It all began, the story goes, in the waters off the islands in Hawaii half a century ago. It took about that long to reach the waters here in Utah.
They call it “standup paddle boarding’’ and it is said to be the fastest growing water sport in the country.
It started as standup paddle surfing. Surfers, on calm days, stood on their boards and paddled, “just to stay in shape,’’ as the story goes. Standup paddle boarding is similar in that participants stand, or sit, on look-alike surf boards and paddle, but do it on lakes or rivers, away from the oceans.
It’s a comfortable ride for a passenger watching the paddler doing all the work.
It’s relatively easy. The main issue is balance. Standing on a board, even a stable board that’s 12 feet long and 31 inches wide, can be a bit challenging on the water.
New students, says Alisha Niswander, owner/guide of Mountain Vista Touring in Park City, who also offers boarding instruction at Jordanelle, usually begin with a brief introduction on land showing foot placement, how to stand and paddling techniques.
“On the water we take baby steps, starting with students sitting on the back of their heels, then moving from there to kneeling and then standing.
People like (standup boarding) because it’s such a nice change to get off land and on the water, with all the open views. It’s just a really peaceful sport,’’ she adds.
One of the most popular paddling waters is Jordanelle Reservoir. It’s scenic, accessible and offers good water, especially in the early morning and late afternoon when breezes calm down.
Paddle boarding is a sport even the younger ones can pick up.
The boards used are similar to the long surf boards used back in the 1950s and 1960s, but very different from the new high-performance surf boards used today. The cost of good boards is around $1,500.
Jordanelle Rentals and Marina have boards to rent.
It helps that the marina is somewhat protected from the wind, and boats around the marina are required to drive at wakeless speeds, so waters are typically smoother. Rentals start at $20 for one hour and go to $35 for two hours and $55 for four hours.
“Most rentals are for an hour. An hour is about all most people can do. It’s a physically challenging sport,’’ notes Brinton Passey.
The concessionaire started offering boards two years ago. This year it added to its stock of boards simply because “it’s becoming very popular,’’ he says. Rentals come with board, life vest and paddle.
Proof of the growth can be seen in the Outdoor Retailers’ report that in 2005 there was but one standup board company registered and in 2012 there were more than 35 makers of standup products.
Lincoln Clark, assistant manager at REI, says, “Without a doubt, for us, this is the number one popular growth sport. This is the first big surge in a sport we’ve seen in years.’’
REI not only sells boards, but offers daily rentals at $35 a day, “and where most of our rentals go out on weekend, all of our boards are going out almost daily,’’ he says.
There are three levels of boards — beginner, intermediate and advanced. Beginner boards are longer, wider and more stable; intermediate boards are a little longer and easier to maneuver; and advanced boards are fiberglass, longer and not as stable, but very maneuverable.
As for when to board, Niswander says, “The best suggestion I can give anyone is to (paddle board) in the early morning or late afternoon, when the water is calm. Afternoon winds can be a challenge.’’
Choosing a board is based on skill level. Beginner boards are wider, flatter and more stable. More experienced boarders can choose narrower, longer and less stable boards.
Paddles have a small bend in the shaft for more efficiency.
Personal flotation devices (life vests) are required onboard.
Feet should be parallel and about hip-width apart, with knees bent and back straight.
Keep eyes looking forward and not down at the board.
As forward momentum increases, stability increases.
Plant the paddle blade completely under the surface. then pull back even with the body and then pull the blade out and plant it forward.
Start with short, smooth paddle strokes.
Paddle boarding is physically challenging, so pace yourself.
Always wear sun protection.