Note: This aerial photo of the Deschutes River by Buck Heim shows the area of the river that goes through Sunriver, Oregon. It's a SUP paddle boarding dream of easy downstream flat water paddling that's accessible for most anyone of any age who is willing to stand on a board.
Surf’s up in C.O. The sport of stand-up paddle boarding is growing locally
By Katie Brauns / The Bulletin, Bend, Oregon, Published: September 16. 2008 4:00AM PST Katie Brauns can be reached at 541-383-0393 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. ARTICLE ACCESS: This article is among those available to all readers. Many more articles are available only to E-Edition members. Sign up today! Link here for the entire Bend Bulletin article.
Surfboards in the High Desert?
Yes, and in high demand. Not long ago, few Central Oregonians had even heard of these surfboards called stand-up paddle boards. Now, stand-up paddling is growing rapidly in the area. Saturday’s Stand-up Paddle Boarding Family Fun Extravaganza at Sunriver Marina on the Deschutes River attracted more than 30 curious participants who joined an instructional clinic, relay races and a downriver tour.
Most first-timers said they would like to do it again. Some even mentioned buying a board (cost ranging from $700 to $1,700). “It’s a good activity for all ages,” said Mandy Baker, 27, a youth adventure camp leader in Bend and one of Saturday’s participants. “In one minute you get your wobbles out. Really, anyone that can hike or walk can do this. “I’m going to try it again for sure.”
Slice of history The ancient sport of stand-up paddle boarding was revived in the 1940s by surfers in Hawaii, according to www.AdventuresNW.com. By most accounts, stand-up paddle boarding originated in Polynesia. The AdventuresNW site also suggests that archaeologists digging for ancient artifacts have found 7-foot-long, single-bladed paddles throughout the Hawaiian Islands on several occasions. The upright method of paddling is an efficient way to break through the water’s wake, rather than lying down and stroking with the arms.
Upright paddling also makes it easier for surf instructors to keep track of their students — and to take pictures of them for mementos.
Moving in Stand-up paddle boarding recently began to spread inland, and Central Oregon has enthusiastically welcomed the sport. “We got the word out that we had stand-up paddle boards and we were busy all year,” said Tom Hamilton, Sunriver Marina manager. “What’s happening is, the sport is mushrooming inland to lakes and rivers. So we have an obvious connection there, because we have a really nice resort right on the river with almost countless lakes surrounding us.”
The marina has a fleet of about 15 rental stand-up paddle (or SUP) boards and has an order in for twice that number for next year. Lessons are also available at the Sunriver Marina. Randall Barna, a spearhead of paddle boarding locally, began selling the boards last year through his Web site, www.standuppaddleflatwater.com. Then, about a dozen interested paddlers joined in, mostly paddling flat stretches of the Deschutes River in Bend and Sunriver.
This summer, more than 50 paddlers are part of the stand-up paddle flat-water group. A few dozen of them meet every Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Alder Creek Kayak in Bend (near the Colorado Avenue Bridge) and paddle up the Deschutes to Farewell Bend Park and then back down to Alder Creek.
In addition, Barna organizes gatherings to Cascade Mountain lakes and to different segments of the Deschutes, providing a shuttle service so that paddlers can always be traveling downstream or downwind. The assembly is a good excuse to socialize, but apparently it’s a great workout as well. “When I got out on that board for the first time … it was such a good CORE workout that I was totally hooked,” said Susan Shannon, a mother of three from Bend. “The paddling is easy for me because I was a canoe instructor, but it was the core workout that I really liked.”
“You have to keep moving your legs to balance and then twist when you paddle,” said Tim Henion of the core workout paddlers get while SUP boarding. “And you use your shoulders. You get it all over.” Henion had just returned from a four-mile paddle going downstream on the Deschutes and back up, starting and ending at Sunriver Marina.
Novice participants swarmed the Sunriver Marina dock on Saturday and learned about paddling while standing up. Along with learning how to hold the long paddle and stroke most efficiently, participants soon discovered that it was easy. Balance is key, and most of the paddlers got the knack of it right away. Youngsters and adults of all shapes and sizes tooled around on the river, splashing strokes, gracefully turning or clumsily falling off their board.
Only a few lost their balance and dumped into the cold, weedy water of the Upper Deschutes. The flat-water attraction “As the summer went on last year, there was more and more people getting interested (in stand-up paddling),” noted Barna. “And this summer it has increased 10 times.” Barna measures the growth by the number of paddlers who have purchased boards in the last year. “The big deal is the flat-water opportunities that we have here,” explained Barna. “Anything other than coastal paddling is called flat-water paddling. And Bend is a destination resort for flat-water paddling and is probably the first one in the U.S. that has taken off.”
Not only are paddlers getting a workout, they also are outside enjoying nature, even viewing the aquatic life beneath the surface of the water. “I like to paddle in the mornings here,” said Alex Zarganes, who teaches paddle-board lessons for Sunriver Marina. “I come in when it’s calm and serene. I saw wildlife. Within an hour I saw a beaver, a great blue heron, an osprey fishing, and a mom and a baby deer, all within an hour on the second day that I have paddled in the morning. … You really do get in a zone. I paddled in a lake one weekend at 6 o’clock in the morning. … It was the most peaceful I’ve ever felt. I was in the middle of Crescent Lake, all by myself.”
Paddle boarding attracts all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts, from mellow river floats to the extremists. “It seems like any sport that you are standing on something and you are in motion automatically kind of has an edginess to it, like skiing or skateboarding or snowboarding,” noted Hamilton on Saturday as he watched paddlers snake through the water for their first SUP boarding experience. “It has that edgy element to it.” Some Central Oregonians have taken SUP boarding to the extreme: They have run whitewater. . . . READ MORE at the Bend Bulletin