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Posted on Nov 12, 2013 | 5 comments

Kayak Kauai: Stand Up Paddleboard

Kayak Kauai: Stand Up Paddleboard

The night before we were supposed to go Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) with hosted lessons provided by Kayak Kauai, there was a big rainstorm. The Hananlei River swelled as water rushed down from the mountains and bridges were flooded over. It made for murky waters and fast currents as we set out for our first time to try Stand Up Paddleboard.

Stand Up Paddleboard

Kayak Kauai’s new location along Hanalei River.

With a majestic mountain backdrop, plentiful waterfalls gushing through the many mountains, and the river feeding into the Hanalei Bay, you can easily see why this is such a popular place for both surfing and SUP. Hanalei River is one of Kauai’s most popular areas for paddle boarding because of its calm waters. Or at least, it normally has calm waters. I like to think the Hanalei River was bursting at the banks with excitement over our visit.

The Sport of Stand Up Paddleboard

The sport of SUP is one that captures the interest of many. Feeling smooth and weightless on water, some have said it’s like a “magic carpet ride”. Unlike traditional surfing, SUP is surging in popularity because almost any body of water will do. No waves required.

The sport is enjoying a huge surge in popularity after a big push from one of the greatest big-wave surfers to have ever lived, Laird Hamilton. Laird sees SUP as a way to allow more people to enjoy the sport (surfing) that he loves. Paddle boarding gives those who may not be able to surf, the chance to enjoy the freedom and fun a surf board usually offers. Even if you are new to water sports, it doesn’t take long to feel comfortable gliding on a paddleboard.

Stand Up Paddleboard

Get to know your board and which kind would be best for you.

Anyone can Stand Up Paddleboard

Regardless of your age or fitness level, Stand Up Paddleboard is pretty easy to master while having fun and getting some great exercise. It has even been deemed one of the best water workouts. Trust me, if I could do if after a long morning of sea kayaking for the first time and feeling exhausted, you can do it, too.

On your first time out, it’s best to practice on calm, flat waters to get a real feel for your balance, find your stroke, and learn your technique. Learning to SUP on a tranquil river is not only ideal for this, but also for perfecting your side-to-side stroke. If you can, we highly recommend taking a lesson like we did with Kayak Kauai. You’ll be able to have more fun and become confident in your new skill with a good instructor by your side.

Take a Stand Up Paddleboard Lesson

When we were getting out of our vehicle we asked our instructor what we would need for our lesson. He told us that besides the swimsuits we already had on, we just needed sunscreen and to leave everything else in the car. He even introduced us to a new special sunscreen that was specifically made for the Hawaiian sun.

Our instructor started off by teaching us the basic body mechanics while still on land. He provided us with tips on how to hold the paddle, where to stand, and how to stand up to be able to properly position ourselves to stand on the board.

Stand Up Paddleboard

Longer, thicker paddleboards are easier for beginners.

As beginners, our boards were thicker and longer than surfboards. Longer boards are designed for stability and an easy glide.  The SUP paddle looks a lot like a canoe paddle, but is much longer. There are many varieties of both boards and paddles available, so keep trying them out until you find the one that’s right for you.

With the water of the Hanalei River being so choppy and moving fast at the mouth, we discussed if it was best to go out at sea or not. Since I was a bit beaten up from our morning excursion and neither of us had ever been Stand Up Paddleboarding before, our instructor thought it was best to take us up the river instead.

Stand Up Paddleboard

A view from the board. Photo by Drew Evensen.

Learning How to Stand Up Paddleboard

As we moved up the river, we started on our bottoms, while getting our stroke down, before we moved to our knees. From our knees we were supposed to pop right up on our feet. Drew took right to it and had no problem popping right up. I on the other hand, took it a bit slower as I found I had a much harder time finding my balance.

Stand Up Paddleboard

Drew quickly felt confident enough on his board to give a shaka.

Once we were both up, I pointed out a beautiful house we were in front of. Ironically, it belonged to Laird Hamilton. Yes, we learned how to SUP while right in front of the house of one of the surfers who was a huge drive behind the Stand Up Paddleboard movement.

After we made our way back down the river, our instructor thought we were good to go by ourselves. Especially since neither of us had fallen off our boards once we were up.  I decided to paddle while sitting on the board to be able to get some pictures of the area and Drew, as he headed back up stream.

Stand Up Paddleboard

Drew also enjoyed taking a rest on the board which was very relaxing.

Drew quickly got the SUP bug and can’t wait to do more of it in the future. I enjoyed it, as well and look forward to giving it another go on a day we could concentrate on SUP, only.

Rental Information

Regardless if you are looking to take Stand Up Paddleboard lessons or just some recreational fun, renting a board or taking a SUP lesson is a great activity while on Kauai. Visit Kayak Kauai’s new Hanalei River side location, where you can learn and practice right on the river. Head out to Hanalei Bay once you are feeling ready to hit some surf. To make a reservation with Kayak Kauai for lessons or rental give them a call at 800-437-3507 or visit their website.

Stand Up Paddleboard

Taking a lesson or renting equipment from Kayak Kauai is easy. We highly recommend them!

Have you ever tried Stand Up Paddleboard?

All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2013, unless otherwise noted.

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About Kimmy Hayes

Kimmy Hayes is the founder and editor-in-chief of AfterGlobe; a site on becoming debt free and traveling the world as a married couple. In 2012, she planned and coordinated her own do-it-yourself destination wedding on the beautiful island of Maui while serving as a moderator for the on-line community, The Knot. She is passionate about traveling to experience new cultures, snorkeling the waters of the world and reading with her toes in the sand.


  1. I know for a fact that Kauai is a fantastic place for kayaking, but I sure want to also try standup paddle boarding. It would be a fun alternative for kayaking.
    Rick recently posted…The Best Fishfinder for KayaksMy Profile

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