Standup paddleboarding is a perfect activity for enjoying time on the water as a family.
Summer in Maryland means lots of things, but three Chesapeake Bay-related items top the list: dealing with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge that crosses it, enjoying delicious crabs harvested from it, and having lots of fun on it.
But getting out on the water can be a challenge, from having access to a boat (or at least a friend with one) to knowing how to operate it. Complicating matters further, boat trips not only take a great deal of planning and preparation but are unlikely to please everybody in your family, whether due to duration
That’s where standup paddleboarding (SUP) comes in.
SUP, short for standup paddleboarding, consists of using a paddle somewhat akin to a canoe paddle, but longer and lighter, to propel yourself through the water while standing on a buoyant fiberglass, plastic, foam, or inflatable board somewhat akin to a surfboard, but much longer and sturdier (apologies to the 99% of Marylanders who already knew this).
This sturdiness, along with the fact that SUPing requires neither wind nor waves (it’s actually much easier without them) and can be done on any type of water, makes it an ideal watersport for all ages and all types of people. As long as you choose an appropriate location and board, it’s great for everyone from families seeking a relaxing outdoor activity (children as young as five can paddle on small boards, while those under five can sit on a board with an adult) to thrill-seekers competing in open-water races.
Chris Hopkinson was born and raised in Annapolis and always loved being near the Bay but didn’t discover paddleboarding until 2014 when his wife gifted him a board as a way to get brief breaks from their three-kid household.
Hopkinson, who took to the sport so quickly that he will be making the first ever attempt to travel the entire length of the Bay on a board this September (visit BayPaddle.com to learn more), was happy to introduce his kids to the sport.
“Paddle boarding is a great way to get your kids on the water,” says Hopkinson. “I started with mine on the front of my board exploring some of the creeks and wildlife around the Bay. They gradually started using the board like a floating dock to swim off of, and now they paddle around with me on their own boards in some of those same creeks.”
Annapolis mom Laura Iversen echoes Hopkinson’s love of paddleboarding. “I think it’s great to do with your kid, says Iversen. “There are so many cool places to go around here.” Iversen had been paddling for several years before her daughter, Sky, was born, and was excited to share the sport with her daughter when she got older. Iversen first enrolled Sky in the SUP Pup camp at Sunrise SUP on the South River when Sky was five. Now, three years later, Sky is able to paddle on a full-size board, “I love it,” says Sky. Her mom adds “We typically will go out together for a loop around the creek, but this is the first year she’s asked ‘can I go out by myself?’ ”
Paddleboarding also great for sightseeing, as you can both look down at the water and out at the horizon. It’s also a great opportunity to get some full-body sun, and exercise your entire body—regardless of how fast you’re paddling.
Finally, as SUP yoga, a fast-growing exercise practiced on boards that are anchored but present a great challenge to balance nonetheless, proves, you can get a killer core workout on a SUP without even paddling.
All told, The Outdoor Foundation reported that 2.8 million Americans participated in standup paddleboarding in 2014, up from 2 million in 2013, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the number was well over 5 million by now.
SUPing Around the Chesapeake
While SUPing originated in Hawaii and first caught on in the continental U.S. in California, its popularity has grown incredibly quickly in the Chesapeake region—meaning there are plenty of places to try it in the area.
For starters, if you have your own board or can borrow one you have a near-limitless number of options when it comes to places to launch—from public beaches to neighborhood docks, near whatever type of water you’re seeking. A few popular spots in the region include Beachwood Park on the Magothy River; Tucker Street on Weems Creek; Truxton Park on Spa Creek; Annapolis Maritime Museum on Back Creek; Quiet Waters Park on Harness Creek; Carr’s Wharf on the Rhode River; and Mayo Beach Park on the South River.
Wherever you go, just remember to take it slow, follow the SUPing and safety tips included here, and have fun!
Ready to Try?
If you’re new to the sport and want an experts’ advice on both what kind of board to use, and perhaps a quick lesson on how to SUP, there’s no shortage of shops offering rentals and lessons—plus, for those who want to stay seated on the water, most of them rent more than just SUPs. Some of those in our area include:
Annapolis Canoe and Kayak
“ACK” rents canoes, kayaks, and SUPs from its shop in Eastport. Directly across from downtown Annapolis, it’s an ideal location for a calm ride Spa Creek Bridge, Ego Alley, or to the choppy mouth of the Severn.
Located at Ellen O. Moyer Nature Park, on peaceful Back Creek, Capital SUP rents kayaks, SUPs, and pedalboards; hosts a wide variety of SUP, SUP yoga, and fitness classes, summer camps, and lessons for everyone from rookies to racers; and offers season-long membership options that include unlimited equipment use.
Paddle or Pedal
Paddle or Pedal rents single and double kayaks, row boats, pedal boats, SUPs, and bikes at hourly or full-day rates at four locations: Quiet Waters Park and Jonas Green Park, in Annapolis; North Beach Welcome Center; and Breezy Point Beach and Campground, in Chesapeake Beach.
Stand Up Paddle Annapolis
Located at Smith’s Marina in Crownsville, SUP Annapolis offers lessons, rentals, and easy access to a section of the Severn.
Sunrise offers SUP rentals, lessons, group paddles, and camps, along with SUP yoga and on-land yoga, at Pier 7 Marina in Edgewater.
Sup with a Day Trip
Because renting a board is a great way to explore new waters as well, it’s also worth considering a visit to one of the many outfitters throughout the Eastern Shore (a few include Shore Pedal & Paddle in St. Michael’s, Assateague Outfitters in Berlin (I promise from personal experience, there’s nothing like seeing wild horses from a SUP!), and Blackwater Paddle and Pedal Adventures in Cambridge); one of Boating in DC’s seven locations on the Potomac; or Ultimate Watersports, B’More SUP, or Middle River Stand Up Paddleboarding near Baltimore.
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