Friday, June 5, 2009

How to Carry Your Stand Up Paddle Board

There's no way around it, stand up paddle boards are lunkers. Through out decades of making windsurfers, the holy grail of big board weight is to be under thirty pounds. That big board building technology has crossed over to SUP stand up board manufacturing.

Here's the thing about board weight. A short stand up paddle board is not the answer to getting a lightweight board that will work for you as well as be easy to carry. Short SUP boards are meant for surf wave riding and are not the best choice for flat water stand up paddling. They may be stable (due to width), but they aren't long enough to get the glide you need on flatwater.

If you're going to spend most of your time stand up paddling on lakes, rivers, and flat(ish) ocean (bays or in the Caribbean) you're going to want a board that is at least eleven feet long. And carrying that long board between your rig and the water or portaging it if you're on a river becomes more of a workout with every step.

There are five ways to carry your SUP stand up paddle surf board a significant distance by yourself:
  • Shoulder Carry -- Bend your head to one side and balance the width of the stand up paddle board on your shoulder as it leans against your head. For some of us this too much of a kink in the neck.
  • Head Carry -- Balance the deck of the paddle board on your head. Having the deck of the SUP pointing down to the earth is best for wind resistance. This is the best carry for one person if it's windy because you can keep the SUP paddle board sideways to the wind.
  • Handle Carry -- Slot handles (included in most new SUP boards) or an after market attached handle we call the
    Easy Handle allow you to hold the standup paddle board against your side and under your arm. The slot handles require a lot of grip strength. The Easy Handle is much easier for long carries.
  • Big Board Schlepper -- Shoulder strap-sling harness gives you both a easy way to carry your paddle board and paddle.
  • Paddle Shaft Handle Carry-- Attach a tie down at the front and back of your paddle board and put a loop of rope in it. Starting with the handle end of the paddle, hook the paddle into the loops and use the shaft of the paddle to carry the SUP board.
Note: In high winds have 2 people carry each board, keeping the deck flat and facing the ground and the board low.

Of course, if it's too hard to carry your stand up paddle board alone (or you enjoy company) enlist the buddy system and share the load.

Photos: 1. Isabella Barna demonstrating the head carry and Ed Shasek demonstrating the shoulder carry while portaging their paddle boards around the Tetherow Log Jam on the Pringle Falls section of the Deschutes River, Oregon. Thanks Judy Shasek for this photo.
2. Randall Barna demonstrating a side carry and Isabella a head carry at the Oregon coast.


  1. I've used the barknuckle (I get it, barnacle!) before at some rental shop out east. It goes on with big suction cups and clips for your paddle.

    It seemed to work pretty good. The only drawback I found compared to flipping the board over and carrying it on your head (which my wife won't do because icky rented feet things don't go anywhere near her head) is when it's windy.

    With the board overhead the wind seemed to be more manageable. Even though the barnakle handle held the board and paddle nicely, the board in that sideways position tends to act as a sail.

    We managed ok keeping the boards pointed into the wind but did have to stop for some bigger gusts. The handle stayed on though, which was pretty impressive for suction cups.

  2. I'm a bit on the short side so carrying my stand up paddle board really sucks. I tried carrying it on my head but that didn't work out so well. A friend of mine has a Barknuckle so I tried hers out. It worked great!