SUP Arkansas

Exciting New Way to Tour the Water

By Rob Moody
Photography: Novo Studio/ Kacee Slous

Rob Moody, one of two stand-up paddleboarding instructors in the state, navigates shoals at Siloam Springs Kayak Park.

Rob Moody, one of two stand-up paddleboarding instructors in the state, navigates shoals at Siloam Springs Kayak Park.


Stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP) is a paddle sport everyone can enjoy. Adults and kids alike love the sport for its versatility, and everyone in the family will be begging for your next outdoor adventure on the water with this fun water sport. The kids can paddle their own SUP or, when they get tired, they can jump on your board for a ride-along. It works best if they sit down on the front of the board while riding along with an adult. 

A Whole New World

For adults, SUP offers freedom. We are no longer stuck sitting down in a watercraft all day on the water. Instead, we can sit, kneel, lie down or stand up. That opens this sport up to a wide variety of people who otherwise might not be able to paddle at all. Riders are also able to paddle on a wide variety of waterways. A SUP turns into an awesome table at lunchtime, and it functions as a large floating island with a group of SUP paddlers on a day relaxing out on flat water. 

Gliding across a clear Arkansas lake or river standing up offers a surreal perspective—one of the biggest differences between all other paddle sports and SUP. It’s as though the underwater world is laid out at your feet. On the river, this helps us see the line we want to run as we approach an upcoming rapid. SUP also makes those easier runs fun again. Some of my favorite Class I river sections are best enjoyed on easy-going days floating with the family. In flat water, we can catch some rays while relaxing and watching the kids play around on their board or swimming. The freedom of movement allows riders to avoid being cramped in one spot all day. For the experienced SUP rider, it is also big fun in Class II thru Class IV whitewater.

Whitewater SUP

Whitewater SUP is a fairly new sport, but it’s come a long way since it started. In the beginning, many people would try SUP and barely keep from flipping, yet now they are descending rivers with control, accuracy and style. The American Canoe Association is the leading association that offers a full line of SUP curriculum for professional instructors to follow and train people to paddle SUP in flat-water, tour, downwinders and whitewater conditions. This has played a big role in whitewater SUP’s upward trend of more people paddling downriver safely and efficiently.

Now we also have what are called inland surfers riding stand-up paddleboards that roam our local waterways and whitewater play parks searching for that perfect endless wave. Siloam Springs Kayak Park is a good example of one of these endless waves on which you can find SUP surfers year-round. This is a very fun sport that really throws a spin between kayak playboating and surfing waves on the ocean. 

SUP also offers a perfect tool for exploring those beautiful secluded Arkansas coves, or just poking around the boat dock or campsite by the lake. It’s hard not to love how easy a lightweight SUP makes it to get on the water. From the pond in your backyard to a glacier lake in Alaska, SUP is the perfect ride for your adventure.

Adaptive SUP

They even make boards that are wheelchair adaptable. You might be asking yourself, what if they fall off? They also make outriggers for inexperienced adaptive paddlers, where the board is unable to flip over. As a paddler progresses to learn and perform self-rescue techniques, they’ll be able to take the outriggers off and paddle off into the sunset to wherever their heart desires. 

Anyone wanting to start stand-up paddleboarding down rivers should take at least a one-day River Safety & Rescue course. It’s not if you swim, it’s when you swim. You will need to know what to expect and how to rescue yourself as you’re floating down the river. It’s imperative to have this skill under control before getting on a body of moving water.  

Arkansas Outdoor Outfitters will be offering stand-up paddleboard lessons as well as River Safety & Rescue courses in our state all summer long in 2018. Check out our event page on Facebook for a course near you.  

Fishing from a SUP
Vincent Seidler shows off his catch from an inflatable BOTE Rackham stand-up paddleboard.

Vincent Seidler shows off his catch from an inflatable BOTE Rackham stand-up paddleboard.

Kayak fishing is incredibly popular, and with good reason. Kayaks allow anglers to move quietly across the water, are less expensive than gas-powered boats and are functional in less water. Well, stand-up paddleboards are exciting to fish from due to all the same reasons.

On a stand-up paddleboard, anglers can maneuver in all types of water—shallow, deep, fast, slow, full of obstacles or totally clear. They’re incredibly versatile, and despite what those new to paddleboarding might imagine, SUPs are loaded with deck space. Most come with a few hooks to tie down gear, and they can even be purchased with rod holders. 

Many anglers particularly enjoy fishing from a SUP because the ability to give a full cast is improved from the standing position, unlike the somewhat restricted position required while seated in a kayak.

Of course, water safety on a SUP is incredibly important, so paddleboarders are encouraged to wear a life vest and enroll in a river safety and rescue course before embarking on their first adventure.