If you dream of getting out on the water this summer, the “it” sport to try won’t be kayaking or even tubing.
The next wave in watersports? A strange cross between surfing and canoeing called stand-up paddling. So new and novel is the sport, that it topped our new Summer Bucket List, with 20 things you have to try this summer (along with finding a swimming hole, doing a little outdoor shopping, and hitting the food-truck fest Truckeroo).
A Hawaiian export revived in the last decade by pro surfers, paddling arrived with a bang on local waters a few months ago; it’s so new that passersby, hikers and runners still tend to stop and gawk.
“What are you doing?” a passing hiker yelled to me from the trail when I went stand-up paddleboarding this month along the C&O Canal with an instructor from Potomac Paddlesports. “Is it easy?”
Surprisingly, it is. And I am someone who spends exponentially more time shopping and reading than roughing it on Washington’s enviable trails and waterways. (I’m pretty sure even my instuctor didn’t have a lot of faith in me.)
“If you’re the kind who has not been really good at boardsports before, you can be good at SUP, ” confirms Sunny Pitcher, owner of Potomac Paddlesports.
SUP, as it’s known, involves finding your balance on a long, wide version of a surfboard and then propelling
yourself across still water with a paddle that’s pretty similar to the one used with canoes. It’s rumored to be a great core workout, because paddlers do have to manage a sort of balancing act on the boards, but it’s hardly boot camp.
On my lesson, an 11-year-old was giving it a whirl with his dad. (Do keep water handy, because it’s easy to get sweaty, particularly as the temps get warmer.)
Want to try it this summer? Potomac Paddlesports began offering lessons in April near Old Angler's; and recently, Jack's Boathouse in Georgetown and Pohick Bay in Virginia began renting boards by the hour. (Look out at local beaches for paddlers, too, as the sport continues to spread.)
(UPDATE, May 20, 12:43 p.m.: Be sure to call ahead because water levels can close the Potomac to recreational activities, such as this weekend.)
Potomac Paddlesports' three-hour introductory lessons are offered most Saturdays. 301-881-2628. www.potomacpaddlesports.com.
$95. Or rent the boards (life jacket and paddle included) for $8.50-$9.50 an hour at Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton (www.nvrpa.org/park/pohick_bay),
or $20 an hour at Jack's Boathouse in the District (www.jacksboathouse.com).