By JENNIFER K. BAUER
“You still get looks like, ‘What the heck is that guy doing?’ ” says Deming, who calls the Clearwater and Snake rivers of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley “ideal” for stand up paddleboarding.
“I would hope from a quality-of-life standpoint people would get on a board and realize what an opportunity it is in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley,” Deming says.
More people tried stand up paddleboarding for the first time than any other outdoor activity in 2013, according to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2013 Outdoor Participation Report, a trend in popularity that is showing up on local waterways. Stand up paddleboards, nicknamed SUPs, have long been popular on the coast. In recent years they’ve come inland. (A list of places to rent SUPs locally can be found at the end of the story.)
“There’s definitely been a big surge of interest in the last couple of years,” says Deming, the marketing communications manager for NRS in Moscow, which released its first SUP board four years ago. “I think the accessibility of the sport is what’s driving it. Nearly anyone can hop on a SUP and grab a paddle and, even if they’ve never done it before, have fun.”
“You don’t need athletic ability to paddleboard,” agrees Brice Barnes, manager at Riverview Marina in Lewiston, which sells a variety of brand-name SUPs.
Growing up with jet boats and waterskiing, Barnes calls paddleboarding “one of the most awesomest sports I’ve ever done.”
“It is low effort with high gains,” Barnes says.
Standing on the board requires constant balance, working the body’s core. You get a workout without even knowing it, he says.
And if you’re seeking thrills, SUPs can provide. The adventurous are surfing the region’s standing river waves during spring runoff, tackling whitewater and competing at events like Payette River Games in Cascade, Idaho, where the male and female winners of last June’s SUP Elite Race each took home a $10,000 purse.
“It’s anybody’s game. Anybody could win that,” says Barnes, who took part in the event.
Standard boards are 10 to 12½ feet long. River surfing requires a slightly shorter board, Barnes says. There are hard-shell boards and inflatables. Prices vary widely, from less than $300 to more than $1,500. For a quality SUP, Barnes says, one should expect to pay $800 to $1,400. A board cheaper than that may sacrifice stability, or worse, sink. (NRS SUPs range from $900 to $1,400.)
“In my opinion, paddleboarding is not that expensive,” says Barnes, who compares it to a sport like skiing or snowboarding where there are piles of gear and a cost for every excursion.
“After the initial cost (paddleboarding) is very inexpensive.”
“There’s definitely an explosion of people doing this,” says Steve Mims, assistant coordinator of the outdoor program at the University of Idaho Rental Center, which added two inflatable SUP boards to its inventory this summer. “They’re going out the door nonstop.”
Mims thinks stand up paddleboarding appeals to people who may not be able to envision themselves doing more technical water sports like whitewater kayaking.
“It does not look intimidating at all,” Mims says.
The UI chose inflatable boards because many students are often unable to transport hard shells. People can roll up an inflatable and throw it in a car with no tying or racks, he says.
“You’re out in no time at all on the water.”
As the sport matures, board designs are becoming more refined. “What you see now is really the sport breaking down into individual subdisciplines,” Deming says.
There are boards for ocean surf or river surf, flat water, yoga and fitness paddling.
“We ourselves are making boards designed for younger and smaller people and women-specific boards,” Deming says. “It really is exploding.”
What’s SUP? Where to rent boards in the region to find out for yourself.
The Lewis-Clark State College Float and Tote Rental Center
Four inflatable SUPs for rent: students $25 day, $50 weekend; community members $30 day, $60 weekend
University of Idaho Rental Center
Two inflatable SUPs for rent, $30 a day or weekend
Lewiston (208) 746-5307
Moscow (208) 882-4555
A variety of SUPs for rent at $30 day
Bauer may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2263.