History of Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) in 5 minutes

History of Stand Up Paddle boarding:

Please watch this video for a summary of the History of SUP condensed into 5 minutes:


There are many examples of paddling in a standing position and it seems to come naturally to humans.

We will go over some of the earliest recorded records of humans standing up while paddling, a short history of SUP surfing in Hawaii, and how modern stand up paddleboarding and surfing has become so popular worldwide.

Fishermen in Peru and Ecuador used reed rafts for fishing  and for going in and out through the surf around 3000 years ago.

Caballito de Totora early SUP history

Hasake were used in Israel with records dating back to the roman empire and are basically big SUP’s with a two  sided paddle. Still used by lifeguards today.

Hasake Israel paddleboard history

There are also many native tribes that paddled standing up in dugout canoes.

stand up paddling in dugout canoe

Early Seminole Indian Stand Up Paddleboarder in Florida

early paddle boarders

Indian dugout paddle boarder

SUP Surfing history:

Also known as Beach Boy surfing, Stand Up Paddling emerged as part of the Beach Boy culture in Waikiki when first hotels opened and the local surfers gave surf lessons to visitors.

Most famous beach boy of all was Duke Kahanmoku-  he introduced surfing to California in 1912 and to Australia in 1914.  The Duke was known as fastest swimmer alive with two gold medals in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920 and many world records in swimming. 

Duke Kahanamoku SUP history

The Duke was known to surf standing up on a big board, most likely a hollow wood surf ski from Australia that he received as a gift, using a long two sided paddle and a leash attached between the paddle and the nose of board in the 1930's.


John Zapatocky paddleboarding pioneer

Inspired by the Duke, in the 1940, John "Zap" Zapotocky started using a big longboard and long, custom made wood paddles to surf in Waikiki.  He Stand Up Paddle surfed there until he was 91 years old and saw his sport boom with the emergence of modern Stand Up Paddle boarding.


John "Pops" Ah Choy was a Waikiki beach boy well known for standing up surfing with a hard hat, knee pads, and taking photos of tourists taking surf lessons.  His sons Bobby and Leroy Ah Choi also became beach boys and now host the annual Pops Ah Choi Surf Fest.

beach boy surfing history

Pops AhChoi SUP beach boy

Pops AhChoi taking photos of tourists learning to surf while sitting on a chair on his SUP, using a long wooden Oar to paddle, classic!

stand up surfing Canoe Drummond

Another pioneer is Ron “Canoe” Drummond who surfed a canoe standing up with a paddle in Dana Point, California.

More recently, Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama picked up paddles and stood up on big longboards during an Oxbow photoshoot which started the moden era of Stand Up Paddleboarding and its global popularity today.

laird hamilton dave kalama sup pioneers

In 2003, Brian Keaulana added “Beach Boy Surfing” division to the annual Buffalo Big Board contest at Makaha (started by his father Buffalo Keaulana), which was probably the first official SUP contest and sparked rapid growth of the young sport.

Brian Keaulana SUP surfing

I was lucky enough to be involved in distributing the C4 Waterman boards, some of the first SUP’s available to buy which was around 2007.  

C4 Waterman Robert Stehlik demo day

Before 2007, SUP boards were either custom made or very large longboards were used.  I was fortunate to be coached in SUP surfing and downwinding by early pioneers and C4 Waterman founders Dave Parmenter, Todd Bradley, and Brian Keaulana, and other pioneers of the sport.

Dave Parmenter Makaha bomb

Dave Parmenter catching a bomb at Makaha

The early explosive growth of the sport had leveled off before the pandemic but then blew up again during the pandemic as it provided a safe way to get exercise while being socially distanced.

SUP History trivia:

The Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard Word Championship Race added a Stand Up Paddleboard division in 2006.  Kevin Horgan won the race in 7:23:14

Travis Grant set the current M2O SUP solo record time of 3:59:52 in 2017

Watch this interview with Travis Grant before the epic race in 2016 with huge surf at the finish:

Gerry Lopez and Rainbow Sandals organized the first “Battle of the Paddle” race in 2008 with a $25,000 prize purse.  The maximum board length was 12’6, which created a new category of boards.

these were the top 3 finishers of the first BOP:


  • Chuck Patterson
  • Thiebert Lucia
  • Aaron Napoleon


  • Jenny Kalmbach
  • Candice Appleby
  • Morgan Hoesterey

Battle of the Paddle 2008 history

As of 2021, the global market for Stand Up Paddleboard gear is estimated at $1.4 Billion, growing at 10% annually, with the top 5 brands controlling a market share of about 15%

As of April 2022 the top 3 most liked Stand Up Paddleboard videos on YouTube (all proudly brought to you by blueplanetsurf):

  • “How to SUP in 5 minutes”- thumbs up: 19k, 1.5 million views
  • “Top 10 SUP Beginner Mistakes”- thumbs up: 11k
  • “SUP Tips: How to paddle straight on a Stand Up Paddleboard”- thumbs up: 9.3k

Watch the "SUP Tips" playlist here:


Thank you for reading all about the history of SUP! 

Aloha, Robert Stehlik

This post contains photos and videos found online under "fair use" for educational purposes. We can list the sources and/or copyright owners on request.

Here is a playlist videos on Sup History, including the clips used in this compilation:

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Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712

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