The Five-Minute History Of Standup Paddleboarding (Video)

Robert Stehlik provides a concise lesson on the birth and boom of the sport

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The story of standup paddleboarding didn’t begin with an inflatable at your local whitewater park in Colorado. The sport has crossed oceans and cultures to become one of the fastest growing in paddling today. If you’re like us though we know you’d rather be out on your board than sitting through a lecture. That’s why we appreciate this concise standup paddleboarding history video with Robert Stehlik, owner of Blue Planet Surf on Oahu.

history of stand up paddleboarding photo
Feature Image: Blue Planet Surf / YouTube

A Five-Minute History of Standup Paddleboarding

Similar to kayaks and canoes, standup paddling traces its roots back to utilitarian uses thousands of years ago.

Stehlik opens the video by bringing our attention to evidence of cultures as far away as Ecuador, Peru, and even Israel, using some method of standup paddling for the purposes of transport and fishing.

Stehlik goes on to share the influence of modern standup paddling, coming from the surfers of Hawaii.

No story of the spread of modern board riding can be told without the global influence of Duke Kahanamoku. The Olympic champion and global ambassador of surf, among many other honors, at times used a paddle on the massive surfboards of the day out in the waves of Waikiki.

Laird Hamilton and group of standup paddlers
Image: Blue Planet Surf / YouTube

The Hamilton And Kalama Effect

Paddles were occasionally used on various crafts in the surf within the past century. But, Stehlik goes on to say that we have another pair of surfing celebrities to thank for turning standup paddleboarding from a historic rarity into the popular paddlesport we have today.

“More recently Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama were doing an Oxbow photo shoot with big long boards, and they picked up some wooden paddles and started paddling standing up on these longboards.” Stehlik explains. “They got into it more. And that’s kind of how the modern day stand-up paddling began, and that’s when the rapid rise of the sport began worldwide.”

In the 1990s, when Hamilton and Kalama took up the discipline in earnest, standup paddling lacked any notoriety or specific equipment. Today, nearly four-million people participate in the sport in the US alone. And the next chapter of standup paddleboarding history books will undoubtedly include the sport’s migration from the sea to our lakes and whitewater rivers.

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