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Paddleboarding

By Emily Moskal

Stand-up paddleboarding, also called SUP, reduces watercraft to its simplest and most flexible form. Stand-up paddleboarders (aka SUPers) paddle a long, wide board, about 11 feet long, with a one-blade paddle. The sport is growing in popularity, and most onlookers no longer wonder what those “standing paddlers” are doing.

Modern stand-up paddleboarding has its roots in the Hawaiian surfing scene of the ’60s. To gain a better perspective, surf instructors stood on oversized boards with paddles to point students in the right direction to catch the best wave.

Versatility. SUP’s popularity is attributed to its versatility. The sport's most often done on calm water, so it can be practiced by big populations in inland metropolitan areas, but it can also be done in ocean surf.

Fun Workout. Nick Matzorkis, the founder of SUP ATX, which says it's the world’s largest paddleboard company, describes the sport as an “exercise in disguise.” The board offers a gentle full-body workout, emphasizing core muscles, all unnoticed as you get caught up in the views and the transcendent glide over the water.

Easy to Learn. The stable float offers control on the water; your natural stance empowers your movement, imitating walking on water. The unique perspective and interaction with the water are invigorating, bringing the intimacy of surfing inland. Compared to surfing, which takes days of practice and the pain of hundreds of falls to master, paddleboarding is easy.

“If you can stand on a coffee table,” Matzorkis says, “you can stand on a paddleboard.”

To maintain your balance your first time on the board, Matzorkis suggests keeping your feet in a wide stance in the middle of your board’s length with knees bent. Keep moving and paddling rather than standing still or sitting, and remember, if you do fall (which is unlikely), it’s only water.

Gear. Board types include inflatable, cruiser, distance, surfing, whitewater, yoga, fishing and kids’ specialty, but the differences are subtle. The average user can easily utilize the standard, all-around board commonly offered at rental outfitters.

SUP Fishing. Many anglers, particularly fly-fishermen, are taking to the paddleboard to gain an advantage on the water. Paddleboarders look into the water from five to six feet above the water, avoiding the low-angle reflection visibility problem experienced when sitting in a kayak, so fish spotting improves dramatically. You’ll be hard pressed to find a craft that can navigate shallower waters; fishing boards submerge only one or two inches below the waterline.

Where to Go. With SUP rentals in most major metropolitan areas, you’re sure to find one in your area. In 2015, Austin was named the “number one paddle town” in the country by SUP Magazine. Lady Bird Lake in the center of town is undoubtedly the most popular spot in the state. But Austin isn’t the only city with great water. With many lakes, rivers, beaches and bays to cruise, SUP rentals have spread across the state. Rentals are available at outfitters in Houston, Galveston, Matagorda, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Dallas, South Padre and Abilene, among others.

 

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