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Downriver SUP Online Training Course 




Downriver SUP is navigating a stand-up paddleboard down a moving body of channeled water.  The difficulty of this activity can range from a mellow stroll down a gentle moving stream to Class V whitewater rapids.  There is a distinction between Downriver SUP and Whitewater SUP that arguably starts when one ascends from Class II to Class III Whitewater. 

The skills required to negotiate varying levels of moving water all share the same foundation which includes the need to be able to read upcoming water conditions, how to move your vessel intentionally within such conditions, and the awareness of various hazards as you move through time and space down the river.  


The sport of downriver SUP offers an incredible capacity for joy for a variety of reasons.  The first is that it gives the participant an added boost to their speed as they journey towards their destination.  The second is that it accelerates the amount of scenery viewed in each outing.  At our standard local downriver run, the 40’s section of Cattaraugus Creek in Gowanda, NY, we navigate Class III rapids through a relatively inaccessible gorge through Western New York’s most authentic wilderness.  The standard run covers approximately 7 miles of the region’s best scenery and in average water levels (3-4 ft.) will take roughly 2.5 hours depending on stops and play wave time.    


An offshoot of downriver SUP is SUP river surfing which is the surfing of standing waves generated by river current.  The sport is well established in the whitewater kayaking community with specialized boats and events geared toward “playboating.”  In both SUP river surfing and whitewater kayak surfing the wave can be accessed by either paddling into the wave from an eddy adjacent to the shoulder of the wave or if such a luxury is not present, by turning and catching the wave at a specific moment while traveling downriver.  The latter being quite a bit more difficult.  


At the time of this writing internationally there have been a handful of Class V Whitewater SUP descents most notably from Boulder, CO native Spencer Lacey who has successfully run on SUP the Grand Canyon, Upper and Lower Gauley, Lower Big Sandy Falls, and Upper Yaugh, just to name a few.  Most people, however, find Class I – III conditions to be worthy of an experience of a lifetime.


There are several whitewater-specific SUP boards on the market, but any board with a fair amount of stability and durability canwill do.  To that end, inflatable SUP’s are the more popular choice for this sport as they tend to handle the bumps and bruises from a river better than hard boards do.  In recent years, advancements in inflatable SUP technology has created a variety of very high-quality boards.  


Anyone with basic Stand-Up Paddleboarding skills can enjoy Class I and II downriver paddling.  Class III+ requires solid prerequisites of SUP skills.  One of the best aspects of downriver SUP is the two-way street for SUP cross-training.  Paddling in windy choppy conditions on open water is great cross-training for downriver SUP and downriver SUP is great cross-training for every other style of SUP including SUP surfing, SUP touring, SUP racing, and leisurely paddles.  




As mentioned, anyone with basic SUP competence including confidence staying standing, paddling stroke, and board control can enjoy Class I and II downriver.  Class I downriver has essentially no water features but a