Boards, Cups and Clubs

Anatomy of a surfboard

That old board's come a long way since Duke's day. Now most of them have one or more fins at the bottom rear for directional stability, and they're all much more lightweight. They're made of polyurethane or polystyrene foam coated with fiberglass or cloth or polyester or epoxy resin or carbon fiber. Their lighter weight gives them far more maneuverability in the water and also makes that long walk from your distant parking space at the beach much more bearable.

Some paddleboarders still prefer the larger sizes and the heavier materials, which provide more stability in the water, and now when you go to buy a board someone will no doubt ask you how you want to use it.

Duke's board was 16 feet long and weighed 114 pounds. Today's longboard by comparison is in the range of eight feet long. Shortboards, somewhere in the range of five to seven feet long, are thinner than longboards and have a more pointed nose. If you go uninitiated into a surf shop, you might hear language that could easily be Hawaiian: guns, olos, fun-boards, fish, eggs, bonzers, quads, tow-boards and hydrofoils. If you don't speak this language, you'd be better off taking lessons or guided tours and trying out a few different types of boards before you buy.

The Carolina Cup

In Duke's day he had to win awards for swimming because none were available in the surfing category. He'd have been thrilled to squelch all the competition in the annual late-April Carolina Cup Stand-Up Paddleboard Race on Wrightsville Beach. This premier mid-Atlantic annual event encompasses four separate races over the course of three days, with competitions and courses for all ages and skill levels. It winds down with a swap meet, a post-race celebration and a good old-fashioned pig pickin'. Participants also get a tee shirt just to show they did it.

The Carolina Cup SUP was launched in 2011 and is sanctioned by the World Paddle Association (WPA). It has been designated as the mid-Atlantic region's national points race, and what that means is that paddlers from all over the country earn points toward their own regional races by competing in this race.

With its white sandy beach, clear blue skies and gently rolling surf, Wrightsville Beach has always been recognized as an ideal training ground for beginning surfers. Now it's been rediscovered by stand-up paddlers for its maze of marshes, creeks and streams, and a new surge of surfers are converging on our shores. The Carolina Cup event is sponsored by the Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club.

Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club

"We formed the club to help foster SUP," said William Pope, one of the club's founders. "Wrightsville has been a hot spot but it's just been very quiet. Five of us got together and basically put together the Carolina Cup, the largest stand-up event on the East Coast."

Or maybe it will be the largest event just as soon as it glides right past Key West. "I think Key West had one more person than we did this past year, but that was my fault because I went."

In the face of the sport's rapidly spreading popularity, he said the club seeks to teach people, get them out, and make them aware of the sport. "Our tournament did a lot. We had a community that came in from Hawaii, a contingent came down from Canada, and we had some ocean canoe paddlers from California and from Utah."

All told, 164 participants came out for the first year, and that number will likely double for the second year as word gets out. "People do not realize this area offers different types of paddling, flat water racing, surfing and downwind ocean runs. It offers so much and the race really showcased our area for what it is."

Full speed ahead

The club holds a summer race series every other Thursday night, launching from the sound side of the Blockade Runner Resort in Wrightsville Beach. It also holds quarterly meetings at the Blockade Runner. Its core group road-trips to ten or 12 races across the country, and throughout his travels Pope strives to continue to mentor beginners, initiating them in the finer points of SUP, and setting the record straight on numerous misperceptions.

"Some of the surf shops tend to sell you whatever they have whether it's right for you or not. Most people start with a bigger board, an all-around board, an oversized surfboard." This, he explained, offers great stability, but once surfers get a bit of confidence on their feet, a lot of them tend to downsize. "People progress fairly quickly, and that big board is good for the first three to six months. Then they move to the next level, they start to tour, they go longer distances."

Not everyone moves up—or down, as the case may be—for SUP. The bigger board with the plain hull has a sharper bow on the front, which makes a difference. "It rides in the water, not on top. For racing it has to be faster in flat-water conditions, but longer and bulkier is more stable, 11 to 12 foot long, and about 32 inches wide."

The big boards are good for going the distance. "They find their own niche of where they want to be. People fish from these. They go so many places that you can't get a boat, and they're a lot less expensive than a boat in most cases."

He said the sport appeals to everybody from the age they can stand up on the board to people in their 70s and 80s. It's great exercise and a terrific core workout because you're constantly moving your feet, your legs, your body, and you're twisting and turning. "A lot of people do yoga and such on boards."

But, he said, there are hazards beyond the mere perils of sea and sun. "The Coast Guard deems us less maneuverable boats so we have the least amount of right of way. You need to have a personal flotation device on your board. It doesn't have to be on your body but it has to be attached on your board. You can get a $162 ticket for not having a PFD."

The club has a web site at, and a presence on Facebook and Twitter. It sends out newsletters, "trying to keep people in the loop, particularly folks who only come down on the weekend. Our area is Charleston to Virginia Beach. We spread both directions."

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Terms: Paddleboarding: Boards, Cups and Clubs

Paddleboarding: Boards, Cups and Clubs

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