It would be inaccurate to label stand-up paddleboarding as a new activity.
Polynesian islanders have been honing the technique of standing on a floating watercraft as a mode of transportation for centuries.
However, stand-up paddleboarding is experiencing a renaissance in the Sierra foothills and beyond as an emerging element in the region’s ever-diversifying outdoor recreation portfolio.
“This history is very ancient, and it’s from Hawaiian Polynesian cultures,” said Trish Meyler, who, along with husband David, owns Boga Paddle Boards, a Nevada City-based company that designs and distributes boards worldwide. “It’s been reinvented again.”
The newfound popularity of the sport was on display at the Scotts Flat Lake day use area at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
About 30 people gathered for an informal paddleboard race around buoys placed strategically around a cove on the reservoir’s north shore.
As the sport has increased its profile, it has attracted some of the top athletes in the world to competitive races. But the tilt hosted at the NID-owned reservoir was decidedly more mellow.
“We’re just going to keep it a light, fun, family-oriented thing,” said Jason Auld, owner of Mountain Recreation, the sole western Nevada County-based distributor of Boga Boards. “Nothing too serious.”
The races, which will continue every Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. for the duration of the summer, are more of a social event, with an eye toward celebrating the recent success of Boga Boards.
Boga Paddle Boards, which began as a start-up company by the Meylers, is one of the more popular paddleboard brands in the world.
The company has seen a significant spike in sales, most dramatically in the past year due to the interesting vantage point afforded by the sport and the ease of use.
“Unlike other sports, like windsurfing or mountain biking or something that requires a certain amount of gear and technicalities, paddleboarding at the beginning level is really accessible,” David Meyler said. “Once you have your board and paddle, you’re done.”
The boards weigh from 27 to 30 pounds, Auld said, compared to the heftier kayak, which weighs around 45 to 50 pounds, depending on the boat.
Board sales have risen steadily in the past few years with a doubling in the past year alone, Auld said, adding that Mountain Recreation expanded its fleet as a result, from 12 boards last year to 24 this year.
Part of the fledgling sport’s attraction is the opportunity to get a comprehensive full-body workout without placing too much stress on joints.
Trish Meyler said paddleboarding is popular with rehabbing athletes and patients with chronic joint issues.
“A lot of athletes with knee problems are kind of moving toward paddleboarding, even competitively,” David Meyler said.
“They find it doesn’t stress areas like knees and is better on the back than things like canoeing, where you have to be bent over in a small boat.”
Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, also offers a core workout with balance and coordination training, he said, and reduces stress.
“You’re on the water in a pair of board shorts or a bikini; you’re out and not in the gym, and it’s a kind of exercise,” David Meyler said. “Exercise is important, not only for the body but for working off stress.”
“It’s cheaper than a psychologist,” he joked.
Yoga SUP has also gained popularity as a fitness trend, so much so that Mountain Recreation offers a Saturday yoga event.
“You’re actually doing poses and stuff like that on the paddleboards,” he said. “It’s a huge part of the market that’s been growing.”
As far as tips on the best board to start out with, David Meyler said to go out during calm conditions with a friend or instructor and learn how to hold the paddle correctly and where to stand, adding that informational videos can even be found on YouTube and the web.
The board should be fairly stable when you’re first purchasing it but not overly so, he said, advising buyers not to go too big because the learning curve is so great.
“After one or two times, you’re going to want something not super huge and wide,” David Meyler said.
With an abundance of local lakes and bodies of water, the burgeoning water sport stands to make even more substantive gains in popularity, he said, adding, “It’s pretty exciting.”
For information, contact Mountain Recreation, located at 491 E. Main St, Grass Valley at 530-477-8006.
“Unlike other sports, like windsurfing or mountain biking or something that requires a certain amount of gear and technicalities, paddleboarding at the beginning level is really accessible.”
Owner of Boga Paddle Boards