What's "SUP"?

As you get into stand up paddle boarding you need to understand the lingo to get in with the cool crowd.

Here's a breakdown of all things "SUP"!

The word “SUP” has captured the global imagination over the last decade or so.  Way back in 2006 SUP? or “WASSUP?” were part of the national lexicon as shorthand for “What’s UP”?

Whoever could have imagined back then that we would soon be saying SUP as an acronym for Stand Up Paddleboarding? Let us explore how all of this came to pass. 

There was even an iconic Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial around the theme in which several buddies keep asking one another “Wassup?”. 

However, as Stand Up Paddle boarding became the fastest growing sport in the world, SUP quickly stopped being a question and became the acronym that most people used for brevity’s sake to describe a large surfboard that was powered by a paddle. 

paddle board

SUP Magazine and SUPCONNECT became the popular information sources for all things SUP and retailers took up names like “What’s SUP”, “WASSUP” and “SUP Dog?”. 

If you used terms like “paddle board” you gave yourself away as a SUP newbie.  As the sport expanded, it soon became necessary to differentiate what type of paddle board you had, was it an Inflatable SUP or a hardboard SUP?  

From there you needed to specify what type of paddle boarding discipline you typically engaged in.  The possibilities were positively dizzying: Flatwater SUP, SUP Racing, SUP Fishing, Surf SUP, SUP Yoga, SUP Fitness, Whitewater SUP and Wake SUP. 

Some enterprising pioneers in the SUP world even tried to create SUP Polo and SUP Golf. Both of these sports looked incredibly cool and it's a shame for all of us that they didn't catch on.  For those that want to really challenge themselves, there are now SUP hydrofoils and SUP Wings to propel yourself with wind.    

stand up paddle board

Unfortunately, the Oxford Dictionary has been slow to pick up on the SUP phenomena. A simple Google search for “what is SUP?” brings up their definition first which describes sup as both a Verb: “take (drink or liquid food) by sips or spoonful’s. ‘she supped up her soup delightedly’” and a Noun: “a sip of liquid. ‘He took another sup of wine’”.  Most of us can't think of one instance where he have used sup in this manner. 

Even the Urban Dictionary describes SUP thusly: “Sup is something cool people say. It can be used as a greeting. People say ‘sup’ when they don't feel like saying ‘what’s up’ because it's too long. Also, people say ‘sup’ because they get in the habit of saying ‘sup’ so they just always say it. It can be used by girl or boy.”  Come on Urban Dictionary! You are supposed to be keeping us apprised of the times!  

Typing SUP into Wikipedia will get you no less than fourteen different possibilities, only one of which is stand up paddle boarding. "Software Upgrade Protocol", "Scottish Unionist Party" as well as "Sailors' Union of the Pacific" are among the references proudly displayed there. Do better Wikipedia! The Wikipedia description of "Standup paddleboarding" is pretty banal as well. "Stand up paddle boarders stand on boards that are floating on the water, and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water." Yaaaawwwnnnn.

Cyberdefinitions.com claims that SUP is shorthand for "support" followed by some nonsense about how it is used in the online game "League of Legends." Who knew?

paddle boarding


The SURFER Today website, in an article asking, “What is stand-up paddle boarding (SUP)?” turns SUP into an adjective and a verb as it coins the words “SUPing” and “SUPer”. 

It also levels a hard shot across the SUP bow when it proclaims: “Because SUPers can catch waves sooner than anybody else, they are invited to follow an informal code of conduct that promotes a safe and healthy environment in the lineup.” Ok, so because we're so much more efficient than the knuckle draggers who lie prone on their boards, we should be punished? Isn't that just evolution?

One of the more interesting, if not incongruous, articles that comes up when you Google the word SUP is titled “SUP with that topper? Vail local uses paddle board technology to create new truck accessory”.  

It turned out to be an article about one of the OG’s of Whitewater SUP named Ken Hoeve and the truck topper and pet carrier that he created using the drop stitch technology which is used in inflatable SUPs.  Who knew that SUP innovations were transforming other legacy products in the outdoor retail world? In fact, you may want to check it out. It's an incredibly cool product. 

stand up paddle board dog

If you Google SUP Dog, not only will you find videos that will teach you how to SUP with your dog but also a restaurant with that name in Chapel Hill (its hot dogs are ranked 15th best in America) and a dog walking service in San Diego.  And, of course, Yakima makes a SupDawg rooftop SUP and surfboard mount for your vehicle. The sport has truly gone to the dogs, in more ways than one. 

When one searches on the term “Why SUP?” you will wade through countless pages of web results that discuss how SUP will build a strong core, give you better endurance, lower your blood pressure, turbo charge your yoga practice, improve your balance, and cure male-pattern baldness.  Ok, we made that last one up. 

paddle board

After thoroughly researching this article, one thing is certain, SUP no longer evokes the images of cool, beer-drinking buddies greeting each other with a hearty “SUP Man” - except for those few SUP dealers and accessory manufacturers that use a variation of the expression in the hopes that aging Baby Boomers will still remember that cultural moment in time. 

SUP now conjures up images of coastal and inland paddlers who are passionate about getting out on the water and celebrating the SUP discipline that appeals most to them. SUP has come to represent a lifestyle that is both healthy and exciting.  A lifestyle that - with the advent of inflatable SUPs can assist you in escaping to the four corners of the world. 

So Wassup with you, why aren’t you out there on the water?