SUP: More adventure than you knew

Think standup paddling is a lazy man's version of surfing? Think again.
Dan Gavere sending whitewater on his SUP. © Jennifer Gulizia/Starboard
By Josh Sampiero

The phrase 'stand-up paddling' (SUP) may not conjure up images of thrill and excitement for most. Sure, there's the growing race and surf competition scene, but not much about SUP says 'adventure'. Here's a few reasons you might want to re-think that opinion.

Whitewater SUP

See above. That's former pro kayaker-turned-SUP'er Dan Gavere. An early name on the SUP race scene, his whitewater roots soon took him and his board into serious rapids. Dan's helmet-clad fearlessness has led him over numerous waterfalls (some quite sizeable) and down countless rapids. Initially, white water SUP'ers would dedicate a "rock board" to the endeavour – knowing the board would suffer countless minor (and some major) injuries during the run. However, the advent of highly rigid inflatable SUP boards mean they've become the board of choice for river runners. Now, they don't hit the rocks – they bounce off them.

Paddling off to nowhere does sound like adventure. © Richard Hallman/Starboard

SUP Expeditions
All over the world, paddlers are using their boards not to surf, or race, but explore. The sport has long roots in distance crossings – SUP races across Hawaiian channels have been around since the dawn of the sport – but now, adventurers are truly using it to go places. At this very moment, two standup paddlers are on very different adventures in very different parts of the world.

One of them is Bart de Zwart, a Dutchman living in Hawaii. He's currently paddling south from the Arctic Circle, starting near the ice fjords of the Ilulissat Glacier. He's loaded up with gear for ten days, but hopes to make it to Sisimuit in four to six days. Air temps hover around zero degrees celsius, while winds make the water choppy and difficult to paddle in. Sleep? That happens on his board or on the ice – if Bart's lucky.

Meanwhile, Seth Warren is setting off to explore the Quirimbas Archipelago, off the coast of Mozambique. While Bart's decidedly chillier expedition will take just a few days, Warren will be exploring the Quirimbas for over a month and a half, as tradewinds aid him in his journey north towards Zanzibar.

For Warren, it's a mission of discovery – he'll be seeking out dream locations for kiteboarding along the way, and more often than not, fishing for his dinner. (Warren also admits they'll occasionally check into civilisation for a data dump and refreshing of supplies. But a month and a half paddling? We're impressed.) This tropical adventure a little different than Seth's previous SUP adventure – paddling down the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon.

So go grab a paddle and start working on your sea legs – there's a whole wet world waiting to be explored. 

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