It has taken a few years for paddleboarding to reach the Cape Region, but local surf shops say it's here, and there's no stopping it.
Stand up paddleboarding, better known as SUP, originated in Hawaii but was not popularized until about 15 years ago by surfer Laird Hamilton. SUP has been known for years as a West Coast sport, a mix of surfing and kayaking in one activity.
Riders stand on a board roughly the size and shape of a large surfboard and use a paddle to move around. The paddle has a curved, plastic blade at one end and a lumpy handle designed to ensure it's held the right way.
As simple as it sounds, riders can’t get enough of it.
Recently SUP providers Delmarva Board Sport Adventures, Coastal Kayak and East of Maui got together to introduce people to the sport. The providers all said they have been offering paddleboarding for about five years, but this year, they said, it's gone to a whole new level.
SUP has exploded in the last two or three years, said 61-year-old Jim Bourke, SUP instructor at Coastal Kayak, who said he's taught customers older than he is.
“It’s fun. That’s the biggest thing. People really do have fun,” he said. “Even if people fall, a lot of them come back smiling.”
“It's simple enough that anyone can do it,” he said.
“You'll develop the skills you need. Anyone can do it,” agreed East of Maui manager Lexi Oleynik, 26.
Paddleboarders are no longer just paddling anymore, she said. People are taking their workout to the water, doing pushups, crunches and even yoga all on the paddleboard, Oleynik said.
Washington, D.C. resident Sarah Fales said her friends were doing yoga on paddleboards, so she thought it was time to give paddleboarding a try.
SUP is offered at night by Delmarva Board Sport Adventures, where boards are modified and equipped with lights suitable for nighttime adventures.
Boarders can get out just about wherever and whenever they want: in rivers, bays and even oceans.
“You can do it in almost any weather,” said Oleynik. “It's just a vessel for whatever you want.”
Oleynik and other instructors said the only weather that really gives boarders trouble is wind. Paddleboarding in windy conditions intensifies the workout.
She says many of the people she teaches are 40- to 60-year-olds, but when she's out on her own, she sees many 20- to 30-year-olds.
A how-to of paddleboarding
Instructors say anyone can learn to paddleboard. All it takes is a little balance and some core strength.
The best way to stand is in-line with the board's handle slots, or slightly closer to the rear of the board, to reduce drag from the front.
When approaching obstacles, such as rocks or wooded shoreline, they said the best technique is to square the hips and lower the body close to the board to brace for impact.
The best way to paddle, they said, is to bring the paddle to the front of the board and pull it through the water, stopping when the paddle gets to the boarder's feet, which should be around the middle of the board.
Where to find a paddleboard
Anyone interested in lessons or tours in the booming sport should one of the following shops.
• Delaware Paddlesports in Lewes; 18068 Coastal Highway Lewes; 302-645-7300 or http://www.delawarepaddlesports.com/
• Delmarva Board Sport Adventures, with two locations, Rehoboth Beach and Fenwick Island; 302-260-9008 or delmarvaboardsportadventures.com
• East of Maui in Dewey Beach; 302-227-4703 and in Lewes; 302-827-4466 or eastofmaui.com
• Quest Kayak in Lewes; 302-745-2925
• Coastal Kayak in Fenwick; 302-539-7999 or coastalkayak.com