Is Paddleboarding a Sport? What’s the Appeal?

Paddleboarding is one of the newer water sports to gain widespread popularity, and there’s a reason for it. I started wondering how paddleboarding gained such mainstream interest and – is it actually a sport? 

Is paddleboarding a sport? What’s the appeal? Yes, paddleboarding is a sport, and it appeals to many people for a number of different reasons. Here’s a look at some of those reasons:

  • ·        You can do it anywhere there’s water
  • ·        Just about anyone can do it
  • ·        Get a full-body workout
  • ·        Great way to make new friends
  • ·        Stressbusting fun

These reasons sound great, but I need to know more about the sport before I jump in. Follow along, and I’ll show you what I learned.

What Exactly is Paddleboarding – and is it Really a Sport?

First, to be clear, stand up paddle boarding is a sport. Oxford Dictionary defines sport like this:

“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment.”

There is definitely plenty of competition available for people who take up paddleboarding. There is also exertion, skill, and entertainment. So that’s that. 

Where it All Began

The sport started in Hawaii. It uses a surf style board and a long paddle, so it’s kind of a cross between surfing and canoeing. Just because it uses a surf style board doesn’t mean you can only do it on the waves. In fact, many SUP enthusiasts do it on calmer water. 

Paddleboarding, in a broad sense, is when a paddleboarder kneels, lays, or stands on a narrow paddleboard and uses their arms to move around the water. 

The area of the sport people are probably more familiar with is stand up paddle boarding or SUP. This area of paddle boarding is gaining popularity, and it’s gaining it fast. 

The paddleboarder stands up on the board and uses the paddle to move through the water. Here’s a look at the general dimensions of a paddleboard:

· Between 8 and 14 feet long

· About 30 inches wide

· Weighs between 20 and 40 pounds

Now that you know some paddle boarding basics, let’s take a look at what makes it so appealing.

What’s the Appeal of Paddleboarding?

Paddleboarding, specifically stand up paddleboarding, appeals to a broad audience for a number of different reasons. Here’s a look at the reasons that come up most often:

  • · You can do it anywhere there’s water
  • · Just about anyone can do it
  • · You get a full-body workout
  • · You’ll make new friends
  • · It’s a stress buster

Let’s take a closer look at why each of these reasons makes paddleboarding appealing.

You Can Do It Anywhere There’s Water

Unlike surfing, you can do paddleboarding in just about any body of water. While more enthusiastic paddleboarders might enjoy some ocean waves, paddleboarding can be done on lakes, rivers, canals, inland waterways, and even large swimming pools.

If you don’t have room to store or cart a paddleboard around, you can still participate in the sport thanks to the invention of inflatable stand up paddleboards. When not inflated, this paddleboard fits right into a backpack.

An inflatable board also means you can roll it up, throw it in your suitcase and take it to your favourite beach destination.

The flexibility of paddleboarding makes it unique compared to other water sports that are much more weather dependent.

Just About Anyone Can Do It

Beginner or advanced, young or old, really anyone can do some form of paddleboarding. Most water sports take a level of experience to enjoy, but paddleboarding is enjoyable at the beginning level. And it’s easy to get going: 

  • · Pop your board in the water
  • · Get on the board
  • · Start paddling

If you’ve ever tried surfing and struggled, you might be totally freaked out by paddleboarding, but paddleboards are designed for solidity and easier balance. 

Beginners can keep to calmer waters, while more advanced paddleboarders can hit ocean waves or even white-water rapids on a river.

It’s also a family sport. You can pop your child (in a life jacket) or pet on the end of your paddleboard while you paddle around. If you have children who are old enough, they can give paddleboarding a run in shallow water. 

Even senior citizens can join in on the fun. If they’re not confident enough or able to stand on the paddleboard, they can sit or kneel and still find many benefits in paddleboarding.

Paddleboarding is versatile. Here’s a look at some of the other areas stand up paddleboarding is used for training in combination with different activities (head to the links for deeper discussion of each activity): 

Get a Full-body Workout

If you have to exercise, you might as well make it fun, right? Paddleboarding will work more muscles than many other sports, and you get to enjoy the water and sun while you’re at it.

You’ll get both a cardio and muscular workout on the paddleboard. As you work to stay balanced and move yourself forward, you’ll work your core, legs, and arms as you involve your whole body in the workout.

You’ll end up burning 400 or more calories an hour in paddleboarding. That’s a lot of calories for a low-impact exercise that has a low risk of injury and doesn’t place any excessive strain on your muscles.

A Great Way to Make New Friends

Paddleboarding is a social sport where you’ll meet plenty of new people. Whether it’s in a group lesson, while you’re on a leisurely outing, or in an intense competition, you’re bound to get talking with others involved in the sport.

Speaking of competition, this is a big deal, stand up paddleboarding competitions are held worldwide, and some paddleboarders are good enough to have sponsors.

You might even make new friends while sightseeing in a new place on a paddleboarding tour. Yes, paddleboarding tours are a thing now. A guide takes you and the rest of the group on paddleboards to explore new places and sights.

Stressbusting Fun

Of course, any exercise is beneficial for you as it improves your cardiovascular health. Any form of exercise also releases endorphins, which gives you bursts of happiness and helps you sleep better as well as improves your mood and reduces anxiety. 

Bodies of water have shown to provide a relaxing effect, and water noises are scientifically proven to reduce stress, so that added with the benefits of exercise makes paddleboarding a natural choice as a stress buster.

How Do I Get into Paddleboarding?

So now that you’re convinced it’s a sport and there are lots of reasons for its appeal, you may want to get involved. 

Getting Started

Paddleboarding is a pretty easy sport to get into. Here’s a look at how to get started:

  1. Visit a local beach, lake, lagoon, water sports club or shop.
  2. Sign up for a lesson or two with them. My first lesson with a video summary is posted here.
  3. Rent some gear a few more times to test out your enthusiasm for the sport.
  4. Make sure to try out different types of boards to see what you prefer.
  5. Ask the shop about applying any rental fees to the purchase of a new paddleboard. 
  6. Buy a used board if you’re looking to save some money or if you’re not sure you’re totally into the sport just yet.

Your First Paddleboard

When it comes time to buy a paddleboard, you’ll need to consider the following factors and specs of the board:

  • · Weight
  • · Volume
  • · Capacity 
  • · Size

Anyone at a paddleboard shop will be happy to help you find the right board for your size and level. This is where renting one and trying it out beforehand comes in handy. And your first board doesn’t have to be expensive. There are frugal alternatives, the Bluefin line comes in at mid-priced level, and you can even find boards at Costco from time to time.

Final thoughts

I hope you’re convinced to give this fun and invigorating sport a try. There are many reasons why paddle boarding is one of the world’s fastest growing sports. It’s a relaxing, engaging, physically active and eco-friendly way to enjoy what I call the other 70% of the planet. It’s time to go out and find a shop so you can hit the water.

As always, get out there, stay safe and have fun!


Articles contain affiliate links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The site is also an affiliate for other brands covered in our the content. We may earn a small commission when readers purchase through these links at no extra cost to the buyer.

Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

Recent Content