The SUP pioneer (who paddled “without even showing her ankle”)

Today it is more than a trend.
You may have noticed it, during your summer cruises: there is no boat now that does not have a SUP (stand up paddle) on board, the board on which you stand (similar to surfing but with more volume to support the weight of the user), using a special paddle for propulsion. This phenomenon of recent years, we accidentally discovered, has roots that are more than 100 years old.

A modern-day SUP practitioner

According to official sources, the birth of SUP is traced back to the 1950s in Hawaii, when one of the most well-known “beachboys” of the time, Bobby Ah Choy had an idea to take pictures in the water and thus closer to the action with a completely different and more realistic perspective. He borrowed an oar and paddling on a longboard arrived, without falling, near the break point, capturing the action for the first time from the water with a Kodak. Without knowing it, Bobby had created a new way of surfing that was christened “Beachboy Surfing.”

But as we flipped through a very old copy of Motonautica magazine, and more specifically the April 1930 issue, we were struck by a published photo that the newspaper describes as “25 years old,” and thus dating back to the early 1900s, depicting a fully dressed lady intent on paddling a kind of double canoe. Here it is, the first “SUPer” in history.

It almost makes one smile today to read the original article accompanying the photo review containing said image, titled “Ludi Nautici Modernissimi.” And which, in theory, is supposed to talk about “trends” in water sports but in reality is a compendium of machismo of the twentieth century mixed with racism.

“The women of today believe in good faith that they themselves invented women’s sports and believe that they cannot practice them without getting naked or almost naked. Quite fittingly, in arranging the illustrations on this page, we wanted to reproduce at No. 1 the effigy of a sportswoman of twenty-five years ago who walked away strolling on the waves without even showing her ankle. It seems to us that it took more skill and sporting passion to go out on the treacherous element thus attired than it did with the skimpy dressing gowns worn by the other damsels in the following illustrations.”

Then, the racist jab: “The sportswoman of that time could then protect her white, delicate skin from the action of the elements while today’s sportswoman is happy to tan herself like a skinned Hottentot (the Khoi, an ethnic group in southwest Africa, were called Hottentots then, ed.)…” Eugene Ruocco

The original article in Motonautica from April 1930



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