Although the sport has been in existence for decades in the Hawaiian Islands, it is not until recent years that the sport has begun to catch on in other parts of the United States. Paddleboarding is a highly versatile water activity. You can partake in the sport in multiple venues from lakes, to rivers to oceans, offering participants a wide variety of different experiences while paddling.[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or most folks, surfing evokes images of sandy beaches, early mornings and long, peeling waves. But while forecasting technology has improved, those predictions are still pretty unreliable. In summer, East Coast swells are few and far between, and if one does materialize, chances are Atlantic beaches’ unruly winds will make even a good swell turn bad. For many mountain area surfers, long drives to the beach that end in less than ideal conditions eventually become more trouble than they’re worth.
So, instead of studying the latest online forecasts, local surfer Clark Bell opted to convert an older windsurfing board into a standup paddleboard and take to the rivers and lakes around Asheville. He’s not alone. In recent years, more and more people have taken to riding an oversized surfboard standing up, steering with a long, single blade paddle. Bell says the sport affords him the opportunity to get out on the water — be it ocean, lake or river — whenever he wants, rather than waiting for good waves to come to him.
Although the sport has been in existence for decades in the Hawaiian Islands, it is not until recent years that the sport has begun to catch on in other parts of the United States. Paddleboarding is a highly versatile water activity. You can partake in the sport in multiple venues from lakes, to rivers to oceans, offering participants a wide variety of different experiences while paddling.
PICKING A BOARD
For the beginning paddleboarder, the nearly unlimited types and styles of boards to choose from can prove complicated. With boards ranging from lightweight inflatables that can be stored away indoors to plastic models like the locally-made Liquid Logic Versa to carbon fiber boards made for racing, options abound. When purchasing a board, one further aspect to consider is where your primary paddling destination will be. Whether your choice includes paddling tranquil lakes, catching waves in the ocean, or navigating your way though rocky river currents you will need to determine which board is best for you. Several area outfitters offer paddleboard rentals and demos that allow paddlers to try out the various options before deciding on which board is best for them.
For those interested in getting into the sport or those just starting out, we recommend heading to one of the many lakes in western North Carolina to get your “sea legs.” When my wife and I bought our inflatable paddleboards we thought they’d be a great addition to an upcoming beach trip we’d planned, but we quickly found that the river was our favorite place to paddle. Additionally, the rivers were much more accessible to us given that we live and play in the mountains of Western North Carolina where there are so many great rivers, lakes and streams to paddle.