June 16, 2011

Stand-up paddleboarding is an increasingly popular watersport on the islands


Stand-up paddleboards have become increasingly popular on the shores of Cape Hatteras over the last several years.  They are versatile, easy to learn, and good in a variety of wind and water conditions.

As with many other watersports, Cape Hatteras is a perfect place for this growing sport because paddleboarding is fun on the flat waters of the Pamlico Sound but also in the surf on the ocean.

With the growing popularity of paddleboarding on the island, two Avon business owners collaborated to bring the First Annual Paddle Palooza to the Frisco Woods Campground earlier this month. Joe Thompson of Spa Koru and Andy McKinney of Wind NC spent time over the winter planning the event.

“I wanted to do a race for sometime,” Andy says.  “It just took one of us to call the other to make it happen.”

Andy and Joe put together a fun but competitive itinerary that attracted people from up and down the Eastern Seaboard to compete or just to watch this first annual event.  

There were paddleboards for beginners to try the sport or for experienced paddlers to demo.  With the added help of Starboards, a large manufacturer of paddleboards, there was a lot of activity at the campground.

The main event was the long distance race.  There were categories for men, women, and youth.  The men’s course was 3 miles long, but the women’s and youth were shorter at 2 miles each.  The weather was great for this competition because the temps had cooled, and the wind disappeared for a couple of days, which made the water slick calm.

Mark Colino from New York took first place in the long distance race with a time of 33 minutes.  Finishing second was Mac Barnhardt from Charlotte, N.C.  Billy Mosely from Nags Head took third place.

Kris Barnhardt from Charlotte had the fastest women’s time, and Dawn Jeffer, also from Charlotte earned second.  Anne McKinney from Avon claimed third place.

In the youth division, McIntyre Barnhardt and Gabe Jeffer, both from Charlotte, were winners.

In the men’s surf division, Rob Cornwell of Charlotte took first place.  Virginia Beach’s own Bobby Nieves claimed second, and Brent Franklin from Maryland got third.

The other on-the-water activities included a tug of war, sprints, and relay races.

At day’s end, everyone kicked back to enjoy some live music and chow down on North Carolina barbecue by Jimmy Pitetti.

Mother Nature had a gift of her own to contribute.  Particulates in the atmosphere from the Pains Bay wildfire made for breathtaking backdrop for a sunset paddle.  The sunset was spectacular.

Let’s learn a little more about this emerging sport.  

Stand-up paddleboarding was popular in Hawaii in the early ‘60s.  Experienced surfers would paddle out and hang out past the break to entertain themselves by watching beginning surfers get schooled by the waves.  

In the last 10 years, the sport reappeared as an easy but versatile way to enjoy the water.  In 2008, Laird Hamilton, who is a celebrity in the watersports world, made an appearance on “Good Morning America” to talk about SUPs.

A stand-up paddleboard is basically a large water vessel similar in size to a surfer’s long board or a windsurfer’s light-wind board, ranging from 7 to 14 feet long.  Paddle boarders actually stand upright on the board and use a single paddle to move through the water.  In spite of their size, today’s paddleboards are light, thanks to epoxy technology.

These boards are extremely stable and easy to stand on, which is great for someone with no previous water experience.  It’s common for a beginner get to comfortable on the board in about an hour.  Some say it’s like walking on water.

Today’s paddleboards are so well designed and versatile that an experienced watersports enthusiast can use it as a surfboard, a windsurfer, or even like a kayak.  

There are so many perfect conditions in which to do this sport.  On a no-wind, no-surf day, paddleboarding is a great way to get in the water to see the sights along the coastline or exercise because it gives the rider a strong core workout.   

In small surf, the paddleboards provide the rider the ability to see waves quicker because of the advantage of standing versus sitting low as with a traditional surfboard.  On light wind days, a sail can be attached to the board, and it can quickly be used as for windsurfing.

Several stores in the area sell and rent SUPs, which are a little pricey with retail prices ranging between $600 and $1,500.  The paddles vary from basic plastic to sophisticated carbon fiber designs, which can cost up to $500.

If you have always wanted to try a watersport but have been scared off by the complexity or physicality of surfing, windsurfing, or kitesurfing, this may a great sport to try.


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