Paddle Board History

Paddle board history has many origins, read on about the Hawaiian start of the sport as we know it.

Early versions of stand up paddling were seen on the beaches of Waikiki in 1937 when John Zapotocky and a few other local beach boys were using wooden canoe paddles to control their long redwood surfboards and to take pics of the tourists who they were teaching to surf.

This led to the modern version of stand up paddling which as we know it today was started on Maui by big wave surfers Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton.

As the story goes, around 1995 on a small wave day both were playing around in the water with large surfboards used in big wave surfing called ‘guns’. They happen to have an outrigger paddles on them, which resemble canoe paddles. Bending over to use the four foot tall paddles while standing on the boards, the two realized they may be on to something.

Soon thereafter, they hired a friend to design a taller paddle for standing and a more stable board. Mostly unknown at the time, SUP slowly grew in regions with rich surf culture such as Hawaii and Southern California.

SUP didn’t appear in Seattle until around 2006 when I spotted a few paddlers out who brought it back from Hawaii. My friend Bob Smith, who is featured in my book, is also one who brought it back to Seattle after living in islands.

And as they say, the rest is, paddle board history!

From 2006 to 2010, SUP blew up nationally soon becoming the fastest growing sport in America. By 2010, several rental shops had opened in Seattle and paddlers nationwide had begun to try SUP on rivers, big waves, in racing, on long expeditions, fishing and blending paddling with yoga.

My book, Stand up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers was published in 2011.

There are several titles for the sport, SUP, stand up paddling and paddle boarding. Paddle boarding traditionally is also called prone paddle boarding which is not using a paddle for propulsion, but rather using one’s hands, paddling like a surfer.

Now the sport has exploded and new opportunities to use stand up paddling are popping up in all kinds of water – from lakes to surf to rivers and more!

And the sport has filled with not only casual paddling, but races and multi-day touring.

Next up, see all the opportunities now available to you in this fun and varied sport.

Check out the Different Types of SUP you Can Try


Your Safety and Enjoyment is our Priority


“I've gone SUP on my own a few times but felt I might be lacking in some basics. I got a lesson from Rob and it exceeded my expectations by a long shot.

Not only does he give all the strokes you may need in various situations, I also learned about equipment, safety, tides and currents, how to transport and hold my board. Little things that made a huge difference because I'm prepared in every area. Now I can just concentrate on having fun when I hit the water."

- Sean F

"I learned not only how to improve my paddling skills but also how to read the water better, how to train more efficiently and most importantly not to forget to look up and enjoy being on the water.

If you are in the market for a lesson I would highly recommend Rob."

- Troy Nebecker, Bellevue

"Rob’s personalized instruction greatly improved my skills and gave me the confidence to become fully immersed in stand up paddling.

There are plenty of SUP classes out there, most with very large groups and not a lot of one-on-one time. Rob’s classes are small and customized to suit your specific needs and perfect for those who really want to learn the ins and outs of the Pacific NW’s perfect sport."

- Paul Edmonson, Seattle

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