Stand up paddleboarding, or SUP, is relatively new to waterways and lakes around Montana, and it looks like it is here to stay. I am one to buck new trends, especially when it is embraced by the hipster crowd. I stood back and watched local rivers and lakes slowly be filled with more and more SUPs each year. Then there was the introduction to practicing yoga on a SUP, yes its a thing. It became obvious, this sport was gaining popularity, and sinking in some roots, so I decided to stop my eye rolling and see what it was all about.
Photo: SUP Missoula via Facebook
Strongwater Mountain Surf Co. out of Missoula does a free demo group night every Wednesday evening 7pm during summer at Salmon Lake. This seemed like the best way to get a free lesson, and try out a bunch of different stand up paddleboards without having to pay a thing. Oh, and did I mention they bring complementary refreshments provided by Flathead Lake Brewing Company?
After a quick briefing on how to launch, where to stand, and how to hold the paddle, I gave it a shot. I was advised to start out on my knees and get used to balancing on the board.
When I was comfortable, I stood up, a little wobbly and worked to find the sweet spot on the board where I could balance without hunching over too much. A little bend of the knees, a few swift paddles and I was off!
The beauty of paddleboarding is you gain confidence quickly. Sure, the fear of falling off the board is imminent, but as it was pointed out to me by my friend Tara (this whole adventure was her idea), what is the worst that can happen? You fall into some calm, relatively warm water with your bathing suit on? And getting back on the board is a lot easier than you might think.
Just as soon as I got the hang of things, a motorboat came zipping by with a skier in tow. The wake got me rattled, but I managed to stay on top of things and ride through the waves. I’m sure boaters don’t appreciate the extra obstacles in the water, but sharing the outdoors is all part of recreating in Montana.
I have enjoyed many summers being towed behind a boat on a wakeboard, and while paddleboarding doesn’t have the same adrenaline factor, my aging body appreciated a calmer, more meditative ride through the water.
So, I may not be ready for SUP yoga, but I have warmed up to life on top of a paddleboard! I will be trying it again this weekend, and who knows, a SUP might make its way onto my Christmas list.
For more information on rentals, and group SUP night at Salmon Lake, check out www.strongwatermtnsurf.com.