By the early 2000s, Archie Kalepa and the Hobie Dream Team gave the world a hint that stand-up paddleboarding had a potential far grander than waves. Kalepa began unofficially participating in cross-channel races between the islands of Hawaii, making him one of the forefathers of downwind stand up paddle racing. Meanwhile, in California, three athletes (Chuck Patterson, Colin McPhillips, and Byron Kurt) joined forces to represent the newly-formed Hobie SUP Race Team. The three would show up at local prone paddleboard races, which were just beginning to have SUP divisions, and put on a show of not only performance but also product R&D. Each would carefully pull his board in and out of board bags, trying to keep their edge in product development on the nascent race scene. Sensing and expanding on that flatwater movement, Ernie Brassard (together with Rick Thomas, Bob Pearson, Blane Chambers and a few others) organized the world’s first inland SUP event and race, hosted at King’s Beach on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, California. It was dubbed “Ta-hoe Nalu” and still runs to this day. That event in 2007 was arguably the world’s first stand up paddle specific event. Since then, the market has evolved to include paddle boards meant specifically for flat water. The contemporary form of the sport originated in the 16th century where Hawaiian surfers would surf on boards of up to 5 meters in length. These surfers used a paddle to operate boards that were otherwise unwieldy.
SUP continued in Tel Aviv in the twentieth century where lifeguards stood on wide boards to ensure a clear view of possible swimmers in distress. The lifeguards used a paddle to propel them through the water quickly to rescue swimmers.
In the 1940s, Waikiki surf instructors Duke Kahanamoku and Leroy and Bobby Ah Choy would stand on their surf boards, using a canoe paddle to move about the water and position themselves, as a way to keep an eye on surf students while also monitoring the incoming swell. They also utilized the vantage point of being out on the water to take pictures.
In the 1990s SUP was taught at Hawaiian surf schools as an alternative way to surf when there was little swell. This practice became increasingly popular so surf instructor Brian Keaulana decided to add “beach boy surfing” to the world-recognized Buffalo Big Board Contest in 2003. The response to this new category was overwhelming, with many recognized surfers participating.
SUP races became common; in 2012 Kai Lenny won the season’s finals of the first Standup World Series championship races.
The first magazine devoted to the sport, Standup Journal, was founded in June 2007.