What the Words “Paddle Board” Mean to Me
What the words paddle board mean to one man.
Written by the Co-Owner of Glide Paddlesports, Scott Knorp on how he discovered and fell in love with Standup Paddle Boarding in 2007.
“Paddle Board” is an interesting term. On one hand, my paddle board is an inanimate object that I love to take out to my local lake every chance that I get. On the other hand, when strangers ask what I like to do in my free time, without hesitation I tell them “I love stand up paddle boarding”. So essentially my favorite noun is also my favorite verb.
First time seeing a stand up paddle board
My first exposure to a SUP board had an almost mythical quality to it. I was with my entire family on the beach at Santa Cruz when I saw the silhouette of a man who appeared to be walking on the surface of the ocean grow larger and larger as he got closer to shore.
Upon adjusting my eyes, I noticed the long paddle and became even more confused. I assumed that his paddle board was just a very large surfboard, but my brain still couldn’t comprehend how the paddle was linked to the board.
Old man and the sea
Once he got about 20 yards offshore, I noticed that he was completely grey with a thick grey beard. He literally was the Old Man and the Sea incarnate with good balance. As he picked up his paddle board and started walking the rest of the way in, an attractive bikinied young woman went running to greet him.
My first thought was “how sweet that his daughter is so excited to see her dad”. Then she planted a long, lingering kiss on the gentleman and my thoughts shifted to “well good on you old man!” and decided that I must immediately research this new paddle board phenomena that had unexpectedly entered my life.
Time to give paddle boards at try
My first opportunity to try paddle boarding on a stand up paddle board didn’t occur until the following year on a trip to Hawaii – the birthplace of the modern paddle board furor.The hard paddle board I rented was 12 feet long and had been patched up multiple times which is a problem with a solid board. It was definitely an entry level board that was fairly beginner friendly.
A workout just getting to the water
I never imagined that a paddle board could be so heavy, which turned out to be because it had taken on so much water through the years that it weighed about 3 times its original weight which meant I had to rest about 5 times just carrying it across the beach to the water. This was before inflatable stand up paddle boards were a thing so the only options were solid boards.
The nice fellow at the rental shop gave me a quick paddle board tutorial and before I knew it, I was out on the ocean paddle boarding for real!
What the kind lad had neglected to tell me was that the heavy trade winds that day were going to make it very difficult for me to remain standing for long on the stand up paddle board. My wife and kids watched amusedly as I would stand for about 10 seconds before the paddle board ejected me back into the warm Pacific Ocean. Maneuverability was my last concern as I just wanted to stay upright on the SUP!
My entire family was quite amused by the spectacle of me falling, climbing back on the SUP board and standing only to be knocked again. I considered it a teachable moment in perseverance that I'm sure most beginner paddlers can relate to.
A safe haven to learn to stand up paddle
The next day, I went to return the stand up paddle board and learned from the person manning the shack that day that the protected lagoon that was nearby was where most people learned to paddle board. So, I opted to keep the stand up paddle board for another day and within 30 minutes, I became hooked for life!
Purchasing an all around paddle board
Once home, I started a quest to find an all around paddle board for myself. The year was 2007 so all around paddle boards weren’t readily available in inland California, so I scoured the internet to find one.
Why is this so hard?
It would have killed to find a SUP buyer's guide at that point. At that point in time there weren't a lot of paddle board reviews out there.
I found a used all around paddle board in Southern California that the owner was willing to ship to me. As luck would have it, my office backed up to a river that was dammed and turned out to be an ideal spot to paddle board.
The right board for me
The board length was 10'6 and it had an odd deck pad but it was a fairly lightweight sup. It was the perfect stand up paddle board in my opinion at an affordable price. It was a all around board that had a nice glide to it. For a budget board, it was pretty maneuverable. It was definitely a beginner board.
The board thickness was only about an inch and a half, so weight capacity was a bit of an issue as board volume is directly related to the thickness of the board. My body weight wasn't much of an issue back then so it worked well for me.
Stepping up to SUP
I also ordered a carbon fiber paddle which made paddling so much more enjoyable. That paddle made it possible for me to get my all around board up to speed quickly.
It turned out that my used SUP board must have been one of the first ever produced because it didn't even have a handle. Thankfully the internet came to my rescue again as I was able to order a "SUP Sling" for transporting it.
SUP boards at the office
My employees at the telecom company which I co-owned at the time would watch with great mirth as I would trek over the rocks that separated our office from the lake with my paddle board in the sling over one shoulder. The office was next to Lake Natoma in the Sacramento area which was Gold Country back in the 1800's.
You've got to work for your passion
Because of strip mining, both sides of the lake are surrounded by piles upon piles of river rocks that were not easy to traverse over. Even with the rough hike in, that hour plus on the paddle board, gave me time to think about the day’s events and would almost always get my creative juices flowing.
The paddle boarding lifestyle
As I got more involved in the sport, I realized that my paddle board was extremely versatile. I could stand up paddle board surf, whitewater SUP and even paddle board behind boat wakes. I even tried a little SUP yoga on it with mixed results because it wasn't the best board for poses. Maneuverability of this board was one of its strong suits.
There was truly no chance to get bored with my new sport/lifestyle. Even my dogs love to get out on my paddle board with me!
A change in profession
After selling the telecom company, one of my former reps ran across one of the original Glide founders about to head down a river on a paddle board. She was dumbstruck by the thought of the potential bodily harm from hurling down a rocky river in a standing position and how maneuverable his board was in the river.
Their paddle boards were just better
When he explained that they had this amazing technology that made the boards ultra durable. The durability of the SUPs was huge but they needed some help running the company, she immediately got them in touch with me. After their brief presentation, it was about 2 weeks before I was living the paddle board dream both personally and professionally.
Once I signed on to be a part owner in Glide, I was sent a touring board from the corporate office. I had never paddled a board with a pointed nose before, only a round nose but really wanted to give long distance paddling a shot.
Displacement hull vs planing hull
I quickly learned the difference between a displacement hull and a planing hull. For the uninitiated, a displacement hull sits in the water and the hull slices it as it moves, while a planing hull sits above the water and essentially surfs it once you get it to faster speeds.
A board designed to travel longer distances with extra glide was quite enjoyable. It was less about maneuvering than my budget board and I had always assumed they were more expensive boards for advanced paddlers. I wanted to improve efficiency on my paddle board and go longer distances, so this was a great board for me.
A displacement hull requires less effort to get up to speed as opposed to planing hulls. Planing hulls are great for downwinders where you get help from the wind in covering long distances whereas displacement hulls would nosedive in those circumstances.
Long distances were my jam
The deck pad on the touring SUP board was much better quality than I was used to and I knew that I could cover a long distance in comfort now. I was used to hard boards with more stability than this narrower board. Soon the board's stability was less of an issue as I enjoyed its smooth ride on my paddling trips.
Learning to love longer boards
Before long, I was totally hooked on using touring boards on flat water. That touring SUP soon became my go to board and I eventually adapted to maneuvering a longer board.
The board thickness was about 5 inches which took some getting used to. I would only recommend a board like this for intermediate paddlers as it is definitely not for all skill levels.
There was ample room on the board for storage and the weight capacity made it a great board for me at the time. Soon I had tried the other boards that Glide made and really expanded my SUP horizons.
Stand up paddle board racing
I became so enthralled with my touring paddle board that I had my partners at Glide send me a race SUP. Most races at that time were for pretty hard core SUP enthusiasts so I trained for months and just before my first race I separated my shoulder in a mountain bike mishap.
I still love to get out on that race paddle board because race boards track nice. I could really work on the intricacies of my paddle stroke without having to worry about switching sides ever few strokes or so because the SUP would track straighter than anything I had ever paddled before.
First time SUP surfing
My first time surfing my SUP was an unbelievable rush! Myself and some of the other guys from Glide took a road trip to San Onofre.
I had tried surfing a regular surfboard in the past and had failed miserably - I just could not catch waves for the life of me. The stable feel of the surf paddle board gave me new confidence. I could now catch a wave with much less effort and the performance characteristics of surf paddle boards made it so.
I had fallen in love with flat water paddling but catching a wave a cutting through if fulfilled a lifetime dream of being a surfer. I'm pretty sure that first wave was about two feet high but in my mind if was at least a 2 footer! Riding waves on shorter boards was my new passion.
Since my partners at Glide came from the world of whitewater kayak and SUP, it was inevitable that they were going to get me out on the river. Somehow that river turned out to be the world renowned Payette River in Idaho!
I should have gotten my affairs in order
My first run down the class II rapids was on my knees and I was able to make it all the way down without getting tossed. I hiked back up to the top of the rapids and attempted them while standing up. I made it about 10 yards down that rapids when I was thrown violently from my boards and "rode" them the rest of the way with my PFD around my ears and my eyes as big as saucers.
It's hard not to feel unstable when you are heading straight at river rocks. I was glad that I had swapped out my single fin for a shorter fin or I would have probably done more headers of the board than I did. Even with the smaller fin, I almost ripped out the fin base on rocks a couple of times. I was also glad that I wasn't using a carbon fiber SUP paddle as my paddle got pretty beat up.
The next day in Idaho my partners took me to a standing wave on a river. To surf a standing wave that the river produces when it drops off over an obstacle like a rock, you need to have your board's nose facing the flow of the river which is an odd sensation. The board length as well as the board volume probably were a bit much for me to do a lot of maneuvering or at least that's the story I tell myself. If I used a shorter board, I'm sure I would have been a regular Kelly Slater out there!
Once I dropped into the wave, I was hooked! It was hard to get my head around a wave that angles forward up a river but the fact that it stayed the same height all day long was pretty cool. If you didn't tire or make a mistake you could literally surf a river wave all day!
During a board demo day at a Glide dealer's lake, they were having a SUP yoga class. How hard could it be I asked myself? It as pretty intense as I rediscovered muscles I had forgotten about 20 years ago! 40 minutes was the correct amount of time for that class or I'm certain I wouldn't have been able to paddle back to the store.
Enter the inflatable paddle board
After several years of manufacturing hard boards at Glide, we notice inflatable SUP boards appearing on the market. At first, we assumed that these inflatable SUPs were not a great value and the best stand up paddle boards were still made with a foam core.
As we did our due diligence on inflatable stand up paddle boards, we started realizing that the drop stitch construction make them incredibly stable. Initially the board feels a bit springy but we quickly realized that these were the best boards to take down a river. The reason for this is that the board performs about the same as a rigid board in whitewater but provides a much softer landing.
Inflatable paddle boards create a paradigm shift
Inflatable boards soon opened up paddle boarding to everyone as rigid boards required more storage and transportation was trickier. The inflatable board could just be stored in it's travel bag and inflated once you reached your water way.
Because the inflatable SUP boards were 6 inches thick they could support a much higher weight capacity. The weight capacity of a rigid SUP tends to top out around 320 lbs. The weight capacity of a larger inflatable SUP tends to be closer to 400 lbs. The inflatable SUP remains stable even with that much weight on them. The average weight of most paddlers is much lower than this but it's nice to know that you can add multiple riders on your SUP.
Inflatable SUP boards soon became a focus for the industry at large. At Glide, we began making inflatable SUPs in the same length and shape as our rigid SUPs.
Inflatable SUPs changed our SUP vision
Because of the quality and durability that was afforded by the newer technology of iSUPs. We had the vision that SUP was now going to be accessible by people of all skill levels. This vision turned out to be spot on as inflatable board sales exploded.
The two factors that were driving inflatable board sales were storage space and transportation requirements. People that live in small spaces were thrilled that they could keep there stand up paddle board deflated in a storage bag. They could even keep their 3 piece SUP paddle in the same storage bag.
The accessories that were available for iSUPs also were a huge driver of sales. You could now get an iSUP with removable fins, a kayak seat and utility straps for carrying them. The multiple attachment points on and inflatable paddle board are nice for tying down gear as well.
Glide has the best of both worlds
At Glide, we've found the perfect blend of hard and inflatable boards that are built for durability. So many of the SUPs out there are made to look pretty but are actually very fragile. So many of the SUP disciplines that make the sport fun require a board that can take abuse that we have never understood the mind set of the "pretty board" manufacturers.
A SUP that starts out with a gorgeous glossy finish when you take it off the store showroom inevitably ends up looking pretty ugly after a season of dings and paddle strikes. A paddle board isn't a piece of art, it's an important piece of equipment that should perform the way you need it to perform.
Many of the rental SUPs that are in liveries across the country are Glide boards as we are known to have the most durable boards available. If you notice a sea of yellow boards by a rental building, they are most likely Glides. As someone who started out renting a SUP, it's very much a rush to see this.
The SUP industry
The SUP business is a fun business but also a very challenging one. Our biggest challenge has been competing with competitors that make an inferior product to ours.
How do you prove to a customer that your inflatable SUP's core uses woven drop stitch while your competitor is using a knitted version of the same technology? Luckily we've developed a pretty great reputation through the years so our customers are able to do the selling for us.
My paddle boarding journey has been a fun one: from curious fan boy to someone who is tied deeply to the SUP industry. It's been an exciting ride over the last decade and a half and I look forward to see the twists and turns that take place over the next decade or two.