Paddleboarding is making a splash in New Hampshire.Once reserved for the beach cultures of Hawaii and California, paddleboarding has washed up on the shores of the Granite State - from the ocean to inland mountain lakes, ponds and rivers.Also called stand-up paddleboarding or SUP, paddleboarders can either surf like big wave man Laird Hamilton, who helped foster the sport's recent explosion in popularity, or do some flat water cruising and touring. Armed with long paddles and longer, stable boards - and often with wet suits - paddleboarding can last through the seasons (at least in saltwater). Beginners might want to start with sturdier and wider boards, and kneel before standing up, with legs about shoulder width apart. There is a deck pad to stand on, and various types of strokes for propelling forward, backward and turning.The boards roughly weigh about 30 pounds and many tend to stand between 11 and 13 feet. The sport offers a fitness element to it, and there are even those known to incorporate yoga or workouts while on board. Others may race, snorkel from them, paddle with their dogs or go wildlife watching. It's possible to ride two people on a board as well, depending on weight and size. There are even boards with inserts available to tie down items like a cooler."It's whatever you are into," says Dave Cropper, owner of Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Company in Hampton. "Some like fishing while others enjoy surfing or touring. A few of us put in at the marsh in Hampton Falls and rode an outgoing tide and west wind three miles through to Hampton Harbor. It's great fun and great exercise."And about as close to walking on water as it gets.Impressive FactThe recent SUP swell is so new to the surf industry that concrete figures about participants and sales are tough to find. The first Surf Industry Manufacturers Association study including SUP is supposed to be released this month. The Wall Street Journal reports paddleboarding is the fastest-growing segment of the surf industry. Gear BoxBoard, paddle and seasonal wetsuit are standards for plying the state's waterways like Lake Winnipesaukee, Great Bay and even stretches of the Merrimack and Contoocook Rivers. The sturdy Naish ($1,249 for the 11 ft. 6 inch board) Nalu longboard is a resourceful piece of equipment for newbies. It performs in many conditions like small waves and flat water cruising. The Hinalea adjustable stand-up paddle from Kialoa ($199) can fit family, friends and growing kids. Quiksilver's introductory Syncro 4/3 GBS wet suit ($144.95) makes being in the drink a bit more bearable.Expert AdviceDave Cropper grew up on New Hampshire's beaches. From surfing to paddleboarding, he's played in the waves from Portsmouth to Fiji. As a teen he started working in a surf shop. Now he owns it, Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Company in Hampton. How is it that a sport with roots in Hawaii is washing up on the shores of New Hampshire? Well, it seems anywhere there's water you'll find SUPs. A few years back we had a few local surfers travel to Maui and order some SUPs when they got back. Now you'll see them regularly on the N.H. coast.How should a beginner approach paddleboarding? I would go to a demo or get a lesson. It's important to get the right size of board and to be aware of the conditions.What gear do you need? How costly is it? Paddleboards start at around $1,000 and you will need a paddle starting at $100 and possibly a wet suit. However, once you make the initial investment it doesn't cost anything to go, and boards hold their value.Will I fall off? Most likely, that is why you'll want to be sure that you are in deep enough water and make sure there aren't any rocks or hidden underwater dangers. Also, when you do fall off the board just fall away from the board. It's only water and you'll just be getting wet. We've seen some people fall off and try grabbing or landing on the board. This is a good way to get bonked so just fall away from the board.How stable is the board and are there any advantages to being a skateboarder, snowboarder or surfer? Or someone who kayaks or canoes? Having balance is a plus. If you are ocean paddling, surfing experience is helpful for riding waves and navigating ocean conditions.What are the differences paddling in the ocean versus paddling in a mountain lake or pond? Buoyancy for one, you'll have a bit more float in saltwater. The biggest difference will be the conditions. If you are in the ocean you'll need to be aware of the tides and currents. Be careful of strong offshore winds as you may be blown out to sea.
This article appears in the June 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine