What is Stand Up Paddling?

Stand Up Paddling is contested all over the world and is also one of the fastest growing recreational sports on the planet. It is practiced on rivers, lakes, canals, whitewater, the ocean – basically anywhere there is water. As well as world-class competitions, participants also enjoy stand up paddling as a fitness activity and as a unique way to sightsee.

Stand Up Paddling (SUP) is exactly as its title suggests – standing up on a board and paddling. There are many variations, and the sport is considered one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the world.

One of the attractions of SUP is its versatility as an activity. Paddlers can be seen on rivers, canals, stream, lakes, on the ocean, even on wildwater. While many athletes use flatwater, many also take on ocean surf.

SUP is believed to have originated in Africa, became very popular in Hawaii in the 1940’s, and can now be seen in countries and on waterways all over the globe.

In competition there are often sprint events, usually contested over 200 metres, longer races (19.50 kilometres) and technical races (about three kilometres).

The ICF has set the following guidelines for race distances;

Sprint: Women and men maximum 400 metre
Distance: Women and men minimum 5000 metre with stop watch and timekeeping
Technical Race: Length of course is open.
White water: The competition event is run according to the respective competition format either with heat eliminations or fastest times.


The Stand Up Paddling regulations for boards for SUP competitions;

  • Race Women/Men up to 14 ft (428 cm) long*
  • Juniors/*up to 12’6’’ ft (381 cm) long inflatable
  • Whitewater Women/Men up to 11 ft (366 cm) long

Rudders and/or foils are not permitted. The board may have only one hull - no multi-hulls allowed and no catamarans The length of the board will be defined as the distance from the tip to tail.


The start will be either on land or on the water. The exact procedure will be announced at the race meeting.

Water start: The paddler starts standing, kneeling or sitting (on board) on a line between two points (e.g. buoys, starting vessel, pier etc.). This starting line must be perpendicular to the first turn buoy. The tip of the board may not cross the starting line until the start signal has been given.

Land start: The paddler starts standing at the starting line between two points (e.g. flags). The starting line is perpendicular to the first turn bouy. The body of the paddlers may not cross the starting line until the start signal has been given.

National Canoe Federations around the world have been conducting SUP events for many years, and in 2018 the International Canoe Federation will host its first SUP World Championships.


Stand Up Paddle Committee
Stand Up Paddle Rules