Boundary-pushing paddlers are increasingly SUPing their way through multiday excursions and first descents.

Adventure SUP

Adventure SUP-ing is becoming increasingly popular. // Photo by Zachary Collier, via Flickr

With the wild popularity of stand-up paddleboarding showing no signs of slowing, SUPers are no longer content to cruise around on the same old board. Brands are introducing creative new takes—party-sized barges, hammock-SUP combos and pedal-powered boards rode the waves at Tuesday’s Open Air Demo—and shaving off millimeters in an effort to perfect the racing SUP. And paddlers, for their part, are taking their rides well beyond the usual territory.

Multi-day trips, SUP first descents

Meet the latest face of the U.S.’s fastest-growing outdoor activity: multiday adventure SUPing. In August’s issue of SUP The Mag, journalist Aaron Teasdale chronicled a first descent of Montana’s Blackfoot River, a three-day, 80-mile rush over whitewater. SOL Founder Johnny Lombino tackled the first-ever SUP descent of Snaggletooth Rapid (Class IV-V) on a three-night trip down the lower Dolores River this June, after the first dam release of the McPhee Reservoir in five years. (And this past spring, I made a first descent of Utah’s wild Escalante River: 100 miles across Class III-V rapids in seven days.)

“Adventure SUPing has increased because you can go from beginner to expert [quickly],” said Lombino, who first started exploring water by kayak. But SUPers don’t necessarily need to have the skills of a kayaker to balance and paddle. “The sport is so dynamic, because you can be doing island-hopping, racing, exploring flatwater, ocean or river, and it has grown exponentially. Five years ago, it was mostly kayaks, and now it’s more paddleboarders,” he said.

Close to one-third of SUP paddlers reportedly use the sport as a vehicle for adventure, yet the most popular reason—at this point—for choosing SUP as a sport is exercise, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. So it’s hard to tell if the adventure spark will catch on beyond boundary-pushing paddlers.

The key features for an adventure SUP include greater volume, durability, lighter weight, D-rings (front and back) for strapping down gear and transportability. “Inflatables make it easier to do trips,” said Cara Vincent, supply chain manager of Focus SUP Hawaii. “You can put it in a backpack and take it with you.” And with inflatable models riding high this season adventurous paddlers will have more choices than ever to plot their next daring descents.

This story first appeared in the Day 4 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.