If you have been to the beach or on a lake recently, you’ve probably seen people Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and wondered “what the heck?” Me too. So I accepted an invitation to SUP with my friends in Holland on Lake Macatawa. Turns out SUP, a sport that originated in Hawaii, is the fastest growing water sport in the world according to the World Stand Up Paddleboard Association (WSUPA) and can be done in both large and small bodies of water with relatively little equipment. While the items required are kinda pricey, they are super durable and if cared for properly one board and one paddle is all you will ever need.
A combination of kayaking and surfing, SUP brings the open water to the masses with an extremely adaptable sport for just about every ability.
“You can sit, kneel, stand whatever your fitness level allows” says Susie Scholma, Coast2Coast SUP owner/operator.
Coast2Coast offers day and night excursions, date nights, kids camps, and fitness classes on the boards, in the water. Yoga and pilates are among their regular class offerings that are well-attended. In of itself, simply “SUPping” can average a calorie burn of 500-700 calories for a woman, a killer lower body work out, and a big core burn the next day.
SUP is backed by a global association called the World Paddle Association (WUP) and the more specific WSUPA which offer websites full of etiquette, instructions, buying guides, certified instructors, class locations, and safety tips. The associations also certify instructors in leading large classes on open water with an emphasis on water safety and aid. A bonus if you are little scared about getting into open water with other watercraft. Coast2Coast happily shared their affiliation as WSUPA certified watermen with us in our introductory lesson.
“It’s okay to get wet. Some people don’t ever stand up and that is okay,” were the first words uttered by Susie to our group of varying abilities. Followed closely by “we haven’t lost anyone, yet” as she was sizing me up for a paddle, board, and handing me a flotation device. “They treat us like boats” she mentioned, “keep the flotation device attached to you or your board” as she walked us through how to deploy the device “just in case.”
I thought to myself: challenge accepted lady. Followed closely with, where do I put the cooler?
In general I love to be clean. Though I like to sweat, dirt is a different thing entirely. I am the weirdo at the pool saying “ahhhh, the smell of chlorine is so relaxing, far better than the stench of dead fish and algae on the lake or river.” So the thought of getting on a vessel that might capsize under my control and dump me into Lake Macatawa was horrifying at best. It’s commonly called “Lake Macatoilet” even by those that live on it. Even so, following Susie’s pep and safety talk where she cheerfully told us that she hasn’t lost a person yet, I was convinced and so off I padded into the Lake full of boats!
While my friend Missy turned out to be the Forrest Gump of SUP in our group, breaking out of the pack and padding like a pro full-bore down the channel, I was the first to stand up (victory!). I was standing ON THE WATER with Susie yelling “keep paddling, don’t look down! Don’t look down! Keep paddling!” Standing up on a board looks relatively easy from the shore. I will tell you, that it did get easier, the longer I stood the more confident I became and frankly the more relaxed about the water I felt; however, it was not what I might describe as easy at the start. I was eventually able to carry on a conversation with Susie about her passion for bringing boarding to the masses before I panicked again and nearly took a dive.
“I dream of teaching every person to do this-if nothing else, it’s a beautiful way to see the sights on the lake,” Susie says.
She shared with me that last year, she SUP-ed every single month of 2011. This includes the winter if that wasn’t obvious from the previous sentence. Susie and her husband/co-owner of Coast2Coast SUP even took trips out onto Lake Michigan in December and January! If you are interested in an outing in a very supportive environment, I would definitely recommend Coast2Coast SUP. The group pictured had a variety of athletic levels and included representation from thrill seekers to rule followers, novice to very active.
Written by: Adrienne Wallace is a hyper-competitive Project Manager for 834 Design & Marketing, an integrated communications firm in Grand Rapids and an overall water sports wussy-pants. If she can SUP, you can too.