By Ellen Frankman
It all started at Waikiki Beach on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in the early 1990s. Jeremy Grosvenor recalls he was out surfing when he saw a man boldly snapping photos with an SLR camera while balancing effortlessly atop a board.
“That’s what really got me intrigued,” remembers Grosvenor, who took up the sport of stand-up paddle surfing himself in 2005, but has noticed that in the last seven or eight years the trend has really “spread like wildfire.”
For the long-time surfer and water sport enthusiast, stand-up paddling offers a whole new perspective, allowing one to experience the water from the vantage point of five or six feet rather than the two or three foot view a surfer has.
“The first time I did it I remember thinking, ‘This is so beautiful,” says Grosvenor.
And it’s more than just the views that have captivated Grosvenor. He speaks calmly but with passion from his perch atop the paddle board, fluidly moving his arms from side to side to propel the board through the water. There is not a quiver of unsteadiness beneath his feet.
“I was so impressed by how it made my body feel,” he says. Stand-up paddling allows for a unique workout that relies on arm, leg, and core strength, a benefit that has greatly contributed to its appeal. Though some balance is required, Grosvenor insists “anybody can do it.”
But it is far more than the idea of a new form of exercise that keeps Grosvenor passionate about the sport.
“It’s really relaxing. I like going out in groups, but I more enjoy it by myself,” he admits.
Wishing he had more time for stand-up paddling, Grosvenor isn’t picky about the time of day he heads out, but tries to hit the water whenever he can.
Grosvenor is also attracted to the rich cultural ties paddle boarding has with Polynesian history. While he recognizes that many early coastal civilizations likely utilized the method as a means of transport and travel, the Waikiki surf instructors known as “Beach Boys” re-invented the sport in the 1950s when they used stand up paddling as a way to keep an eye on their group and snap photos of wealthy customers. Surfers also went out paddling to stay fit in between surf competitions.
“I’m definitely drawn to its roots being from Hawaii,” says Grosvenor.
From a surfer’s perspective, Grosvenor also enjoys a wave riding version of the sport, in which the paddle is used for assistance in catching waves, and the stand-up position allows paddlers to see waves coming much earlier than a traditional surfer would.
The accessibility of stand-up paddling is yet another reason Grosvenor’s hooked. On the East End where there is sometimes a distraction of having the next new thing, Grosvenor finds, “There is no need to have high-tech equipment for this. You can start on anything.”
While racing boards can often reach lengths of up to 19 feet, according Grosvenor, entry-level boards range from nine to 12 feet, and boards for wave riding are even smaller, usually seven to 10 feet. Though the cost of a new board isn’t cheap, generally running $800 to $1,500, Grosvenor says it’s just as easy for people to get their hands on one for less, whether by finding a used board online or by salvaging an old windsurfer.
“You can start on anything,” he says laughing. “Anything that floats works!”
Regardless of how much – or little – money is spent on the sport, it seems that a connection to the water itself is what keeps enthusiasts like Grosvenor coming back for more.
“Whatever new thing comes out, people will gravitate towards it,” says Grosvenor. “People have a sincere love for the water.”