an epoxy board and the price point for a high-quality board is often below $700. Now easier to carry and manage for those getting their first board without a roof rack.



paddle boarding

Apartment dwellers could now get into the Paddle boarding game because a deflated paddle board takes up about as much room as a large backpack. In fact, the inflatable paddle board bag resembles a backpack. The board bag offers an easy efficient way to travel with your favorite hobby on your back!

The hierarchy of needs


sup yoga paddle board

The Covid pandemic has caused many of us to reinvent ourselves since our “hierarchy of needs” repeatedly smacks us in the face each morning while we contemplate another day of monotonous existence.

Focusing on one's paddle stroke was much more than obsessing about our Twitter feed. People began to use the internet for researching paddle boarding tips. Should I focus more on my forward stroke, reverse stroke or my sweep stroke? Proper paddle technique and paddle grip for long distances on flat water became a healthy obsession. Paddle boarding began gaining a larger community around it.

Paddle boards represent freedom


sup paddle and inflatable sup board

Stand up paddle boards came to represent freedom from the tediousness of life in isolation. Because most of us live within 15 miles of a body of water and the learning curve for budding paddle boarders has been flattened (to borrow a phrase) by numerous “how to” videos on YouTube, the sport of SUP has become accessible to the masses of all ages. The paddle boarding paddle board lifestyle became a water sport rage.

Stand up paddle board vs kayak


woman paddling a paddle board

Sure, it may be easier to pick up kayaking than paddle boarding is, but a beefy 4X4 is typically required for transportation and a McMansion is necessary to store it in.  Besides, how are you going to look like a cool inland surfer in your grandfather’s kayak? Stand up paddle boarding not only looks cooler, but it is much more versatile.

Stand up paddle boards for social distancing


inflatable sups

There’s also the issue of social distancing. Whether you are going with the original 6-foot or the current 3-foot distancing requirements, you would be hard-pressed to violate either zone while out on the water paddle boarding.

Not to mention the fact that you are in the great outdoors where transmission is less likely to occur.

Take a SUP adventure with friends


inflatable sups

Stand up paddle boarding also lends itself well to holding a conversation with friends as the average paddler isn't training for their next 10-mile sup paddle race, so their breathing typically isn’t too labored. You have the chance to relax and paddle forward while laughing it up with your loved ones.

Waxing poetic about your favorite “Tiger King” characters with your buddies while enjoying all of nature’s glory – what’s not to like? 

Paddle boarding is a full body workout


inflatable sup board

As far as a workout goes, stand up paddling will work muscles that you thought you had lost back in the ‘80s. Not only is paddle boarding incredibly fun but it also doesn't require a high skill level.

It is truly a full body workout which engages the upper body and core and will make your calves cry out for mercy. Paddle boarding will also carve out core muscles to give you those washboard abs you used to sport. The paddling techniques put those muscles to good use.

Generating power while paddling requires a surprising amount of thigh strength as well because not only are the smaller muscles in your legs working overtime to hold your balance but the larger ones are acting as a fulcrum for the entire paddle motion.

Paddle boarding gets rid of the Dad Bod


woman kneeling on a paddle board

Take a gander at any of the big-name stand-up paddle board racers, and you can see that an SUP workout will sculpt up that “Dad Bod” quicker than Michelangelo’s chisel. A 2013 study published in Procedia Engineering found that the trunk, hip, and knee stabilizers of study participants showed high levels of muscular engagement during stand-up paddle boarding.

Then, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, went a step beyond the 2013 research, noting that elite stand-up paddleboarders showed higher levels of static and dynamic postural control and isometric trunk endurance than recreational stand-up paddleboarders, while the recreational group had higher levels than the sedentary control group.

Using proper techniques and body positions can help keep you looking trim and lean, while also feeling great inside!


inflatable paddle board

Paddle boarding engages one with nature


carrying paddle boards

Becoming one with nature has been an even larger driver of stand up paddle board popularity during the pandemic.

Humans have an innate connection to nature known as ‘biophilia’, which Webster’s describes as: “a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in naturea desire or tendency to commune with nature.” It's also partly why the SUP yoga community has grown so quickly. Being out on top of the water engaging your body while completely surrounded by mother nature? Yes, please!

Inflatable paddle boards and hard boards build vitamin D


paddle boarders

In addition to our biological call of the wild, many of us have looked to increase our body’s vitamin D count as this has been shown to be a simple means of fighting off Covid.

Increased vitamin D also has a direct correlation with a decrease in depression and other mental health afflictions, so it's a win-win.

Recreational paddling is more effective than indoor workouts


carbon fiber paddle blade

Studies have also shown that older adults exercising outdoors accumulated significantly more physical activity than those who worked out indoors.

Anecdotal evidence of the growth of paddle boarding


hard paddle boards

Because so many of today’s SUP manufacturers are privately owned, getting a handle on exactly how large the stand-up paddle market has grown during Covid requires a bit of guesswork.

Anecdotally, the various factories that we communicated with for this article told us that their pre-season order volume was up 3 to 4 times over the prior year. This new demand is affecting the cost of raw materials such as resin and fiberglass as well as shipping costs as demand is far outstripping supply.



women with hard paddle boards

Although, it’s anyone’s guess what the trajectory of the SUP market will be when the majority of the world has been vaccinated, these are heady times for the manufacturers who have seen the various ebbs and flows of this still relatively new sport.

Because stand up paddling is both mentally and physically addicting, we’re betting that today’s new crop of paddlers will be tomorrow’s evangelists for the sport thus growing the SUP market exponentially.

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Health Benefits of Paddle Boarding

Improving Your Fitness With SUP