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Paddle love? Other complimentary SUP disciplines to try.

  • Post category:Opinion
  • Reading time:7 mins read

If you’re a recent convert to SUP, and have fallen in love with paddling, you may be considering what else is available. This could be within the world of stand up paddling itself (of which there are many pathways to follow) or within the wider world of paddlesports. Paddlesports all have one thing in common: the paddle! This means if you have some grasp of paddling with a SUP paddle you’ll be able to – with a little time – transfer these skills to other paddle disciplines.

Kayaking (closed cockpit).

The obvious one is perhaps kayaking. In this instance, we’re talking about the closed cockpit type of kayak. Using a spray skirt (a neoprene cover all that affixes over the cockpit opening) closed cockpit kayakers use a double ended blade for additional momentum and efficiency. Kayakers are often quicker than stand up paddlers and being seated can often take on things like weirs and waterfall drops in a more efficient way than SUP. Having a lower center of gravity means balance is often better.

Our friends at Rapid Skills coaching essential kayaking skills.

A downside to closed cockpit kayaking is in the event of capsizing it’s either rolling the boat back up (which is a skill that takes time to learn) or popping the spray deck. This kayak then needs to be emptied. Spray decks don’t inspire much confidence at first either! There’s a fear of entrapment.

Sit on top kayaking.

Sit on tops were the king of all recreational watercraft for a while. Then SUP exploded and took that mantle. Sit ons are still worth a look, however. Particularly if you have nervous people not confident with standing on boards.

Sit on kayaks come in either rotomoulded plastic construction (which are extremely durable, although heavy) or inflatable. Inflatables are super susceptible to things like wind and current and don’t quite deliver as authentic a paddling experience as plastic sit ons. We understand though why these would be the choice.

Sit on top kayak surfing fun.

Paddlers of sit on top kayaks can pretty much take them anywhere and do anything – within reason. Just as with an allround SUP. In some cases we know families that own both sit on tops and iSUPs thereby maximising the fun. Some of McConks’ paddle boards have the option of attaching and sit on top kayak seat. We’re not massive fans of this but it does lend extra versatility.

Sea kayaks.

Much like recreational playboat kayaks mentioned above sea kayaks use spray decks to keep the paddler wedged in the boat’s cockpit. The differences, however, are sea kayaks are usually much longer designs, with pronounced needle nose fronts and tails, with the ability to carry more stuff. In some cases they also have stern rudders to help keep the boat tracking tracking straight and true.

Sea kayaking in all its glory.

Sea kayaks can be used for expedition and touring paddle missions. But also some experienced riders do use them for kayak surfing on rolling swells.

Outrigger canoes.

Coming in one man, two man and multiple man versions outrigger canoes have also had close synergy with SUP. Mostly because OC pilots and crew use single bladed paddles. In some corners – particularly the Polynesian world – OC is a hallowed pastime that’s part of lifestyle and family tradition. It’s a right of passage for offspring to paddle the family OC and as such is given a lot of respect.

An example of OC 1 paddling.

In the UK there’s a healthy OC scene to be found in pockets. Outrigger boats are certainly more efficient – because of their hull designs – the stand up paddle boards. Those who paddle OC are absolutely fanatical about them!

Prone paddle boards.

A lot of SUPers either migrate completely or adopt prone paddling as part of their wider paddling experience. SOme see prone paddling as a more purist form of the sport. The narrower boards used are seen as more efficient and in some cases faster. That’s with using just arm power rather than paddle power!

Like OC there’s a healthy prone paddling scene in the UK for anyone wanting to investigate. And it’s thought within the prone community that some numbers of stand up paddlers will come across to proning moving forwards.


Surfing, for all intents and purposes, is as much a paddling discipline as it is a wave riding one. Good paddle fitness and technique are key to efficient positioning and nabbing quality slides along liquid walls. If surfing is your thing then paddlesports can certainly help. Many surfers use prone paddleboarding, for instance, to help with their surfboard paddling technique.

SUP can be complimentary to surfing, and is used as such by respectable numbers of surfers. Some prefer SUP for flat water training whilst others use the discipline for small wave surfing, switching back to their trusty surfing sled when conditions improve.

There are plenty of other paddling sports to check out if you fancy. Do some digging online and you’ll discover a wider world of paddling.

If this article floated your boat then check out more here.

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