Living legends: Steve & Mandy West

In the world of paddlesports, few have achieved what both Mandy and Steve have in the wider world of watersports. We thought it high time to get the full lowdown from two of the most highly regarded water people around.

Interview: SUPM
Pics: Mistral, Steve and Mandy West

In the world of paddlesports, few have achieved what both Mandy and Steve have in the wider world of watersports. We thought it high time to get the full lowdown from two of the most highly regarded water people around. So without further ado, here’s an incredibly insightful Q&A with Steve and Mandy West.

Tell us a little about your respective water sports backgrounds
Mandy moved to Hayling Island with her folks in the early ‘70s, and her father, Albert, was a keen diver who worked with the original rescue service, HISRO (Hayling Island Surf and Rescue Organisation) and went on to be a part of the dive team on the Tudor ship, the Mary Rose in Southsea. This meant a lot of time on the beach and around boats. Kayaking was her first foray into water sports when she was around ten years old. She always loved playing in the dumping shore break on stormy days, and the ocean was something she grew to love. When just 16, she signed up for a windsurfing lesson at the Northney Boardsports Centre on Hayling Island with her sister, Liesl.

This was April 1980, and I happened to be her instructor. She saw me windsurfing from the seafront on Hayling Island and was surprised to be taught by me. She was a quick learner, a natural athlete and within no time and with daily practice, became when of the best female windsurfers in the country. She went on to be sponsored by a variety of companies, including Gul Wetsuits and Elvstrom and won several UK titles and continued windsurfing right through the ‘80s. 

In the early ‘80s, she studied sport and recreation at Farnborough, took up mountain bike riding, rode competitively, and became a keen SCUBA diver. She also found time to become a highly accomplished saxophonist with a love for the Blues, in which she played professionally in the UK, America and the Far East. When we met up again in 2006, I took her back to her roots of watersports, which led to outrigger canoeing in OC6, OC1, Hawaiian canoe sailing, SUP and windsurfing and travelling the world over. Her natural ability never fails to impress me.

My background in watersports began from an early age. Born in Nigeria, West Africa, watersports were a natural extension of living in a tropical environment. When I was six, we moved to Sierra Leone, and at the same time, my father purchased a property on Hayling Island, and I was shoved off to boarding school. It was a shock to the system, but each holiday I would fly back to the various locations around the world; my father was posted as an engineer. His leisure time was game fishing and powerboats, which became a part of my life for a time. When we moved to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, I took up sailing and racing and was hooked; this was followed by some time in Java, Indonesia, then four years in Mauritius, where I took up windsurfing as my main interest.

After finishing my schooling, I was accepted into Southampton University to study Yacht and Boat Yard Management, and I had an apprenticeship arranged in Devon with Tremlett Powerboats. After a few days of ‘talk and chalk’, I could not deal with being institutionalised any longer and left to focus my attention on freelance writing for windsurfing publications and my windsurfing career.

In 1980, I founded the Round Hayling Windsurfing Race with the late Peter Williams. I was a member of the British Windsurfing Display Team together with Pete and Dee Caldwell and Lisa Vincent and acted as Captain of the Peter Stuyvesant Display Team, running shows at major events such as boat shows and water ski racing events. Although I was competitive at course racing, I was led by wind and waves and could not commit to the circuit. The Bacardi World Cup, held on the Isle of Man in 1982, was the world’s first multi-disciplinary professional windsurfing event in which I was invited. I did well as someone more interested in soul-sailing than competing and won £3000, which funded a trip to Australia. 

What happened after you left the UK in the 80s?
My father had sailed a 36′ Trimaran from Fiji to Australia in 1982 and invited me to meet him in Mooloolaba, Queensland, where he had made landfall. Arriving in Australia with two boards given to me by my close sailing buddy, Angus Chater, along with a quiver of Hyde Sails provided by Eddy Hyde, I soon lived the Aussie lifestyle. I assimilated quickly into the windsurfing community, where everything was wave sailing and surf orientated. I was soon associating with sail and board shapers and designers in Australia, organising events, and contributing to various publications. 

When in 1986, my close friend Angus took his own life when living in Hawaii, it shook me up, and I found myself reflecting on my own life. So many of us had sacrificed so much to pursue windsurfing, and I was feeling burnt out and needed change. The pioneering days were like nothing else you could imagine, an all-consuming obsession that is well documented. From this, I took to surfing and bodyboarding.

Then in 1989, I see a six-person 40′ Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe gliding over the water. It was evocative and powerful to see such grace and beauty. The crew consisted of two Maori lads and three Aussies. There was a free seat, and next thing I’m sitting and paddling with the guys and loving it. That very night, the Mooloolaba Outrigger Canoe Club was founded. I was hooked from the start, and this was to become my next focus of attention. Windsurfing had given me so much water knowledge, and being around my Aussie mates, had hardened me up and gave me a greater appreciation of what it was to become a waterman and now here I was involved in a Polynesian paddling sport that would take me on an epic life journey that continues to this day.

I wanted to know more about outrigger canoeing and had the idea to write a book about the sport from a contemporary standpoint. Since the early ‘50s, outrigger canoeing had been formalised through the establishment of associations in the Hawaiian Islands and California and in Tahiti, where in fact, it had been uninterrupted by the arrival of missionaries, unlike Hawaii, where it had been banned for 50 years. The outrigger canoe remains a central maritime artefact for all cultures of Oceania, and it was this cultural connection that drew me in most of all. My upbringing in Africa and the Far East had given me a genuine interest in coastal-based indigenous cultures, which relied upon canoes in all forms, so I wanted to understand more.

It took a year to write my first book entitled ‘Kanu Culture’, which included overviews of some of the great races located around the Pacific, focus on canoe designs and Hawaiian and Tahitian terminology. I made one trip to Hawaii for my research. After the book’s release in 1994, the result was extraordinary and especially from the Pacific-wide outrigger community, from Hawaii to California and beyond. They loved it and wanted more, and I went on to produce one book a year for 12 years, which meant extensive and continual travel around the Pacific region. When I finally produced definitive books after 15 years, they were taken up by the University of the South Pacific and the University of Hawaii as references for various studies, which was very gratifying. I would have continued, but I had made a right mess of my personal life in never being at home. I was a single Dad to my daughter Alana from when she was six years old; she travelled with me to many places around the Pacific, which was an excellent education for her.

I was racing OC1s and OC6 canoes at high levels and travelling Pacific-wide competing from 1989 to 2007. I represented Aussie, and New Zealand teams on different occasions even paddled with Hawaiian crews and mixed country crews. It was not glamorous, indeed seriously hardcore, in remote areas of the Pacific in conditions most would never attempt. It made for an abnormal life but incredible experiences. I was fortunate to form strong relations with Tahiti Tourism who funded many trips to their islands, my favourite place on earth.

I spent a lot of time in Fiji with over 20 trips and was a consultant to their South Pacific Games squad for seven years and during this time, I created an apparel line for paddlers, which we manufactured in Suva, Fiji. I was also the National Coaching Director for OC in Australia for six years with Chris Maynard, where I wrote the first Instructor Training Course for AOCRA in line with Australian Canoeing and the Australian Institute of Sport guidelines.

My last race in Australia was in 2007 at the Hamilton Cup. Our crew won all events in our division. Still, the best experience was racing with five other guys in the 16km race around Hamilton Island in which the canoe was composed of paddlers and iron men competitors of which between us, there must have been over 20 Molokai wins and other multiple titles; needless to say, we smashed it by a long way in tough race conditions, and I loved every stroke of it. It was 26 years of glorious madness living on the Pacific Rim and venturing into the unknown.

Where and when did SUP come into the equation?
In late 2005, Todd Bradley, who founded C4 Waterman in Hawaii along with fellow business associates, contacted me and let me know what he was up to. A company in Sydney published my Kanu Culture magazines, which I founded in 1994, and I included his story about this new sport of stand-up paddleboarding. Then I see that a few of my OC paddling buddies are having a go at it, mostly just by using Malibu boards with extended homemade paddles. Woogie Marsh, who I had raced OCs with and a Molokai winner, told me I should give it a go, and in early 2006 I did together with Mandy.

We ended up buying two NSP Malibu boards from Chris De Aboitz in Noosa and began venturing out between our OC training sessions. It was for me a secondary sport to supplement the OC paddling, which certainly helped to use different muscle groups and provide a variation on a theme. We paddled rivers and lakes and surfed at various locations, as is the Aussie way, and soon we were both doing more and more of it, evolving as the sport evolved.

When we both came over to the UK in 2010 or thereabouts, we paddled old windsurfing boards for a while, and at some point, I found myself captain of the Starboard 12’6 Race Team through John Hibbard and Dave Hackford. We both competed, did well at various events, and began hosting events at the Hayling Island Sailing Club. Having established the Round Hayling Island Windsurfing Race in 1980 with Peter Williams, the event had been reinstated by the sailing club, who asked if I could formulate a plan to include SUP. I prepared a risk assessment, rules, and SUP has been a part of this event ever since. Later I was able also to include an outrigger canoeing division.

And what sees you back now in England?
It was not until 2010 when I was visiting the UK and managing the establishment of the Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI), that I became entrenched in the UK. My buddy Jamie Mitchell of prone paddleboarding, big wave and SUP fame knew I was in the UK and called me to see if I would be interested. One thing led to another, and I was soon full time involved in this process until 2013. When I felt I had made my mark and had set them up, Mandy and I departed for Fiji to Leleuvia Island.

A call from Mistral based in the Netherlands brought me back to the UK, and in 2014, I began working with the brand, establishing our own company to do so. Then in 2016, we moved to Mauritius, where I had lived in the past, and we became residents. I was by now very much involved with different aspects of overseeing the Mistral brand, from designs, production, and marketing. Mandy worked with some garment factories and managed our book sales, being distributed out of the UK. It was a busy time.

Then in 2018, I suffered a 95% blockage of my left descending artery, which had Mandy rushing me to the hospital at 2.30 am. My memory of that moment will stay with me forever. I had felt this fear before being held under in big water, but I could not reach the surface to breathe in this situation. I was sedated and woke up with a stent fitted and told, “I was very lucky to be alive.” It was only on account of the fact my heart is oversized and strong from years of paddling that I made it; my condition has been attributed to high blood pressure, which can tear the artery walls and encourage plaque build-up. Aptly the condition is known as ‘The Widow Maker’. Ultimately we returned to the UK to be nearer to the Mistral head office in the Netherlands and to take on the family property on Hayling, get a Spaniel (Monty) and settle down a little, not that our wanderlust has been thwarted. However, Covid has taken care of this recently.

Tell us about your book SUP book?
Since I had been writing and documenting the sport from around 2005 and with the influx of outrigger canoe paddlers getting involved, it became a natural extension of the 12 other books I had written and the four definitive works I had produced for V1, OC1, OC6 and OC Steering. The white noise of forums and self-proclaimed paddling experts was painful to wade through. I recount famous waterman who claimed to be paddlers but never were, and that was truly tragic and an insult to those that were. It was easy for physically fit waterman to ‘win’ SUP events, where they simply muscled their way through, where strength, fitness and water skills were a good substitute for actual paddling ability of any technical merit. From an evolutionary standpoint, such individuals were replaced by paddlers of genuine talent and finesse, often from OC, surfski, canoe or kayak backgrounds, though some from windsurfing backgrounds also.

There were many issues to address, not least of which was provenance, which was important as someone interested in maritime history. Standing and paddling is nothing new to islanders of the Pacific, let alone African cultures. Yet, marketing dictates that if Hawaii can be considered the birthplace, then the romantic notion of this alone ‘works’, add in a couple of waterman legends who claim to have invented the sport, tag it with a surfing label. You have your marketing hype in the bag. 

From a contemporary standpoint, we can agree on some of these merits, but we should not forget the relevance of outrigger canoeing, which is evident to anyone who paddles outrigger canoes in the Hawaiian Islands; nor that of prone paddleboarding; they are intrinsically linked. Why does it matter? Well, because synergy tells you about cross-platforming. It tells you why Travis Grant, Danny Ching or Jamie Mitchell have been on the podium many times over; this then helps lead to a study of biomechanics and even more of the board and paddle design. 

The book took five years to finish and was released in 2012; and covers a vast range of topics, which I wanted to share with the world, from paddling techniques, paddle and board designs, how stuff works and why. There’s a long chapter on downwind paddling, issues around safety, balance issues and so on. Off the back of this book, at 500 pages and all my other works, in 2014, I won the World Paddle Award for media, which was hugely gratifying after a lifetime of writing. 

The book ‘Stand UP Paddling – A Paddler’s Guide’ was very well received, and though the amount of information may be overwhelming for some, even challenging, it’s stood the test of time. It gives an excellent historical and technical account of the sport. It has been dubbed many times over as ‘The SUP Bible’ by many notable sources. In the USA, some objected to my challenging the idea this was not a surf sport but a paddle sport or, at best, a unique sport, but overall, they embraced the content.

How does SUP fit your watery life?
Today SUP remains a part of our life, but we balance it with OC paddling, Hawaiian Canoe Sailing and Windsurfing. Designing boards for Mistral means I remain focused on key elements of the sport, and I aim to begin going back to paddle design which I have done in the past. When career waterman and women get involved in the pioneering process, that’s when changes happen because we find ourselves being approached on various levels to assist and add a comment, inspire, mentor, and so on. It’s an expected bi-product and an extension of your life, and people sense there must be gravitas behind the idea if certain individuals are involved.

To put this in context, when the ASI commissioned me to set up their system here in the UK to train instructors, it led to the co-writing with Chris Rea of the ‘SUP Water Rescue and Safety Course’, which was the first of its kind for the sport. With his lifeguard training experience and myself with years of paddling and ocean sports knowledge, Chris created something unique, seminal, and significant. We saw the board as a rescue craft, and we recognised the synergy to perform board rescue, but beyond this, many other aspects of water safety could be passed on to instructors. This, together with a foundation course, became a compulsory course for instructors.

Jamie and brother Justin Mitchell had written the first Level 1 ASI Instructor Course. The course dealt only with flat water, yet many schools operated from beaches with some shore break and where marine traffic was present, and so I formulated another course for a Level 2 which dealt with these issues. I then wrote a Level 3 for Downwind Paddling, focusing on a wide range of topics. 

Mandy was the backbone of the ASI here in the UK as she handled all the admin side of things. We worked in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the USA and by 2013 or so, I had had enough; I was giving it more than it was giving me, and SUP was not fun for me at that point. 
While we were in Fiji and on the verge of settling there, Chris Rea and Ben Longhurst contacted us, saying they wanted to leave the ASI and would I be interested in doing something with them. They are both top guys, and I could not say “No” to them. I came up with a name, ‘Water Skills Academy’ (WSA), and we put our heads together to create the first courses for SUP. Meanwhile, Chris brought over his lifeguard training courses, surf instructor courses. Since then, sit on top kayak, and coasteering has been added. we want to add outrigger canoeing course and why not; when time permits. So SUP is always with me one way or another.

After finishing my schooling, I was accepted into Southampton University to study Yacht and Boat Yard Management, and I had an apprenticeship arranged in Devon with Tremlett Powerboats. After a few days of ‘talk and chalk’, I could not deal with being institutionalised any longer and left to focus my attention on freelance writing for windsurfing publications and my windsurfing career.

In 1980, I founded the Round Hayling Windsurfing Race with the late Peter Williams. I was a member of the British Windsurfing Display Team together with Pete and Dee Caldwell and Lisa Vincent and acted as Captain of the Peter Stuyvesant Display Team, running shows at major events such as boat shows and water ski racing events. Although I was competitive at course racing, I was led by wind and waves and could not commit to the circuit. The Bacardi World Cup, held on the Isle of Man in 1982, was the world’s first multi-disciplinary professional windsurfing event in which I was invited. I did well as someone more interested in soul-sailing than competing and won £3000, which funded a trip to Australia. 

Tell us a little about your canoe sailing shenanigans – it looks to be the pinnacle of a combination of both paddle and sail sports?
I first sailed these beautiful icons in Hawaii, and then when Mandy I were living in Fiji for six months, we were sailing regularly. When we moved to Mauritius, I wanted a means for us to sail to the outer lying islands and contacted the owner and long-time friend, Nick Beck, if he knew if there was a one for sale. He tracked one down in the foothills of LA, and the owner was looking for a buyer. At $25,000, they are not cheap, and this one was around half of this. Mistral came to the rescue and funded the purchase and shipping from LA to Mauritius. It was a game-changer in having ‘Kanoa’ with us on the island. In 2017 we went to Tahiti and took part in the Holopuni Va’a event from Tahiti to Bora Bora over 400km, which was mind-blowing and an event we want to go back and compete in. When it came time to leave Mauritius, we could not leave her there, and so we had her shipped back to the UK and subsequently purchased her from Mistral. Handling one of these demands many skills. Steering is controlled by a paddle only, and though it may look easy, it’s far from it. Paddle skills are essential, and when you’re reaching 20+ knots in big seas, you had better know what you’re doing. 

Both of you have competed in various disciplines. Where does competition sit for you both?
Competition has played a part in our lives, but it’s been no more than a testing ground for me and has never been an occupational obsession. Competing does not define who I am or my place in water sports. On the other hand, having the trophies and kudos from Molokai wins and other international events such as the Catalina Crossing in California and many other international events do you no harm, of course, and adds to the experiences you can share with others. 

Mandy is very much like me. She is not overly competitive, just fast by default. I remember doing a downwind run with her and maybe ten others from Sandbanks to Hengistbury Head in Bournemouth. It’s around nine miles, I suppose, and the conditions went from F6 to F8 and quite gnarly in some sections. Mandy was middle of the pack and a long way ahead of one of the UK’s top female competitor of the time. No training, no theatrics, there she was kicking-arse and loving it. When she first competed in the River Dart Race, she won the women’s division by over a mile beating the then UK National Champion. Competing is optional even if you’re good and many of the best are not competing, and it’s good to keep that perspective in mind.

Give us some insight into the last few years and how things have differed with personal health and COVID lockdowns.
I took a hit with my blocked artery, which scared the hell out of me. I find I don’t want to push quite as hard as I used to, but then again, I don’t feel the need to and still get plenty out of my water time, whether with a boom or paddle in my hand. Oddly, I feel Mandy and I are both living our lives backwards, only beginning now to settle down in one spot for the first time. We’re already making plans for our golden years when we can be in Tahiti or somewhere warm and tropical at the very least. Honestly, Covid did not affect us much, as we live by the water and work from home and recognise how fortunate we both are. From a business and personal perspective, we’ve had to delay travel, which we would have made this past 12 months.

Where do you see your personal on water experiences going? Any particular goals or plateaus to get over?
I think some foiling is on the horizon, notably wing foiling, as I’ve been fully occupied developing this part of Mistral’s inventory. I’m working with two talented designers, Cam Stewart and Tom Partington, on foils designed from ground zero. These we are scheduling for 2022 together with new wing sails. We’re also working on reverse engineering some classic Mistral windsurfing boards from the past, so there’s plenty to get on with. Mistral is booming right now, and reinvestment is focused on some very nice high-end product over the coming years. As for experiences, we both want to return to Tahiti to compete in the 400km plus canoe sailing race over five days from Tahiti to Bora Bora; we don’t do holidays, only experiences.

Away from the water, you both have other ‘stuff’ going on. Steve – writing and equipment designing. Mandy – a talented/accomplished saxophonist. How do these two elements fit your lifestyle?
What others perceive as work, I consider a lifestyle for which I get paid. It’s all very blurred around the edges when your work is your life. If you find something that is your hobby for which you get paid, then you never have to ‘work’ a day in your life; which is not to say there aren’t stresses that can go with it, mainly when it comes to working with difficult people, but then you learn to circumvent them where possible. Mostly my line of work is not advertised, it’s what you know and who you know, and you only get out of it what you put in – reputation is everything in this industry. Although I am outspoken on the issues I know about, I am confident in knowing I am not giving opinions, but simply what I consider to be the best facts to my knowledge. 

Mandy has taken a long gap out of playing the saxophone professionally, it was a lifestyle that took a lot out of her, but she’s keen to drift a little back into it. However, we value our time together, and she’s no intention of being out every night jamming with a band; that’s not the way we want our relationship to be. We are fortunate we love the same things and blend so well that our lifestyle needs and wants complement one another. Most of all, we love being on the water together.

Steve: give us three predictions about SUP moving forwards and where you think it’s heading?
SUP got off to a fractious beginning, as a concept and as an industry. Accelerated by social media, over-hyped by brands wanting to save their skins by branching out into something they knew nothing about, notably ‘paddling’. As a ‘sport’, it’s about as dysfunctional a platform as you could build for any cohesive way forward for racing, race rules, board specs and race formats. Without a proper gestation period, rules were created, especially concerning board design parameters and steering systems. On the other hand, SUP as recreation is a roaring success.

It should be made clear, and there should be no ambiguity about the fact that in the context of racing, SUP forms its own ‘International Governing Body’ and, therefore, its own rules. This IGB then works with respective affiliated National Governing Bodies (NGBs).

In the fullness of time, the said IGB decides who it wishes to affiliate with the on the basis of intent to pursue becoming an Olympic sport. Forget funding, this only goes to Olympic sports, but red tape, you can count on it. Outrigger canoeing, has as its IGB, the ‘International Va’a Federation’ (IVF). Each region then has its own NGB, such as in Fiji. They have the ‘Fiji Outrigger Canoe Racing Association’ (FOCRA), affiliated with the IVF, which is affiliated with the ICF. 

The very idea that a third party should govern SUP and that we, the paddlers, accept such a status quo clarifies just how dysfunctional the entire racing scene has become. Knowledge is power, and in this instance, there’s just too much BS being accepted.

Racing has mostly been about brands wanting to gain kudos and athletes wanting to get paid for globe-trotting, and that’s about it. Racing is painful, it hurts, it’s not that much fun, and it’s made the politics more painful. Brands sell very few race boards; they’re reliant on 10’6 inflatables and the like. Many brands have massively over capitalised on race board development and team riders when it would be better to sponsor ambassadors of fun and adventure on their inflatables. This is how it is. 

SUP has traction as a fun, recreational pursuit on water, but it has some significant issues as a serious sport. SUP foiling has only helped dilute and confuse the evolution of the sport, and I’m wondering when Moloka’i returns, how many will line up on unlimited boards. Numbers were already declining the last time it was staged, and in speaking with my mate Travis Grant, a four-time winner, he told me he was keen to foil the channel the next time around, not because he was fed up with the unlimited division, but because it’s the ‘next thing’ to conquer and why not.

Ironically and perhaps understandably, the sporting aspect of SUP has been dumbed down in respect of the equipment. It fails to appeal to accomplished athletes by not offering equipment to a cross-section that wants hi-tech and is perfectly OK with carbon this and that and gadgets and big price tags. Unlimited flatwater boards with steering mechanisms are a good example. These boards are superior in every way over a 14′ board in certain paddling environments, and yet who would know because so few have ever experienced such a thing. 

The beauty is, you don’t have to race these boards to appreciate them, though their lack of popularity is not helped when race organisers actively reject them, such as the organisers of the 11 Cities SUP Race. This pervasive attitude shuts down the evolutionary process for no other reason than the fact, they are too fast and will disrupt the timing of the event?

Rudder systems as a case in point, fitted to all unlimited boards or indeed any performance SUP board, make a SUP board a different experience and yet for no reason of traditional dogma, the rules are overly prescriptive, when in fact, the sport needs to evolve for the sake of greater enjoyment and diversity of participant. It’s here to stay for the foreseeable future, of course. It ticks the boxes of accessibility and ease of use for the masses, which is very much the wide base of the pyramid. Inflatable users switching to hardboards will ensure greater traction and longevity.

Mandy: give us three predictions for women’s SUP and what you think might happen there.
Covid has spiked the growth of family participants, and from what you see, it seems more women are participants of SUP on inflatables than men. On the other hand, fewer women race than men. SUP racing is painful, even if that appeals to some. Women make the difference to SUP because it bolsters numbers and perhaps ensures SUP is mainly recreational. In Australia, where I was racing OC6 canoes, as brutal as this sport is, more women were competing than men, by only a small percentage, but that’s a cultural issue because Aussie women are highly competitive and love to beat men at anything whenever they can.

Women hold the balance at a recreational level, and it has been very empowering for many women who have taken up SUP, whether recreationally or as a sport. It’s the fact that women find SUP appealing that its longevity is assured and this to me is very significant.

Any final thoughts on SUP, paddling in general or watersports as a whole?
SUP is part of a family of paddle sports, and I think when participants recognise this, they can grasp the reality they are part of something very much bigger. They are, in fact, part of a lineage of many related paddlesports. If you want to become ‘better’ at SUP, the best way, ironically, is to spend some time sitting and swinging a paddle rather than standing. Sitting permits you to focus the mind on your technique and connection with water. 

Standing and paddling are about as hard as it gets. In this respect, it’s an advanced form of paddling, possibly more primitive in fact. It’s well documented ancient cultures were standing and punting and paddling before sitting, and they were pretty pleased with themselves when they did, I would think; the sense of relief would have been palpable. In a sense, we have reverse engineered a sit-down form of canoeing to standing, which could be considered regressive and in no way an advancement of the paddling process. 

Paddling is a low impact activity, but the potential for injury on account of leverage loads and stresses through the body makes injury a concern for the SUP paddler. Therefore be smart about your paddle choice and paddle length in particular.

Most of all, come to terms with SUP in a way that is not too obsessive, or you will, in time more than likely, lose interest. Paddlesports can be for life, and when you mix them with a variety, then this is the spice that will keep you involved for a lifetime of watersports.

I’ve witnessed hundreds who have burned bright then faded away. Take a slow-burn approach, and you can enjoy watersports in all variants for a lifetime.

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