Hollywood Stars Jump on the Paddleboarding Trend

Vanessa Hudgens on the water in Miami

A slew of A-listers are into the super-trendy sport

This story first appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Depending on whom you ask, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is either the world’s fastest-growing sport or the biggest annoyance since the hashtag. But no one disputes that it’s an unintimidating way to get out into the surf and get a surprisingly good workout. The wobbly boards offer a nonstop core challenge, and you can burn a few hundred calories an hour on a leisurely tour — double that if you’re paddling hard. And now it’s easy to rent SUP boards near the most popular launch sites in L.A., including Hermosa Beach, Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey and near the Malibu Pier.

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Among SUP’s Hollywood aficionados are Malibu locals Owen Wilson, Pink, Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey, Pierce Brosnan and Charlize Theron. On a random afternoon this past summer, one could spot Rob Lowe or Gerard Butler dipping a paddle near Malibu’s Point Dume. Rihanna, Kate Hudson, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Aniston also have tried it. Director Tamra Davis, who lives in Point Dume with her husband, Beastie Boys’ Mike D, and her two sons, prefers to stand up paddle “when it’s super flat.” Or she’ll go on full-moon paddles with Malibu neighbors like environmentalist Kelly Meyer (married to NBCUniversal vice chair Ron Meyer).

Another Point Dume resident, Steve Alexander, a partner at ICM, likes to drift down the coast to paddle with his buddy, CAA agent Ted Miller. “It’s almost like taking a walk or a hike on the water,” says Alexander. “You get that escape from what you are doing — you can’t bring your iPhone.”

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While some use their stand-up boards for a breezy tour of the water, others will use it to catch waves. Pro big-wave surfing legend and Malibu resident Laird Hamilton, who has stunt-coordinated films and had a role in The Descendants, insists that SUP actually is surfing.

“People try to separate it, but it is probably closer to the root that we consider to be surfing.” But as a newer sport, SUP can pose risks to surfers (as snowboarding was seen to do by many skiers). “You get all these monkeys that don’t know what they’re doing, floundering around in the lineup, swinging a paddle around,” says veteran surfer Scott Caan. “They can knock you out.” (That said, he adds, “If Laird Hamilton wants to do it, OK — he’s earned it.”)

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Hamilton hopes everyone will eventually chill out and become more accepting of SUP. “I’m always like, ‘Spread the aloha’ — let people experience riding a wave,” he says. Adds cinematographer and avid surfer Danny Moder: “Paddleboarding can be fun to involve the kids on the front of the board — it’s a great way to explore the coast. People come away with great oceanic experiences that they might not have ever had.”