Faced with the popularity of surfing, Stand Up Paddle (SUP), or paddle surfing, has taken some heat. Nevertheless, it has come out on top, without getting burnt, thanks to its passionate supporters. This new technique, which started out as a way to train on "flat" days, quickly gained recognition as a sport of its own, its multiple facets giving it a surprising range of diversity. Standing upright on a wave inspires confidence; standing on a lake or a river, it offers previously untapped perspectives. The fact that everyone can have their own approach makes paddle surfing very accessible and gives it a wide appeal. SUP does away with that tricky switch from a prone to standing position while surfing, and the larger size of the board makes it easier to keep one's balance in the waves. Another plus point is that it can be practiced on calm waters, allowing sporting enthusiasts to indulge in the joys of gliding even if the sea is not near at hand. Paddle surfing is growing in popularity by the year, and seems to strike a chord with all those willing to give it a try. It's attracting a good number of fans, who see it either as a hobby or as a sport. Getting started can be laborious, and it can take some time to acquire the necessary technical skills before it starts becoming more fun than work. But on the other hand, Stand Up Paddle provides easier access to surfing, where you can enjoy the fruit of your labours paddle in hand. Carine Camboulives, who lives in Maui (Hawaii), does windsurfing, kitesurfing, longboarding (surfing), and of course, Stand Up Paddle, which, she explains, occupies an important place in her life.
Carine Camboulives, how did you start out stand up paddling?
It was 2004, in Hawaii. A few riders were in the process of developing the sport (Laird Hamilton, Sean Ordonez, etc.). I tried one of their boards and was immediately hooked. It's an awesome feeling to witness the birth of a new sport and its development— I'd been there before with kitesurfing in the late '90s —and there's that incredible feeling of synergy and excitement. There's lots of stumbling around, trying different models and innovative ideas, without exactly knowing where things are headed.
Is SUP more of a hobby or a sport for you?
It's really a sport of its own—one more!— but it's also a pastime for me. SUP has completely transformed my relationship with the waves. I had dropped "pure" surfing after some bad experiences in Hawaii several years ago. Since with SUP one glides on the waves while standing, similar to windsurfing or kite surfing, I was much more in my element than when surfing. I was able to take on much bigger waves, and my apprehension of the "take off" faded. Thanks to SUP, I ended up picking up the longboard again, which I practice whenever I can.
Where do you practice, and what is your favourite spot?
When there is no wind on the North Shore of Maui, I take my SUP everywhere I travel (the Caribbean, Micronesia, Indonesia, etc.). Though the fact is, I don't have to go very far either. I've had some great times every fall in the south of Brittany and on the island of Ré.
Where have you had your best experience?
In Mexico, on a world class wave that the locals work hard to keep a secret. Maui has been great as well.
What's the feeling you get when you paddle surf?
A sensation of completeness and freedom. Stand Up is a great way to get around and explore. It's perfect for reaching bays that are inaccessible on foot, or islands surrounded by coral reefs where it's too shallow for a boat. My board has done me great service a number of times!
For some time now, the number of women practicing gliding sports has been increasing. What does SUP have to offer them?
SUP can be practiced both on waves as well as on calm waters, such as a lake or river. It's sort of like "jogging on the seas." And with a wetsuit, one can paddle all year round. So all in all, it's a sport well suited to women, and a perfect means of getting or staying in shape. All the body's muscles work together in harmony, unlike other sports where only the upper or lower body is in play. Keeping one's balance requires a lot of focus, especially at the beginning, and provides a genuine physical therapy. It's a neuromuscular balancing act similar to that what is usually performed on buoys or balls during physical reconditioning or training.
What advice would you give to beginners?
Choose a board and a paddle that's right for your size and weight. You're better off choosing a light paddle as that will require less shoulder work. It's also more fun and motivating to start out as a group. In order to reduce back strain, don't be afraid to sit down to row or rest when needed, before getting up to your "peak" again. Also, don't forget that when it comes to positioning on the waves, surfers take priority over SUPs. Since the SUP is more mobile, it's easier to get into position or accelerate; so take care not to abuse that advantage. And since the boards are heavy, you always have to be mindful of the surfers behind you when crossing waves.
Where do you see SUP heading in the future?
It's a sport that is booming, and can be done anywhere, at any age, and even by families. It can be a great addition to a beach vacation, or a means of getting fit, or used to get out to the surf, or just for tooling around. In short, there are many different possibilities to be explored!
Want to enjoy some SUP on Maui? Join an organized trip! Details on www.carinecamboulives.com