Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) is a great alternative board sport for the conditions we have on Anna Maria Island. Introduced to the mainland United States from Hawaii less than ten years ago, this form of surfing involves standing on a long board, ranging from seven to twelve feet, and using a long paddle.
The reason this increasingly popular sport makes sense for Anna Maria Island is that it doesn’t require waves for surfing or wind for sailboards and kite-boarding. It can be done on still waters, or it can be done in the surf. There are plenty of protected areas around the island where standup paddle boarding can be learned and practiced in relatively easy, safe conditions.
On flat water, touring or just poking around the waterways, longer boards in the 10 to 14 foot range have more glide than shorter boards from 9 down to 7 feet, that are better for turning in surf. Either way SUP is a great core workout and an excellent means of maintaining balance skills. A friend tells me it is not hard on his bad back. This makes it a good alternative to kayaking for people who have back problems when they sit for long periods in a kayak. Standup paddle boarding has the added advantage of offering an aerobic workout when aiming for speed. Serious athletes are taking it up for that reason and competitive events are becoming more popular.
Longtime local Shawn Duytschaver, known for the kayak rentals he has offered on the island for years, now offers standup paddleboard rentals and instruction at Palma Sola Causeway. He also sells the equipment. For more information he can be reached at 941-527-6355.
The local store in Holmes Beach, adjacent to the West Coast Surf Shop has been serving surfers’ needs since 1964, and stocks the best selection of surf wear and gear.
Before moving to Anna Maria Island, I was addicted to windsurfing. I learned on the lakes of the Rocky Mountains. The only benefit to that was that it gave me lots of practice figuring out where the wind was coming from. It came from every direction, sometimes within a short time period, say….ten minutes. It taught mountain windsurfers to be light on their feet.
Eventually, it was much more enjoyable to windsurf in other places. I was fortunate to be able to go to some of the very best places in the country, including Maui, Hood River and South Texas. Florida has never been one of the best places to windsurf, because it does not have consistently high enough wind speeds. It certainly doesn’t have the excellent combined wind and waves of Maui. So when I moved to Florida, I did not regret the fact that I already had sold all my windsurfing equipment. There has hardly been a day that I wished I had it back.
Many of my windsurfing friends have returned to surfing, or learned it for the first time after giving up windsurfing. Although Anna Maria Island does not offer the greatest surfing conditions, plenty of people pursue it here, and the most popular spot is on the beach in front of the White Avenue access path, at the border between the cities of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach. On some days, it’s amazing how many people surf at White Ave.
Hurricane Gustav and other storms bring great surfing experiences for locals and in the intervening periods there can be nothing better than keeping in shape on a Stand Up Paddleboard, or SUP.