Book Review…Standup Paddle: A Paddlers Guide

A Steve West/Kanue Culture/Batini Books Paddlers Guide to 

STAND UP PADDLE: A Paddlers Guide

Forward by Travis Grant

REVIEW: Steve West took 5+ years to compile this 500-page definitive resource on SUP. That’s about a pound of information per year. When you stay at a hotel for a standup paddle race and open the drawer, this should be next to Gideon’s Bible. It is the must-have book for anyone who paddles SUPs and the first gift to give on Father’s Day, Christmas, or the birthday paddler.

Keep in mind. This is a how-to book. It is a reference guide. In many ways it’s even like a drivers manual for SUP. It’s beautifully organized and illustrated. The diagrams are very understandable. It is written at more of an advanced level, but it’s visual, so you can figure it out. It is a massive volume of content, but in pieces, it’s perfect. This is not a narrative story, so don’t feel like you have to read it from page 1 to page 500. Consume it in chunks. I read it over a month and am still pissed I lent it to someone to check out. (Ramsay: I want my book back!)

A editorial quick note on the first chapters

The first 3 chapters address the history and origins of the sport. If you are the kind of person that needs to start on page 1 and are in the surf industry or haven’t paddled anything prior to SUP, be forewarned. You should skip these chapters. They’ll just piss you off. They suggest this sport has no roots, and will get blown over by the first hard wind. It also suggesting the only reason that some people SUP is to falsely capture their lifelong dream of being a “surfer” might be tough to swallow.
I honestly still haven’t wrapped my head around these chapters. He could be 100% right. I’m not sure yet. Many of you know that was a division 1 quarterback in college until injured my knee in the Rose Bowl. Soon after, I entered the FBI. All I ever wanted to be was a surfer despite my paraffin wax allergy. I almost drowned my first time out. If it hadn’t been for an orphan surfer girl named Tyler who pulled me out and hooked me up with her friend Bodhi, I might be dead. I never did achieve legit “surfer” status, but now that I SUP, I’m welcomed in breaks around the world. They yell, “Go Johnny Utah!”
There’s always a conflict when one sport feels that it has been disrespected by another. For those of you 99.9% who don’t give a sh&t, skip it. For those of you in the industry, I’m sure you’re used to traditional paddleboards, surfers, OCs, kayak and canoe rivalries and biases. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all of them and agree that they all share in the start and development of the sport. I love my paddleboard, my SUPs and have enjoyed paddling OC-1s. I feel like we’re all in the same family of people who enjoy being on or around the water. Water people. I’m not in the habit of looking down on someone who just started or who didn’t grow up surfing, paddling, etc. I don’t begrudge anyone who works all week long, all winter long, just to have their summers at the shore or on a lake. I’ve been that guy. Instead, I’m stoked that they’ve found the water, the sport and its people and embrace it, call it their own. I honestly don’t care who owns it or who started it.
I absolutely take exception to any quote about “real paddlers.” I may not be as good or experienced as someone who has paddled all their lives, but what I do is every bit as real as what they do. I think what they mean to say is advanced or expert. I watch videos of 6-man outriggers pounding through enormous surf and I an awe struck. These are amazingly talented, brave and crazy skilled paddlers. I can celebrate them without having to reduce the paddling of others. I’m trying to stay positive, but that really bums me out when the people you admire demean anyone who wants to join in a sport with such aloha. I’m ok with my kookness. I’ve done my best. I know many of you have, too.
That said, this book was written in good spirit, which is why I say skip these chapters and avoid getting pissed off like I did. When you read subsequent chapters, you can hear the teacher, feel the stoke and excitement about the gear and the techniques. The rest of the book is so cool, it makes up for for the off-tone, conceit at the beginning. Try not to be offended. Skip to the section that interests you. Except the surf industry—you’re being spanked, so skip the whole thing. Seriously. Skip this book. It’s not for you.

That said, the book is one of the most extensive and valuable resources that you can own as a stand up paddler.

Despite staying at a number of Holiday Inn Expresses, I’m not an expert. I’m under the impression that paddling is something you practice and improve, but not something you completely master. Fortunately, I’ve had access to the experts. I’ve been able to ask them questions. This book is your resource for asking those questions. This is your speed dial to find out about whatever it is you want to know.
STAND UP PADDLE: A Paddlers Guide is as helpful to the beginner as it is to the advanced, even professional paddler. For the beginner, it covers from a 101 to a masters class. For the advanced, it can help you further tighten up your technique or expand into other areas of SUP. For pros, this can help you answer any questions that are beyond your realm. It may help you recalibrate as you understand the bigger picture. I know you get questions.
The section that I thought was particularly interesting was the one on paddle design and construction. If you want to understand blade design, flex, or shaft length, it’s in there. And it’s wonderful to find out why manufacturers do certain things like bent shafts, etc.
Another interesting section is on the injuries associated with Paddling. A lot of us have had that tennis elbow or the shoulder issues that come with poor technique. Talks about how those happened and why and how to avoid them and that’s incredibly valuable.
If you get a skip right to a section I’d say definitely hit the downwind section. Catching bumps has to be the most fun thing in doing water and in those areas where it blows hard on the lakes and on the rivers and on the ocean and you’re thinking this is a day that I need to be inside, it’s the opposite get on the water get on the wave and do some ocean open circuit most open ocean surfing. Then travel to Maui and call Jeremy Riggs for a lesson.


Give it as a gift

I can’t imagine a better gift for somebody who’s getting into the sport or accelerating into the sport. Couple this with a lesson from a really good instructor and maybe a video from Danny Ching, Nikki Gregg or Dan Gavere and you have something pretty wonderful.

For more information, go their website:


by Steve West, Kanu Culture