Interest in Paddlesports is Exploding – Here’s Why You Should Give it a Try

Finding ways to exercise outdoors never became more apparent than during the pandemic as social distancing became a necessity. Many chose to explore and exercise outdoors through paddlesports, which have exploded in popularity. Given that most people live within 15 miles of a waterway—whether it be a lake, river, or stream—getting out on the water is a great way to combine the outdoors and exercising.

Aguaglide, an Oregon-based company focusing on water sports, describes the ten reasons why paddlesports have become so popular. These include ease of access, cost-efficiency, and time spent outdoors.

Samantha Eastburn of San Diego, CA, has seen this explosion first hand. In 2014, she created SUP Pups, where she gives lessons and paddleboard tours with their dogs in tow. She is a certified flatwater paddleboard instructor through the World Paddle Association, in addition to selling paddleboards in a retail store and competing in paddleboard events.

“It’s the one thing that people could do when we had to socially distance when being stuck inside. It’s a good way to get outside and have an experience that tests their limits. It’s a good way to get everyone out and active.”

Low Impact, Highly Efficient Cardio

Dawn Celapino of San Diego, CA, also has a fitness-based business built around working out with dogs called Leash Your Fitness. She often leads kayaking and paddleboarding with dogs.

“It’s great for core, balance, and upper/lower body, especially when going against the wind and current. Additionally, I love being on the water—it’s my meditation. I have paddled in lakes all over the US and Canada, and it’s a great way to explore.”

Getting Out in Nature

Getting outdoors for exercise and exploration is good for both mental and physical health. There’s even the science to prove it. “It’s so good for your body and soul,” says Eastburn. “It’s very therapeutic to be out on the water away from technology, getting your Vitamin D. You are moving your body; it’s good on your joints.”

Easy To Learn

While some may find it intimidating or challenging to hop on a board or in a kayak for the first time, it is pretty easy for any skill level to try. Freedom of Fitness founder Sandra Blackie says this about her experience with paddlesports. “I used to race kayaks and war canoes, at the national level, in Canada years ago. This made paddleboarding easy for me because of my experience. I love it because it’s a great upper body and balance exercise! I’ve even taken a few of my clients out on Mission Bay for a fun workout.”

How To Get Started

  • Find a local waterway nearby that features paddlesports. Lakes, rivers, and even the oceans have kayak or rental companies ready to serve those wanting to get out on the water. A simple online search should do the trick. When venturing further across the globe, SUP Connect features this list of places to paddleboard in the World.
  • Go out on an excursion with an instructor. Whether it be a recreation center, the local lake, or in the whitewater, guides and instructors are ready to help those new to the sport. Search the instructor database by World Paddle Association to find one.
  • Take it slow and prepare to test out different types of paddlesports (standup boards, kayaks, or canoes) and equipment to find what works. Step Outside features ten tips to get started with paddlesports. Checking out other online resources such as Paddling MagazineAgua Bound, and Paddling.com.

Eastburn notes that she has instructed a wide range of customers — from ages six to 90 and even a disabled customer.

“Anyone can do it — you just need the right equipment, knowledge, and location, she says. “You don’t have to take a lesson, although they are the best way to understand what to do in all conditions—wind, current, or when boats are nearby.”

Expat and outdoor sports enthusiast Kristin Deason is someone whose interest in paddlesports increased during the pandemic. She’s even used it in both of her locations.

“I bought an inflatable SUP during the pandemic and loved it,” she says. “I have paddled all over DC, and now I have it with me in Saint Lucia.”

She’s not the only one. Sales of paddleboards and kayaks have increased since 2020 and beyond, as has time spent on the water itself. According to the NPD Group, a market research agency in this blog post by Aqua Bound, kayak sales were up 51% in February 2021 compared to the previous year.

Outdoor Industry Association’s participation data from this article in Paddling Magazine shows that before the pandemic, America’s 3.5 million standup paddlers spent an average of just 6.3 days per year out on their boards, with 26 percent going out seven to 10 times annually.

Almost half of the standup paddlers own their boards, and of the 53 percent who do not own boards, 42 percent rent them, and 26 percent borrow them from someone.

Eastburn notes that finding the right equipment is important before purchase, describing that what makes a board stable is the width, thickness, and volume. The wider the board, the more stability, and the thicker, the more buoyancy.

“Before buying a board, you need to know what you are going to use it for,” she says. “Rent a few different pieces of equipment first to see what works for you before purchasing your board.”

Overall, Eastburn shares that the greatest joy she has from her business is helping others enjoy sports on the water. “I love seeing people overcome their fear of the water or self-doubt of themselves,” she says. “It really is a sport for anyone.”

Getting out on the water with paddlesports has become popular for many to exercise safely during the pandemic and beyond. Even beginners can try their hand at enjoying the serenity of the water with the proper planning and patience. Paddle away when ready!

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Kelley Dukat is a freelance writer, photographer, and event planner currently based in the United States. She has spent the last year as a nomad traveling and house-sitting. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and previously served as a trade magazine editor. Her favorites include dog-friendly travel, road trips, and nomad life. She is currently working on a memoir and a series of personal essays.