It’s a sport taking over the Lowcountry. From Shem Creek to the Edge of America, people of all ages are taking full advantage of Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP), a surface water sport where all you need is a board with a leash similar to a long surf board, a paddle similar to one used when you canoe and a lifejacket. Once equipped, you can paddle your way around the waterways for endless adventures.
As the fastest growing watersport in the nation, SUPing is catching on like wildfire with Lowcountry kids according to Jon Ory, owner of Charleston SUP Safaris.
“Through summer camps and family vacations to beach, kids are discovering endless ways to experience the water on paddle boards,” he says. “Thanks to new technology in paddle board designs, it’s becoming even easier for kids to try this simple sport.”
Ory has SUPed many places but admits, all the beauty is right in our own backyard.
“Over the past four years, I’ve had the pleasure to SUP in some amazing places like New Zealand, Costa Rica, Hawaii and Panama. But nowhere compares to the Lowcountry. We have one of the most diverse ecosystems on the entire planet, right in our backyard. No matter how far I traveled, Charleston always brings me back because of its abundant natural beauty found on the waterways.”
Ory started Charleston SUP Safaris more than a year ago when he returned to the Lowcountry after living in New Zealand, where he was one of the first stand up paddle instructors in the country.
He focuses on teaching children the ease of SUPing through different camps.
“This camp is great for everyone, whether you want to learn how to catch waves in the surf on Folly Beach or paddle down the Folly River exploring the local ecology. Kids gain self-confidence, teamwork and leadership while learning the importance of preserving our barrier islands and incredible marine ecosystem,” Ory says. “Our goal is to introduce campers to ecology using the incredible marine ecosystems we have here, and all the biodiversity found in them. We want the kids to leave our camp with a respect and understanding for how our ecosystems affect their lives.”
All participants of the camps must know how to swim and all instructors are Lifeguard and CPR/First Aid Certified. And don’t worry if you don’t have all the equipment, they supply it all… even the sunblock.
For avid SUPer and Johns Island mom of two, Jenny Alderman, being on the water is a family affair. Her husband, Don, is an avid surfer who has now gravitated to SUP surfing. Unlike paddling on flat water in rivers or creeks, SUP surfing is “just like surfing. You catch the wave standing up with your paddle instead of popping up,” she says.
And her two sons, Dylan, 11, and Jack, 8, are also avid SUPers, so much so that they recently competed in the Carolina Cup Stand Up Paddle Race in April. Although they didn’t do as well as they would have liked, they came back with even more gumption to get back on the water.
The best part for the entire family is the time they spend together on the water. You can catch the Alderman’s at Folly Beach or Kiawah.
“It’s our family time. Dylan is now learning how to SUP surf like his dad. Jack is enjoying SUPing on flat water. Even on their birthdays this year, they asked for new race boards. It’s just plain fun,” she laughs.
Alderman used to be “ocean-phobic” until in 2009 when the family moved to Nova Scotia for the year.
“I got tired of being left on the beach,” Alderman says. “So I took one of Don’s old surfboards and just would hang out on the water with them. Then one day I popped up. I then went from surfing to flatwater racing. I love it.”
Classes are popping up everywhere and according to Ande Oliver, outdoor recreation ccoordinator at the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, kids are reacting very well to it.
“In fact, they love it! They are really having a great time playing on top of the board,” Oliver says. “We often will do tricks on top of the board including, push-ups, sit-ups, yoga poses, head stands and jump rope with the worst case scenario being that you fall in the water. It is the exercise equivalent to candy for kids.”
Courses are offered for anyone ages 8 and older. And the CCPRC offers kids-only programs, parent and child samplers, adult only, and certification courses.
“It is a great opportunity for parents and their children to try something fun and new. Interestingly enough, kids will most likely, initially, perform better than their parents, so they will have a chance to beat their parents at something,” Oliver admits.
And if you think SUPing is just like kayaking, not so, Oliver says.
“The biggest difference between SUP and kayaking is the view. It is pretty cool to stand up on the board and have views of the marsh, over the marsh grass, and the overall feeling of freedom because you are not confined to sitting inside the boat. Surfing provides the same feeling, however, SUP allows you to choose your own path. You can choose the serene rivers or creeks of the Lowcountry or live more dangerously and take it into the surf.”
The CCPRC kicked off SUP classes in the 2010 and now its paddle sports program is recognized as an American Canoe Association Pro School.
“We have hit the ground running for SUP and have helped pave the way to create nationally recognized curriculum for the American Canoe Association and now offer instructor certification courses to provide education with regard to safety, technique and teaching practices,” he says.
So if you’re looking for a new way to spend time as a family or have your child try a new sport, then stand up paddle boarding is the perfect chance to hit the water, enjoy the views and get a good workout, too.
Ryan Nelson is freelance writer who writes regularly for Lowcountry Parent. Follow her on Twitter @Ryan_NelsonSC or e-mail your comments and future story suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.