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Adventure of the Week: Stand-up paddleboarding

Austin Colbert
Austin Colbert works a Hala Hoss stand-up paddleboard across Fetcher Pond on Thursday.
Joel Reichenberger

— When Steamboat Springs yogi and all-around cool guy Charlie Chase asked me to try a crow pose on a stand-up paddleboard last week at Fetcher Pond, my immediate thought was, “This is it. This is when I finally go for a swim.”

To my surprise, I stayed dry, though my yoga moves would hardly have been passable on solid ground. But, given it was my first time on a SUP, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back just for returning to shore without wet clothes.

Stand-up paddleboarding is as old as it is new. People around the world have done something similar — both as a mode of transportation and for sport — for thousands of years. The modern SUP is a bit of an enigma, some saying it originated in 2001 when surfing legend Laird Hamilton jumped on something identical.

Truth is, no one really knows. The increasingly popular activity has seemingly evolved of its own accord over the past decade, with Steamboat Springs serving as another growing oasis in the world of stand-up paddleboarding.

“I got into it because I was surfing, and I was taking my surfboards down the river, and I wanted a new way to play,” said Peter Hall, reflecting on his introduction to paddleboarding about six years ago. “The first board I ever got was a Costco board, and I was taking it down the river and destroying it.”

Hall, who owns Hala Gear in Steamboat Springs, now rides his own boards down the Yampa River and was kind of enough to lend me one Thursday for a quick photo shoot on the pond.

I rode the Hala Hoss my first time out, a big, beginner-friendly board borrowed from Danny Tebbenkamp’s Paddleboard Adventure Company. Chase, after learning I had never been on a paddleboard in the year I had lived in Steamboat, volunteered to introduce me to the sport. Coming from Kansas, I hadn’t even heard of paddleboarding until I made the move west of the Rockies.

It requires a certain bit of balance and finesse — thankfully, I’d developed those skills while learning to snowboard last winter — and is a surprisingly great core workout. Sure beats doing a sit up.

“It’s a more fun way to go. You tip your canoe, and you are out of luck. Fall off your paddleboard, you just get back on,” Hall said. “When you are standing on the board, you are not going to have the same static ability you are used to. But, just being willing to move with the board and continue to find your way back to center is a big part of it.”

Steamboat provides a number of outlets to get you on a board. Other than Paddleboard Adventure Company, with its main office located at 675 S. Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat, there is Barry Smith’s Mountain Sports Kayak School (800 S. Lincoln Avenue) and Bodhi Paddleboards (operating mostly out of North Routt and recently acquired by Jonathan Barrett and Johannah Hall), all of which provide rentals and lessons.

For the experienced, there are plenty of other places to rent a paddleboard without someone holding your hand. Backdoor Sports (841 Yampa Street) is a popular spot and conveniently located next to the river. If convenience matters for you on still water, both Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake in North Routt County offer rentals on site.

“It’s easy to pick up,” Hall said. “Like any sport, with the right tips and tricks and movements, it’s not as hard as it looks. Skiing looks crazy until you get it.”

Remember to be safe. Either a personal flotation device or ankle leash is required on ponds and lakes, though the PFD can be attached to the board and not worn. State rules also require having a whistle with you, in case you need to signal for help.

On the river, never wear an ankle leash, as the rush of the current could potentially drag you under should your board become snagged on a rock or branch without you on it. A helmet is a good idea, especially with the Yampa River still flowing with plenty of intensity.

For inexperienced river goers, it’s suggested to stay upriver from Fetcher Park, located east of downtown, to avoid the rougher white waters that run through the town.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert


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