Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Riding a Wave in St. Augustine
By Jen Hand
You’ve probably been at the beach and seen them navigating the waves. Perhaps as you walked along the downtown waterfront you spied a group near the fort, sightseeing from the water.
People on giant surfboards using long single bladed paddles to glide through the waterways of the Ancient City are now as common a sight as bottlenose dolphins. Whether performed alone or in organized full moonlight tours, in Salt Run, at Vilano Beach, or even Guana River State Park, and in every season including winter, from the looks of it stand-up paddle boarding is here and here to stay.
The stand-up paddle (SUP) revolution began on the First Coast six to seven years ago, but has recently grown in popularity becoming trendy and even mainstream. Local surf and sport shops began by renting SUP boards, but sales of these boards have climbed every year.
Ocean Extreme Sports in St. Augustine Beach has been selling SUP boards for about six years. Ocean Extreme’s Brian Miller says, “When we first got them in, we had no idea what they were!”
Miller added that in the past two years sales have really taken off. Ocean Extreme Sports began by selling a few SUP boards in a corner, and now has a whole large area of the store devoted to them and their paddles, leashes, dry bags and more.
Miller could not be positive what put the sales of SUP boards over the edge recently, but did agree it is a sport for all skill levels that one can do in varying conditions.
“Anyone can do it, you don’t have to be a surfer and you definitely don’t have to do it in the ocean. Flat water paddling is fun too.”
The origins of stand-up paddling (like many modern water sports) are Hawaiian. The “beach boys” of Waikiki combined their skills at surfing and outrigger canoe paddling, eventually using the stand-up boards to keep a bird’s eye view of their students taking surf lessons. Now it is no longer considered a fringe sport for Hawaiian surfers looking to stay in shape between swells. There are SUP races, a professional world tour, and “eco” excursions on rivers, streams, lakes, bays or the ocean. Yoga and other fitness-type classes are conducted on SUP boards too.
SUP boarding is a good low impact workout that will not stress the ankle or knee joints. Maintaining balance on a board, while not overly difficult, engages many muscles, from the feet all the way up through the back. Padding a SUP board uses arms, shoulders, chest, back, and abdominal muscles. Maybe, as people realize this, more and more will consider adding a SUP board to their water-sport or exercise equipment collection.
Matt Foster, a manager at Black Creek Outfitters in Jacksonville, says his shop (which has been selling SUP boards for 4 to 5 years), holds SUP yoga classes. Asked who makes up the “normal” demographic purchasing a SUP board, Foster said, “It definitely varies, but let’s just say it’s both men and women, ages about 30-50 who may be a little past their surfing prime.”
Foster has also seen sales of SUP boards jump as people learn how much fun the sport is, “It has old roots and as it grows, the sport is not going away any time soon. Let me put it this way. I’m not a great surfer, and I’m not a great kayaker. But I am great at stand up paddling!”
Whether for the beginner just looking for a different water or wildlife viewing experience, or the seasoned surfer seeking a new rush while wave riding (or something to do on a flat surf day), SUP boarding is a versatile, inclusive sport.
Is stand up paddling on your holiday wish list? Have you made the usual New Year’s Resolution to exercise more, but can’t face the smelly gym? Visit a local surf/sport shop to try a SUP rental, and then decide for yourself if you will be part of the newest wave of fun and fitness.
Additional tips, and instructions on gear and techniques can be found on the REI website by clicking here.
And here is another “how-to” …
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