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Paddle Boarding Part I – A Brief History and Overview

Paddle Boarding Part I – A Brief History and Overview


The hobby of paddle boarding evolved into a competitive watersport as well. Part I of the series is a brief history and basic overview of this popular activity.

The Sport of Paddle Boarding and the Types of Boards Used

The water sport known as paddle boarding involves kneeling on or laying in a prone position on a paddle board or surfboard while using their arms to propel themselves above water in a swimming-like motion. Although the person either kneels on the board or lays on it belly down, there is a derivative of the sport in which the participant stands on the board and uses a specific type of paddle to propel themselves through the water and over waves.

The pioneer of paddleboard construction was a gentleman named Thomas Edward Blake, who, in the 1930s restored historic surf boards that would eventually be displayed in a Hawaiian cultural and historical museum on the island of Oahu. His original model was a redwood surfboard similar to those designed exclusively for the use of Hawaiian kings. He made the board lighter by drilling holes in it and then covering them.

This would cut the weight of the board in half from roughly 120 pounds to 60 and eventually led to the design and development of the boards being used for paddle boarding today. It was during the 1930s that Blake won the very first mainland event known as the Pacific Coast Surf-Riding Championship. The records he set in the 100-yard and half-mile events stood for over 20 years, until they were finally broken in the mid 1950s.

Two Distinct Classifications of Paddle Boarding

There are two classifications of boards used in paddle boarding. The first is known as a stock board and features a fixed rudder. The board cannot exceed 12 feet in length. The second is classified as “unlimited” in that it has a moveable rudder and has no limit on its length. An individual can also use other types of equipment, including traditional or custom surfboards. Standard paddle boards are usually manufactured using carbon fibers, epoxy, or fiberglass, although emerging technology involves using surfboards made with epoxy.

Part II of this series on paddle boarding will introduce the reader to the primary health benefits of this popular watersport.

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