What’s Up: Stand Up Paddling on Lake George
“This is almost like walking on water!” This was my first thought as I successfully stood up, tottered a bit, and managed to stay upright. I felt my leg muscles tense, and my toes automatically tried to cling to the wet, smooth surface I balanced upon. I tried not to think about all those little waves constantly rocking my fiberglass island, nor the steady wind that would be felt all the more once out of the haven of the docking area. I was fully decked out in my bathing suit and life jacket, 110% sure I was going to involuntarily perfect the ‘art’ of falling off my board. It was a beautiful day with few clouds, and despite my trepidation about the waves, the wind felt good.
Ah summer in the Adirondacks! It is finally here, as fleeting as it is. For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s no end to the possible activities to squeeze in those free hours. Today I took a lesson in another fun activity to add to my ever growing list of watery escapades; using a stand up paddle board, otherwise called a SUP.
When asked if I would be interested in trying it, I was definitely curious as I’d never heard of SUPs before. I felt just a tad concerned because I know that I don’t have the sense of balance I used to, for whatever reason (never age!). Once upon a time I played sports regularly, was pretty athletic, and considered myself to be fairly ‘balanced.’
I was relieved that the day was nice and warm, so falling often wouldn’t be quite so horrible. My friend Oli and I arrived at the boathouse of the Lake George Kayak Company and were greeted by instructor John Flynn. He introduced us to our boards which are similar to surf boards. I really didn’t know what to expect, other than what the brief video on YouTube showed me.
Our gear was simple; a paddle board ranging anywhere from 9 to 14 feet long, really long single blade paddles, and life jackets. That’s it! John shared with us some tips on several of the different strokes we’d use to maneuver, and also some of the history of SUPs. The sport has a Hawaiian origin and is relatively new in the rest of the states. In just the last few years the sport’s popularity has spread throughout the US, starting to reach further inland into places like Lake George. I felt pretty excited, knowing we had the privilege of learning a sport that maybe few people had yet to hear of.
Once the initial instructions were complete, we slid into the ‘warm water, and by ‘warm’ I mean…bbbrrr!! This was my first time this year getting into the beautiful crystal clear waters of LG and it took a minute to adjust. I tried not to think about what it might feel like if I involuntarily plunged my whole self into the water. I learned how to get onto my 12 foot board, hoisting up onto my chest and then sliding on. We started out on our knees, getting a feel for the board and the motion of the small waves. Slowly we stood up and took another few minutes to get our bearings. We stood facing forward, not sideways like in surfing, making sure to be in the center of the board. I looked around grinning like a fool. This was cool! After my initial excitement over ‘walking on water,’ the fisherwoman in me thought how much fun it would be to fish standing on one of these things. John said that people do, and even mentioned seeing a video on YouTube of a guy reeling in a shark off one of these boards. Later on, I checked it out and while I wouldn’t mind a bass or trout off this thing, I’m not quite ready to take on a shark. In fact, I think I’ll skip that activity altogether. The video is worth seeing though!
The water is so clear on LG, and looking down from the board, it was a neat sight to behold. I was literally on top of the world, the aquatic world that is. John once again demonstrated some of the paddle motions, how to go forward in a straight line, which is called the Jay stroke. Seconds later Oli and I were blown away in the opposite direction by the wind. Skinny people standing on a board can be easily influenced by a good gust.
After just an hour though, my legs stopped wobbling and shaking, and I could not only paddle forward (maybe not quite in a straight line but I was no longer floundering in circles!) with or against the wind, but I could also voluntarily go backwards and turn around! Along with John’s simple and clear instruction, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of paddling, especially if you have any experience in canoeing. There’s something magical and even a bit majestic about standing tall on one of these boards and gliding along. Races do exist for SUPs, especially on the west coast. John told us that races range from distances of 3k to 22k! He also noted that women seem to be the most interested, as this is a great and easy workout. Even though you don’t move your legs much, you are engaging those muscles for balance, as well as your arms and your core for paddling. You can’t beat that. A great workout, all while standing still!
It was hard to get back off my little floating island and end our incredibly fun lesson. Speaking of lessons, the Lake George Kayak Company offers them seven days a week if you call a week ahead to schedule, and they have great instructors like John Flynn. They offer great rates, and you can rent SUPs for an hourly rate, a half day or four hours, up to a full day. This is their second year selling and renting stand up boards and they are excitedly anticipating what the future holds for this sport. You can sign up for a lesson, rent a board, and then if you really enjoy it, buy your very own, all right there at the LGKC. They have a fantastic and very informative website at HYPERLINK “http://www.lakegeorgekayak.com/” http://www.lakegeorgekayak.com/. You can call them at 518-644-9366, or check out their store right on Main Street of Bolton Landing, across from the Grand Union.
One day there just might be races on Lake George. I’m not sure I could picture myself at that level just yet, but I am looking forward to trying it again. I really like the idea of cruising along on one of these boards, working my way up Lake George. Talk about the beautiful views, both above and below! This activity has definitely been added to my list, and I encourage all of you to sign up for a lesson and check them out for yourself! Oh and by the way, I didn’t even fall by accident once! Neither of us did! I voluntarily ‘fell’ in to practice getting back onto the board and it was surprisingly refreshing. So if I can stay on and have a blast, so can you!