You have probably seen people standing up on a board with a paddle in their hand and are wondering about it. Is that is actually fun or is it more work than it’s worth?
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be a great paddler or some kind of athlete to have a blast on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). I have fun every time I go out. In fact, there are so many ways to do so with a stand-up paddleboard that I couldn’t possibly list them all here.
But, here are 18 fun things to try doing on a SUP:
Whether you are on the ocean, a river, a pond, or a lake, there is always something cool to see.
Above the Water
Just grab your board and hit the water, and take a look around. It doesn’t matter if you are paddling down the East River in New York City or the backwaters of a Georgia swamp. I have spent entire days wandering the streets of New York, watching all the hustle and bustle and looking in awe at the buildings and bridges. Just imagine the new perspective you could get seeing those sites from the water on your SUP.
Site-seeing on a stand-up paddleboard is also great for getting out into nature. I am from coastal North Carolina, and I love to get out on quiet mornings and watch the water birds start their days, leaving their roosts for unknown destinations.
When I paddle down the Cape Fear River close to shore, I can see all kinds of wildlife. I have seen raccoons and deer, fox and beavers as I drift by without making any sound. Quite often, when the animals see me and lock eyes, they will just watch me float by.
Down here in Wilmington, there are plenty of natural things to see while out on the water, but one of my wife’s favorite things to do is to paddle at dusk. She especially likes to do this around the holidays to peek in the big glass windows of the waterfront houses and see all the holiday decorations.
Below the Water
The first time I took a SUP out, I was hooked by what I could see underwater. I have always loved kayaking, but when I was able to stand up and see what I was missing, It was awesome.
My kids and I rented some boards Intracoastal Waterway, and we paddled for around 2 hours. We saw schools of Cow-nose rays cruising beneath us in the clear waters of high tide. We saw diving birds feeding on pinfish. We even saw two young sea turtles. And that was just on my very first trip out.
I now take my inflatable on all my trips (work or pleasure). Just in case I have a chance to get out on the water and see what new sites there are to see.
2. SUP Surfing
I have limited myself to small wave SUP surfing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hit the big waves. I have just gotten older, and it hurts more when I get ground into the sand. But the small waves are a blast.
My favorite kind of sessions are when the wind is light, the waves are small, and it is low tide with the breakers out on the sandbar. I find it much easier to catch waves on my SUP than it is on my short-board. I have the advantage of seeing over the waves to see the next sets that are rolling in.
But the real benefit of using a SUP instead of a surfboard comes from the ability to ride tiny, mushy waves. All I need is 6 inches, and I get a free, albeit slow, but fun ride into the beach.
3. Paddle Board Camping
As you might have guessed, I love to paddleboard. I have learned that I can combine paddling my SUP with many other activities I enjoy, like camping.
The great thing about SUP camping is that you can get to places that others can’t. My favorite place to take my son camping is a barrier island, across the Intracoastal waterway.
To get to our camping spot, you have to paddle through a couple of miles of wandering waterways in the tall coastal grasses. Some stretches are just wide enough to get a SUP or kayak through. So, even with a boat, you won’t be camping on our island.
Imagine the places you could go on your SUP to enjoy a night or two out in nature. I have written a whole post on SUP camping. It goes into much more depth if you are interested.
4. SUP Fishing
There is plenty of fun to be had, and you don’t even need to stand up. You could just paddle around on your knees until you find an excellent fishing spot and drop a line.
Freshwater, saltwater, big fish, little fish; you can do it all from a stand-up paddleboard. And it’s a lot of fun.
While I have buddies that take SUP fishing to the extreme, one likes to rig up some planers and paddle against the current about 500 yards off the beach trolling for smoker kings in the fall. His current record is a whopping 23 pounds from his stand-up paddleboard.
I like to take a bit more laid-back approach when I go SUP fishing. My 11-year-old son and I will paddle to a place we know produces plenty of small Croakers, Pinfish, and the occasional Flounder. We just anchor up, drop a line, hang our feet over the side and wait for our rods to bend. Sup fishing is a great way to spend a summer day.
5. Crabbing from your Paddle Board
Another fun thing to do on a paddleboard is to go crabbing. Not only is this fun, but you also get to go home and have a feast.
There are two ways we like to catch crabs around here. (this is a family channel. Minds out of the gutter please). Here, being coastal NC. If my family wants to make a day out of catching Blue Crabs, we will use the ole “chicken leg on a string” method.
This can be done by one person, but it is more fun with a leg puller and a netter. What you do is tie a piece of bait, chicken legs being our favorite, onto a piece of string about 20 feet long. (long enough to get to the bottom and have a little slack) Then you simply toss the chicken into the water and wait a few minutes.
The crabs will sniff this out and be on the bait sometimes in seconds. Slowly retrieve the line while your partner waits with a long net. The crabs will generally hold on until just before the surface, and sometimes they even hold on to the chicken out of the water. Either way, slip the net under the crap. Scoop him into the cooler, and reset the chicken bait.
If you want a more passive way to catch Blue Crabs, then using crab pots is the answer. I have built these crab traps, but you can get one for about $50 at any tackle shop around here.
All you do is put some bait into the trap. (for these I use fish carcasses that I have taken the fillets off of). Then leave the traps anywhere from a couple of hours to all day. Crabs come in, can’t get out, and I fill my cooler after playing on my SUP all day. Twice the fun!
Make sure you check your local laws on traps. Here I am required to have a “commercial gear” license to use one.
I can hear you now. I thought this post was about “fun” on a SUP. Well, you are right. It is about fun and exercise can be fun…for some people. So, if you are one of those people who enjoys exercise and keeping healthy, then stand-up paddle boarding could be for you.
You can get a great cardio workout on a stand-up paddleboard just by touring or site sight-seeing. Or you could sight-see while getting a fun workout on your SUP. You see, it’s a catch 22. Paddling around on a SUP is fun, but you also get cardio benefits.
Paddling a SUP for fun also has the side effect of strength training. If you simply go for a paddle, you will be working your legs (balance) core (balance and paddling) arms, and back (paddling). Like the cardio, fun, and strength benefits just go together.
If you want to take some of your strength training out of the gym and onto your SUP, there are ways to do that too. There are tons of exercises, especially for your core, that you can do on a SUP. But that is a whole post in itself.
Suffice it to say that you can increase the enjoyment of your workout by doing sit-ups, crunches, planks, push-ups, burpees, etc. all on your SUP. You are outside in the sun and getting that body toned up. What could be more fun?
7. SUP Yoga
SUP Yoga is huge around here. And why not? It has all the benefits and fun that you can find in a studio or on land, but you get to practice your poses out on the water, surrounded by nature.
Most of the poses you do on land, you can do on a SUP. Doing these poses gives you the extra benefit of the need to stabilize yourself and the board, which increases the strength you can build, especially core strength. One of the best things about SUP yoga, like many paddleboard activities, is that you still get to enjoy the ride back or take your board for a spin when you are finished.
SUP yoga can bring you together with like-minded people who enjoy yoga, SUPs, and nature. Or you can practice your yoga on your SUP alone and be one with nature, which brings us to the next activity on the list…
Meditation is a very personal thing. Some folks like to be in a group all doing the same thing. Others want to be alone with their thoughts and let the hustle of the world slip away. I like to be in nature, on the water, and by myself when I meditate. I usually have a fishing pole just in case I can’t keep my inward focus.
The bottom line here is there are few places I can think of other than a special quiet place that only you know about, where you can sit quietly and ponder your upcoming day, your life, or all the mysteries of the Universe.
9. Fireworks From the Water
This is a lot of fun but does require some caution. For years my family has taken our 20-foot skiff out on the river to watch the 4th of July fireworks. For the past couple of years, however, we have been taking our SUP’s out to watch the fireworks.
The benefit here is that we can park our car away from the crowds, put our boards in the water, and paddle up to a lovely beach on a small island across the river from downtown. From there, we have an unrestricted view of the fireworks and a comfortable place to watch them from.
After the show is over, we can load our camp chairs back on our boards, and with the help of the current, have a nice paddle back down to our car.
If this sounds fun to you, make sure you have lights on your SUPS so that the other boats can see you, and keep a sharp eye out for other boaters. We usually stick around for up to an hour after the show. This allows us to let all the crazies that were anchored up in the middle of the river clear out.
10. Concerts (Free)
Similar to watching fireworks, we can also attend concerts that are put on downtown in the amphitheater next to the river. We can park in the same place and paddle down to the venue. Instead of fighting the crowds for a spot, we will stay on our SUP’s, anchor up, and listen to the concert for free. Actually, these concerts are usually free anyway, but we get to avoid the crowds.
As opposed to the fireworks, these concerts are held during the afternoon/early evenings in the summer, so we feel safe tossing out an anchor and relaxing on our boards. If they do go long, or have a later starting time, there is still our private beach across the river we can use.
11. Catch a Baseball or Some Baseball on your SUP
If you are out in San Francisco or possibly in Pittsburgh, you may be able to take your SUP out during a home game and get lucky enough to catch a MLB home run ball.
I haven’t personally gotten the chance to visit either place during a home baseball game, but I have seen people on stand-up paddleboards and in kayaks trying to catch home run balls that leave the park and splash down in McCovey Cove. But, it is on my list of fun things I want to do on my SUP.
One thing you can do just about anywhere is enjoy listening to your favorite team while paddling. Whether that is baseball, football, soccer, whatever your sport. You can grab your headphones and hit the water. Enjoy the play-by-play while paddling around.
I personally will paddle down the Intracoastal waterway for the first four innings of a Yankees or Braves game and turn around when they get into the fifth inning. That way, I will finish my paddle about the same time the game ends. On these long “baseball” sessions, I am in no hurry and just have a nice leisurely trip.
One of the great things about a SUP is that it can be fun transportation to a fun destination or a destination in itself.
All you need here is a towel, a bottle of water, and a sunny day. You can use your SUP to get you to a beautiful private beach without big crowds, or the SUP itself could be your destination. Just lie back and soak up some rays while you float on a quiet lake.
13. SUP your Dog
“Do dogs like to SUP?” you ask.
“Res Ray Roo!” says Fido.
Taking your dog for a day on and around the water is tons of fun for everyone involved. As soon as I start getting my SUP gear together, my Golden Retriever, Abby begins to get excited. She knows fun games of catch and bird chasing lie ahead. In fact, when I want to go paddling alone, I have to keep Abby inside so that she won’t know what I’m up to.
Abby and I usually visit the spoil islands of the Intracoastal or off to the side of the channel in the river. There she has free roam of the island. When she gets too hot, she will plunge into the shallows, and thanks to a week’s worth of training, when it’s time to go, she will take her place on the bow of my SUP.
If you want to read more about paddling with a dog, check out a more in-depth post I wrote HERE.
When I’m not playing with Abby on the islands around town, my kids love to come out with me. They each have their own stand-up paddleboards now. I found a great deal on Amazon, and I bought them each an 11-foot board for less than $300 each. HERE is the review I wrote about those SUPs..
Anyway, when the kids join me, we play lots of games.
Playing tag is not only a fun game, but it also helps improve your paddling and balance. The kids especially like to play tag in the ocean, just outside the breakers. The rules are simple. One person is “it,” and the rest of us have to avoid our board being touched by theirs. Just like on land, whoever is tagged is now it.
Who doesn’t like to pit one’s skills against another’s? Well, my kids are very competitive and will race just about everywhere, especially when we get out on the SUPs.
One of their favorite ways to race is to circle an island back to the starting point. This way, there can be no cutting corners, as the kids are apt to do from time to time.
Hide and Seek
Speaking of circling islands, kids absolutely love to play hide and seek on and off the SUPs in the tall grasses around the islands and on the island itself. It is fun to watch them as they try to be stealthy, crouching down, trying to hide behind the marsh grasses.
Depending on what season it is, we will almost always take some type of ball with us on our boards. We love to toss the old pigskin around in the fall and come spring; we break out our old gloves (they will get wet) and a baseball.
If you are interested in reading more about fun things to do with kids on a SUP, just click HERE (another more in-depth article).
15. Read and Relax aboard your SUP
You don’t have to always be moving on your SUP to have a good time. On hot summer days, I like to take my SUP to a quiet spot on the river, preferably with an overhanging tree for shade, and anchor up.
I have spent many long afternoons with my feet dangling in the cool water while I work my way through whatever book I happen to be reading.
16. Picnic on your SUP
Relaxing on your stand-up paddleboard and reading a good book is nice, but it is made even better if you bring a cooler full of sandwiches and cold drinks.
When I really want to take my SUP picnicking to the next level, I will block off my whole afternoon and pack a full meal, including a bottle of wine. With my basket and cooler nicely packed, I will take my wife for a wonderful romantic picnic on a private stretch of beach.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, sightseeing is great fun on a stand-up paddleboard. Capturing these sights to share later is also quite fun.
I usually have at least one camera on me when I go paddling, but sometimes I have as many as three at any one time. I like to use a Vivitar (cheap GoPro-like camera) for action video shots while riding waves or catching fish.
I also like to take stills of the beauty that I see every time I hit the water. You can get a new perspective of places you pass every day on land. Having a camera onboard, whether video or still will enhance the fun you can have on a SUP.
18. Spending Time with Family and Friends
Finally, If all of the other reasons weren’t good enough for you, Stand up paddle boarding is fun because you get to spend time with family and friends.
What is better than getting out on the water and watching the kids and the dogs explore nature, all while getting some exercise?
So, you have gotten a new stand-up paddleboard and taken it out a time or two. Maybe you haven’t quite gotten the hang of it, and you are thinking to yourself, “this just isn’t any fun! It’s too hard, and I just want to quit.”
Or maybe you have become proficient at paddling and are asking yourself, “What now? Is this all there is to it?”
Stand-up paddleboarding has been and continues to be one of the most FUN activities that I do. You should try it too.
Thanks for reading, y’all
I have lived near the coast most of my life and I love all types of watersports. Stand-up Paddleboarding is my favorite way to get out on the water, stay fit, and have fun. I was the founder of FitFunSUP.com