By D. Dion
If you think the only things landlocked Colorado can thank Hawaiian culture for are loud floral dress shirts and the ukulele, think again: Stand Up Paddling has made the migration from the islands to our rivers, and there are already a lot of whitewater junkies on board the new trend.
Matt Wilson is the owner of Telluride Kayak School, and he’s added a whole new segment to his school to accommodate the growing interest in Stand Up Paddling, or “SUP.” The sport originated in Hawaii, with long, stable boards that are propelled using a single paddle like the ones used in a canoe. Athletes love the workout of paddling standing up, which helps build core strength and balance, says Wilson, and for longtime boaters it’s a whole different way to run a river. “It’s awesome. Good fun. Standing up is just an incredible vantage point and way to read the water. After sitting in a kayak for so long, it’s great.”
Most people first get their feet wet by trying SUP on flat water, and Wilson offers introductory lessons on Trout Lake and a private pond on Wilson Mesa. Kayak Telluride is holding two-day beginner clinics in late this month and in August. Wilson says that people learning SUP are able to advance quickly, unlike with kayaking, where it can take time to learn how to roll. With SUP you might never be able to run more serious rapids, but you can enjoy whitewater, especially if it’s deep. “It’s a quicker progression because you don’t have to learn how to roll. For some people the idea of being upside down in the water is terrifying. It takes a certain commitment level. Stand-Up Paddling, you can’t run class five water, but you can get into class two sooner,” he says. “You don’t have to learn to roll, just how to self rescue…and pick up the pieces after you wipe out.”
Wilson et al have had some spectacular wipeouts. He and his friends are expert kayakers and river runners, and they’ve been taking along the SUP boards on their river trips to test their limits with the new sport. “We even took them on the Grand Canyon last fall,” he says. “Obviously, we got annihilated.”