Is Paddle Boarding a Sport?

There’s no doubt that stand up paddle boarding is here to stay. As more and more people are getting into it – it’s clear that it is more than just a passing trend.  

This, in fact, means that there’s more to SUP than you might think. It’s more than just a fun activity that helps you get out of the house and connect with nature – it’s actually more correctly categorized as a sport. 

Yes – paddle boarding is a sport.

It can go beyond just casual paddling, and with competitive SUP becoming more and more popular, paddle boarding can definitely be described as a sport like running or swimming. It requires physical effort and involves skills that you have to learn. 

And as mentioned, stand up paddle boarding is a professional sport too!

Let’s get into the details. 

Professional Stand Up Paddle Boarding 

Stand up paddle boarding is a relatively new sport, so most people do it casually. But now there are options, though few, for people who want to do it professionally. 

One way to get into professional paddle boarding is by finding paddling programs and events near you. 

Most of the big programs only hold competitions for SUP racing and SUP surfing. So if you love to catch waves and you trust your skills you might have a chance. Some of the smaller events have SUP yoga, so there’s yet another avenue to compete in a SUP sport.

There are two bodies that hold official paddle boarding competitions: the International Canoe Federation (ICF) and the International Surfing Association (ISA). 

The ISA hosts an annual event where national teams compete in SUP surfing and paddle board racing. It began in 2012 and is now the fastest-growing sport in the ISA World Championship Series

If you want to enter the ISA World Stand Up Paddle Board Championship, you have to talk to your Member Federation. They will guide you. 

The ICF holds international paddle boarding events as well. Their competitions include sprints, longer races, and technical races. You can check their website for upcoming SUP events and SUP boards’ regulations. 

Other than these global competitions, there are countless smaller paddle board competitions held all over the world. They offer some fantastic opportunities for you to explore different waterways outside your country. 

These iconic events  are perfect for paddlers who don’t mind traveling with their paddle boards. Although you can also find paddle boards available for rental at your destination too. 

One such event is the Maui S.E.A Open World Tour SUP Race which will be held in Hawaii in October 2022. It has categories for both pros and amateurs. 

If you’re a SUP fishing enthusiast you can find tournaments near you as well. Kayak Bass Fishing and the Fish N Paddle Saltwater Slam are some popular fishing tournaments for kayakers and stand up paddlers. 

Is Paddle Boarding a Sport in the Olympics?

Despite being a popular and growing sport, stand up paddle boarding is not yet a sport in the Olympics. 

As already mentioned, it is still a new sport, and as such lots of people consider it a recreational activity. However, due to its increasing popularity, it’s not unreasonable to assume that it could soon be in the Olympics. 

In 2020, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that both the ICF and ISA can hold official SUP events. They also ruled that only the ISA will run stand up paddle boarding at the Olympic level. 

Following the decision, the ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, began having talks with the International Olympic Committee about having SUP at the Paris 2024 Olympics. At the time, it was rumored that they were making great progress. 

However, only surfing seems to have been added, and right now there’s no word about SUP. 

Who Is the Governing Body for Paddle Boarding?

For quite some time, there was a dispute over the governance of SUP between the ICF and the ISA. Both of them have been holding SUP events but the ISA wanted to be recognized as the global sole governing body for paddle boarding. 

CAS ruled that the two International Federations can hold all kinds of global paddle boarding activities. However, at the Olympic level, only the ISA will be recognized as the governing body. 

While the ICF welcomed this decision, they say that the International Olympic Committee is still free to make its independent decision on who should be the official governing body. 

Does Paddle Boarding Count As Exercise?

This might seem like a no-brainer, but people are often confused about whether stand up paddle boarding counts as exercise. This may be because of the way we have come to view exercise in today’s society – in that we tend to associate it with either team sports and activities, or something you do inside of a gym

Paddle boarding absolutely counts as exercise. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s one of the best exercises out there, and I’ll tell you why;

First of all, you can SUP anywhere in just about any body of water–rivers, lakes, oceans, inland waterways, and even large swimming pools. 

Secondly, paddle boarding is a full-body workout. It engages pretty much every muscle in your body, from your neck down to your toes. Plus, it’s actually pretty difficult to cause any undue strain with SUP. It’s a low-impact workout, unlike other activities such as running, so you’re less likely to hurt yourself. 

Although SUP seems simple and easy, it has a lot of health benefits. It improves your cardiovascular health and reduces your chances of getting a stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. It’s also quite helpful in rehabilitating injuries. 

Paddle boarding is an excellent workout that burns a lot of calories too. Even casual paddle boarding can help you burn 300 to 430 calories in an hour. SUP surfing and SUP racing burn the highest number of calories in an hour. 

Wrapping Up

Is SUP a sport? Yes, paddle boarding is a sport. You can even do it professionally. 

In fact, paddle boarding is the fastest-growing water sport. There are currently two international federations responsible for holding SUP events. Both the ISA and the ICF hold global SUP competitions every year and you can enter to showcase your skills. They mainly hold competitions for SUP racing and SUP surfing. 

SUP is not yet included in the Olympics but hopefully that will change soon. 

Stand up paddle boarding may seem easy from a distance but it’s a remarkable exercise. It’s a full-body workout that efficiently burns calories and improves your cardiovascular health. You can also paddle anywhere, even in shallow water, making it accessible to most people. 

While there aren’t many options for professional paddle boarding it’s growing quite fast so it’s only a matter of time. For now, it’s still a fun way to exercise, and a fantastic sport to get into recreationally.