The Cure For Summer Boardom
story: Jim Dyar photo: City of Redding Recreation and Parks Department
TAKE A STAND WITH PADDLEBOARDING
It’s nearly impossible to catch a wave on Whiskeytown Lake. So what would explain the increasing number of people riding surfboards out there?
Actually, they’re participants in the rapidly expanding sport of stand-up paddle boarding. The sport originated in Hawaii in the 1930s as a way to ferry tourists into the surf. After lying dormant for decades, it’s boomed in popularity over the past several years.
Extreme paddle boarders still ride ocean waves, but the sport’s biggest increase has taken place on more calm waters such as lakes, slow-moving rivers and ocean bays.
“It’s really becoming the new thing,” says Jenny Moore, recreation supervisor for the Redding Aquatic Center, which hosts clinics for stand-up paddle boarding. “It’s a fun way to see the lake. When you’re standing up, it’s a whole different view.”
The clinics have been popular for all ages and gender, and those who try the sport often get hooked.
That’s been the experience for Roseville’s Larry Froley, who set up the curriculum and trained stand-up paddle board instructors in Redding. He teaches the sport in the Sacramento area and owns Gray Whale Trading Co. in Roseville, which sells boards and equipment.
“It’s like walking on water,” Froley says. “Rather than being seated in a boat where you can’t see very much, when you’re standing on a board, you can see forever.”
The great view also extends below the surface of the water. Paddle boarders enjoy a better vantage to scan for fish and other aquatic creatures.
The other major appeal to the sport is the killer workout it delivers. Stand-up paddle boards typically range from 11 to 14 feet long, and they are more stable for cruising than actual surfboards. While standing on the board, a person is constantly using “core” muscles to keep balanced. It’s not hard to stay upright (especially in calm water), but the abdominal and leg muscles are continually worked regardless.
When a boarder starts paddling, the chest and arm muscles are used and the workout can be as strenuous as a person chooses. There are now racing circuits for the sport all across the country on lakes and ocean courses.
“The amount of exercise does more for your body than almost anything else you could do,” says Froley, who has also worked as personal trainer and sports nutritionist. “For those interested in a workout, it’s probably the single best activity I’ve run across. You use just about every muscle in the body. There’s no rest for the core (muscles) when you’re on a stand-up board.” The Redding Recreation Department is hosting clinics on weekends throughout the summer. For more information, visit www.reddingrecreation.org and click the aquatics tab, or call (530) 225-4095. The department has a fleet of 13 boards that it purchased thanks to a grant from the California Department of Boating and Waterways.Though most people have no problem picking up the sport, the classes are a good first step for learning the proper technique and understanding safety elements.
The more recent swell in the sport might be traced to big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, who started using them as a tool to catch waves, Froley says. The boards went mainstream after they were introduced at the Outdoor Retailers Summer Market in Salt Lake City a few years back. The new product jazzed both retailers and outdoor enthusiasts. A lot of stand-up paddlers have previous kayaking experience, Froley adds.
New boards (made of various composite materials) typically range from $800-$1,500, while carbon racing boards can climb as high as $3,000. Used boards can be found on the Internet for much less. Paddles range from $80 (plastic-aluminum materials) to as high as $400 (carbon materials).
In Redding, ESP Outdoor (formerly Penguin Paddlers, 3330 Railroad Ave.; (530) 244-3355) is a distributor for stand-up paddle boards. Information on Froley’s boards can be found at www.graywhalepaddle.com.
Because the boards have been classified as small crafts by the Department of Boating and Waterways, participants are required to wear (or carry) some type of life jacket. Surf leashes, tethered to an ankle, are commonly used in the surf zone but are also a good idea on lakes.
Once you get out on the lake, expect plenty of second and third looks.
“When we paddle in our local lake, we have people stop us all the time and ask, ‘What are you doing?’” Froley says. “They always say, ‘Oh, I’d like to try that.’ The other thing I’ve found is the mass majority of people who do it want to keep doing it.”