River SUP is the act of taking a Stand-Up Paddleboard down a river. Because no two rivers are quite the same, this activity provides a wide range of options for how folks choose to carry it out. Some river sections can be quite mellow; riding a SUP in gentle current can be an enjoyable and relaxing way to experience a river and its surroundings.
Those seeking more of a thrill may consider paddling a SUP in whitewater. Whitewater (also known as “Wildwater”) is a term used to describe a section of river where swift-moving current forms rapids. An international scale of river difficulty grades rapids on a six-tier system where Class I are the easiest and safest and Class VI are the hardest and most dangerous. This system allows a paddler to customize their desired level of excitement. Whitewater specific techniques and equipment are typically used to safely negotiate rapids.
Certain rivers have long wilderness sections and offer the opportunity for excellent multi-day adventures. These trips could entail a single overnighter or several days on the river. The longer the trip, the more supplies are needed. In all cases, the equipment for the journey must travel down the river with the party. More hardcore folks may be drawn to a more minimalist approach and choose to pack all their gear directly on the SUP. These trips are referred to as self-supported; kind of like backpacking on a SUP. At the other end of the spectrum the gear can travel on boats or inflatable rafts while folks can enjoy paddling their SUPs without feeling weighed down. These trips allow for a much more posh experience.
The river environment can also be a great venue for competitions between athletes. River festivals and races are scheduled during the paddling season on many rivers throughout the world. Events may include downriver races, slalom races, boater-cross races, and free-style or surfing contests. These festivals tend to be incredibly fun and rewarding even for those not directly involved in the action.
Regardless of how one chooses to experience the river and all of its beauty, they should first seek to better understand the river environment and its specific hazards. Be safe out there!
WARNING: Remember river paddling can be a dangerous endeavor without the necessary knowledge, skills, and equipment. These articles are not meant to replace instruction from a certified instructor.