And he’s not alone. Enthusiasts around the globe are literally hopping onto the SUP bandwagon – a kowabunga, surf’s-up experience that has found its way to East County. Appealing to hard-core surfers, weekend warriors and even the decidedly non-athletic, SUP, with its easy-to-learn, low-impact core workout, is a sport that nearly everyone can enjoy.
“It’s a fantastic full-body workout, which, if you are doing it correctly, is really very relaxing,” said Martin. “You can go out onto the Delta and paddle for a couple of hours, stop and visit friends, and hop back on. It’s a very social sport. I love paddling around out here.”
Known under the nomenclatures Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Beach Boy Surfing or Stand up Paddle Surfing, this sport de jour is actually an ancient form of surfing that has its roots in Hawaii and Polynesia.
“It’s something that came back on the scene a few years ago,” said Martin. “The Maui-ites started pushing it again, and once companies started making production boards in 2006, that’s when the sport really took off. A lot of celebrities enjoy it. I saw Kate Hudson out there when I was in Maui a few years ago. It’s very popular with the stars.”
Celebrity notwithstanding, where you stand on the sport depends upon, well, where you’re standing. The ocean experience, says Martin is vastly different from the Delta- variety, but each brings with it a unique experience.
“Delta or ocean? I don’t know; they’re both nice,” said Martin. “The Delta is nice in a different way. Out there I can take my son and paddle around. But the ocean is a whole different experience.”
The SUP’s unique design allows for two basic applications: on flat, smooth waters such as the Delta, or surfing in the ocean. Their long (9 to 11 feet), wide, flat construction, and extra-long paddle, allow SUPs to be steady on flat water and easy to maneuver. On the ocean, the board’s length offers increased opportunities to catch sets of waves.
They’re also relatively inexpensive. Designed to last for years, riders can initially expect to pay between $900 and $2,000 for a board and paddle, but after that, there are virtually no expenses. And because humans, and not fuel, power them, SUPs are also green.
All of which combine to make it the perfect sport, said SUP boarder and Discovery Bay resident Jeff Barber. “For me, living in Discovery Bay is very much about being on the water. And the advent of SUP boarding has given me a new workout and one more opportunity to spend time doing what I enjoy.”
But as the saying goes, “What’s old becomes new again,” and this time around what’s new with SUPs might be their official designations.
Here in the Delta, where the sport is growing in popularity, the Marine Patrol is becoming increasingly aware of the SUPs and the potential for accidents. “We are aware of it (SUPs) but as far as we go, it hasn’t been a real issue yet,” said Lt. Will Duke. “I’m not hearing from my crews that it’s a problem, but certainly a concern for us would be visibility. We want to make sure that they are always in a situation where they can be seen if need be.”
And as of last year, the Coast Guard says the need is real. According to Paul Newman, the Recreation, Boating Safety program manager for the 11th Coast Guard District, when it comes to boating rules and regulations, SUPs are considered to be vessels, and as such those who ride on them must wear life jackets. The rule however, does not apply in the ocean, where surfers rarely, if ever, come in contact with boats or other vessels.
“We didn’t create any new rules,” said Newman. “We’re just going by what exists. Basically we treat them by the same guidelines as you would kayaks, and they’re (kayaks) considered vessels. I know that people resist being regulated, and as this (sport) continues to grow, we’re figuring out how to enforce it. Really, the ultimate goal is that we just want to keep people safe while they’re out there enjoying themselves. It’s what everyone wants.”
Martin agrees that safety is certainly paramount. If regulations eventually come in and encroach on the sport, so be it. For now, he’s content to enjoy the sport. “I’ve been told that the Coast Guard is looking at us wearing life vests, but I kind of feel that if you’re wearing a lease (a rope connected to the surfer and the board) then I don’t know if a vest is necessary. We’ll see. For now, it’s a good time and a very cool sport.”