Have you tried stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) or know anyone who owns a board? I’ve noticed more and more stand up paddleboards popping up in magazines over the past few years, usually mentioned by a fit celebrity or cited as a workout. I had no idea there was a magazine specifically dedicated to SUP and it wasn’t until last year that I saw one with my own two eyes. I was eating dinner at a restaurant in Seattle and out on the calm water a couple was watching the sunset from their SUP. I was so envious! If you’ve ever watched the sunset over the water you know what an amazing view it is, now imagine being on the water while it’s setting. Breathtaking. Apparently I’m not the only newbie to SUP. According to the 2013 Outdoor Participation Report, “Stand up paddling had the highest number of new participants in the past year. More than half of stand up paddling participants tried the sport for the first time in 2012.”
Even though I had a lot of interest in SUP, I didn’t get the chance to try it for myself until this past weekend. My local outdoors store, Townsend Bertram & CO, hosted an event along with BIC (yep, the same people that run the pen game have a big hand in water board sporting equipment) to introduce SUP to those of us who have never tried it. There’s a large number of lakes and rivers in NC, not to mention the Outer Banks area, so what better place to entice people to get into SUP? At least that’s what I thought when I signed up for the free event.
K and I headed to the lake on full hoagie-bellies (that’s sub-bellies to you [katie here: haha, Calder and I argue about this all of the time, thanks for the data!]) excited to try something new. Once we checked-in we were assigned a number. The friendly folks at Townsend Bertram & CO would periodically call out numbers, which was the cue to step on down to the waterside. First the paddle was adjusted for height. You raise your arm straight up into the air, but let your wrist hang limp. The top of the paddle handle should just touch your palm. Then the instructors picked a board depending on our height, weight and intended use. There are different boards for racing, yoga, surfing and just plain paddling around. K and I both tried standard boards the first time out. He was on a 10’6” while I was on a 10’4”. I wasn’t that nervous about the whole thing, but I think K thought it was going to be harder than it was. I only saw one person out of 70 fall the entire day! You simply wade out into the water, hoist yourself onto the board and then kneel in the center of it. After you feel comfortable kneeling and paddling you can stand up and off you go. K liked it so much that he went out a second time on a slim racing board.
Before I tried SUP I was excited about the idea, but thought it was a bit redundant since I already owned a kayak. Once I was on the board, I fell in love! It’s much different from kayaking and maybe it seems selfish, but I want one of these too. Unlike kayaking, you’re much higher than the surface of the water so you’re able to see farther. As a photographer, I really like that about SUP. I also like that you can easily see where you’re going. Instead of just paddling blindly through the water, the more detailed view allows you to anticipate different currents, depths and passages. I also love that SUP works your core and more of your upper body than the kayak. I tire very easily in my kayak because I have a relatively weak chest and shoulders, but my core is solid, which made SUP less challenging and more enjoyable for me. You can also hop off your SUP when waters get rough and choppy as opposed to flipping over in a kayak, which scares a lot of folks.
I love that SUP doubles as a surfboard and for that matter triples as a floating yoga mat! You know the Seasoned sisters love yoga and if you don’t, we tried to tell you here and here. At the event on Sunday I also ran into Allison from LYFSUP. In short, LYFSUP is dedicated to building the SUP community around Jordan Lake and in Chapel Hill, NC and beyond, and they are dedicated to protecting water & natural resources, donating a percentage of their profits to the cause. Allison has an impressive background in surfing and SUP so it’s no wonder she’s committed to bringing it to the area. LYFSUP offers SUP yoga classes, which is what I had the chance to see on Sunday at the lake. Allison and her stepdaughter Haley went out on the water and demonstrated a mini yoga flow for me! It looked so relaxing and at the same time more challenging and complex than yoga on solid ground. After watching the ladies practice side plank, chair, down dog and sun salutations out on the lake, I started calculating a budget to see how quickly I could buy a board! My family has a home in Virginia, just a few yards from the water, so I could already envision switching my daily yoga practice to SUP yoga. Imagine how tranquil and relaxing it must be to practice while gently floating along *sigh*. In the meantime I’ll take a couple of Allison’s SUP yoga classes and hopefully by next year a board will be mine.
I do think the boards are a little bit pricey, but that may be because I’m used to buying boats and equipment with more to it. Since SUP is a newer concept to me, I think I’m having a hard time justifying such an expensive purchase on just a board (even though I know it’s so much more than that!). Like I said, it really is a SUP, surf board and yoga mat all in one. The boards I used on Sunday were top-of-the-line, but I did find some for as low as $600 and even $400, but I can’t attest to the quality. The ones I saw Allison of LYFSUP using were even more impressive and perfect for practicing yoga so I’m excited to get the opportunity to try one out for myself during her class (the board and anchor rental is only $5 extra). After perusing the internet and seeing so.many.options. I think it would be a good idea to rent several different kinds and really get a feel for the type of board that’s right for you. In my family, we often split recreational purchases like this, making it extra important to research the boards to find one board that can fit everyone in the family.
If you are new to SUP like myself, you should do a quick google search and see if any sporting good stores, outlets or parks in your area rent out boards. I was surprised to find out that there are several rental venues in my area and near the Outer Banks too. It’s a great way to explore, and who doesn’t love a new adventure?
I feel like I’ve become mildly obsessed with SUP in a matter of a few days. I promise this post isn’t sponsored by anyone (although I wish it was, helllllo free SUP). I tend to bounce around from one expensive hobby (backpacking to rock climbing and always photography) to the next so I’m really trying to reign myself in on this one. I can already see myself buying a board during end-of-the-summer clearance sales. So be it. All the better to photograph the sunset with, am I right? [katie again : you have me convinced!]
If any of you are in my area, Chapel Hill, NC, let’s take a SUP yoga class together! I’m doing it either way so why not join me? Back to daydreaming about SUP in tropical locations for me…