5 Touring SUP Pioneers Using Paddle Boards for Adventure Travel Expeditions

Inflatable Boarder is reader-supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Chris Bertish
  • Save
Chris Bertish of TheSUPCrossing.com, 📷 Photo by Marco Bava

Despite the efforts of Chris Burkard, Kepa Acero, and Shane Dorian, surfing has never quite been accepted by the greater adventure sports community. With #vanlife on the rise, you’d think that surfers may soon be accepted by dirtbags everywhere, but it seems that the surf community is a bit too much Jeff Spikoli and not enough Jack Kerouac…

It’s not that surfing lacks a sense of adventure. Surfers, climbers, skiers, and explorers share a common lingo, culture, and stoke. As Yvon Choinard, founder of Patagonia and author of Let My People Go Surfing so aptly stated, “if it wasn’t for climbing, we’d all be surfers.” Yet for whatever reason, surfers are too often left aside from the adventure sports community.

It begs the question, what do these other activities have that surfing doesn’t? Other adventure sports tend to emphasize travel, or the movement from point A to point B. While climbers and backcountry skiers work to travel thousands of feet in elevation over miles of terrain, surfers are content to stay on the inside and get barreled. Their similarities are overshadowed by one simple fact: there’s only so far you can get on a surfboard.

The dawn of stand up paddle boarding has offered a new avenue for surfers to be counted among the throng of adventure travelers. Where once surfers may have been limited in their mobility, the act of stand up paddling gives surfers the ability to venture out beyond the reef and see what’s around the next corner.

Recently, stand up paddleboarding has been admitted to the world of expedition paddling. Expedition paddling draws from kayaking, camping, backpacking, endurance racing, and today — stand up paddleboarding. Read on, as we discover how stand up pioneers around the world are using the sport as a new means of travel and exploration…

1. Chris Bertish

Chris Bertish Crosses the Atlantic for Smiles
  • Save

We all know that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but Chris Bertish took the old transatlantic crossing to a whole new level in 2017 by being the first to do so on a stand up paddle board.

Chris Bertish is a big wave surfer, stand up paddler, and holder of multiple world records in stand up paddling. After 93 days, 4,050 miles, and over 2,000,000 paddle strokes, Chris Bertish accomplished what many would reasonably believe to be impossible. Surpassing the notoriety of adventure sports entirely, Bertish’s achievement helped to propel stand up paddleboarding to the front page of The Guardian and global news headlines.

Not your average paddle board by any means, Bertish utilized a board of naval proportions designed by world famous naval architect Phil Morrison. Over 20 feet in length and weighing more than 1,000 pounds, Bertish’s barge-like paddle board comes complete with two sets of solar panels, navigation tools, satellite communication, and autopilot functionality.

Today, Bertish uses his celebrity status in the adventure sports community to promote his passion for philanthropy, sustainability, and adventure through public speaking events, films, and even a published novel: Stoked! An inspiring story about courage, determination and the power of dreams.

2. Bart de Zwart

World SUP Excursion
  • Save

While you may not have heard of him, Bart de Zwart is a celebrity in the global stand up paddle board community. A Dutch-born Maui resident and Starboard SUP team member, Bart became one of the first expeditionary paddlers to use a stand up paddleboard as his vessel of choice.

After completing the first publicly recognized solo SUP crossing from Hawaii’s big island to Kauai, Bart has gone on to win SUP’s longest race four times, complete a solo crossing from Tahiti to Bora Bora, and explore near-arctic climates from Greenland to Norway.

Truly a pioneer, Bart has helped bring stand up paddling to communities around the world where it may have never existed otherwise. Today, in addition to being the owner of a board rental business in Maui called Kanaha Kai, Bart is widely recognized as the “King of Endurance Paddling” and father of SUP expeditionary travel. At 44 years old, Bart uses his platform to promote stand up paddling for people of all ages, genders, shapes, and sizes.

3. Shilpika “Shilps” Gautam

Konversation: What does it take to do something groundbreaking?
  • Save

Expedition paddling has always held strong connections with philanthropy and promoting the greater good. Shilpika Gautam champions this sentiment through finding new and innovative ways to draw attention to the issues she cares about.

Born in India, Shilpika left her home to pursue higher education in the form of multiple degrees in engineering, computer science, and business. After pursuing her professional life, she discovered her true passion for adventure activism and abandoned a career in corporate banking and consulting for stand up paddling.

In January of 2017, she successfully lead the first stand up paddle expedition down the Ganges river in India. Her team paddled over 1,800 miles downriver over the course of 101 days to raise awareness for cleaner water. When not planning or pursuing her next stand up paddle adventure, Shilpika is finding new ways to positively impact the environment, empower women globally, and inspire others to do the same.

4. Quark Expeditions

Quark Expeditions
  • Save
📷 Photo by Dave Merron

While not an individual pioneer, Quark Expeditions is creating opportunities for stand up paddle boarders to explore the globe.

Quark Expeditions makes our list of stand up pioneers in more ways than one. Truly adventure pioneers, Quark Expeditions has been leading arctic and antarctic expeditions for travelers and tourists for over 20 years. Today, through combining their knowledge and experience in adventure travel, expeditionary paddling, and arctic environments, Quark Expeditions offers the opportunity to SUP in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

In a world where our poles and glacial environments are slowly disappearing, Quark Expeditions provides the opportunity to experience and appreciate these precious environments on an intimate level. Start saving now — expedition tickets run about $12,000-$15,000 per person.

5. Candice Appleby

Candice Appleby
  • Save

Candice Appleby is widely recognized as a force to be reckoned with in the world of professional stand up paddleboarding. Unlike prone paddle surfing, SUP competitions are often co-ed and Appleby is known for winning against her male counterparts. Her Duke Oceanfest victory in 2008 was reminiscent of Billy Jean King in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes”. Being the first and only woman to beat men in a professional surfing or SUP event, Appleby has taken the unrefuted title of Queen of SUP.

Today, when not winning SUP competitions or training others through her Performance Paddling company in San Clemente, California, she’s busy planning her next adventure. Peru’s 1,500 miles of mostly unexplored coastline not only entices but beckons Candice’s sense of exploration, SUP in tow. Appleby hopes to use her SUP abilities to explore rivers, waves, and beaches all around the country from the Amazon and Colca Rivers to Pico Alto — famed big wave south of Lima.

While many expedition stand up paddlers are happy to leave wave riding behind, Appleby helps the sport to stay connected with its roots by drawing connections between surfing and adventure travel.


As seen from this list, stand up paddling has more than earned its stripes in the adventure sports and expeditionary travel community. Moving from prone to stand up paddling has created new opportunities for surfers to go farther and explore environments previously barred to wave riding.

In our opinion, however, this is just the beginning. SUP touring has only recently begun to take off, and with these pioneers leading the way, we are sure to see bigger, longer, faster, and gnarlier adventures in the years to come.

Ask A Question or Give Feedback

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap