“I knew the beautiful waters here would be ideal to spread the paddle board stoke,” says Cody White, co-owner of Finger Lakes Paddleboard.
White and native Californian Ryan Saca were introduced to stand up paddle boarding (SUP) in Lake Tahoe. They loved the sport so much they opened up their paddle boarding business in the Finger Lakes in 2010.
Finger Lakes Paddleboard provides SUP rentals to the entire Finger Lakes and Central New York Region. Rental areas served include Ithaca, Syracuse, Auburn, Elmira and Seneca Lake. Delivery is available for Cayuga Lake, Owasco Lake and Skaneateles Lake.
The two friends also have a paddleboard company in Key West called Paddle Island. Saca focuses on SUP there, while White concentrates on ramping up rentals and instruction in the Finger Lakes.
Even the Polynesians do it
Stand up paddle boarding most likely began from an ancient form of surfing, which can be traced back to the very early days of Polynesia. It’s most recent history dates back to the 1940s when beach boys (surf instructors) on Waikiki Beach used to stand up and paddle out to the break using a one-bladed paddle. It gave them better visibility over their group of surfers, and made it easier to call the sets, as their upright position meant they could see the swell long before the prone surfers.
Today, boards are lighter and faster, but discipline and balance are needed to navigate. Serenity sets in as the paddle boarder becomes one with the water and is lost in his own thoughts.
A paddleboard can vary in width, from a 26-inch racing board to a 32-inch board for just moving around in the water. Stable and comfortable, the boards – which are made of soft foam material wrapped in vinyl, epoxy or fiberglass – usually weigh about 27 pounds, so they’re easy to carry or attach to the roof of a vehicle. One costs anywhere from $800 to more than $2,000, depending on how you want to use it.
Other equipment a paddle boarder needs is a personal flotation device (PFD), a whistle to call for help and a leash to attach yourself to the board in case of rough waters.
An affiliate of the Finger Lakes Paddleboard company is the Nomadic Paddle Club, a group that travels the Finger Lakes using their paddleboards. Canoeists and kayakers often stop by the boat launch to watch the paddle boarders and ask how to ride them, say members of the group.
The club’s name is fitting, given that the group travels between many of the Finger Lakes and is always looking for new waterways to explore. “Many residents tend to stay on their own local lake, but the club tries to vary its weekly meeting sites in order to explore new scenery,” explains White. Club members have paddled on Keuka Lake, Cayuga Lake, Skaneateles Lake, Owasco Lake and at several area parks.
A life-changing sport
Jennifer Miller was working in an office job and realized she needed a career change. Sitting at her computer for up to 10 hours a day zapped her energy and zest for life – and she gained 30 pounds. While daydreaming out her office window one day, she noticed some sailboats drifting along the water and longed to be a part of that.
Soon enough, she purchased her first two kayaks. “I was hooked,” she admits.
Feeling better and full of purpose, she went back to college to earn her master’s degree in recreation with a focus on outdoor and environmental education. Miller’s first mission was to work with Lansing’s youth, beginning with paddle sports, which are low-intensity, tons of fun and easy to learn. Miller likes to offer these sports because “they are accessible to literally everyone, including physically and mentally challenged individuals.”
Miller is an American Canoe Association (ACA) instructor for kayaking and canoeing, so it was a no-brainer to add SUP to her qualifications. She took a few lessons to form correct technique, got her PaddleFit Certification and earned her ACA instructor certification. “SUP actually balances me both physically and mentally,” she says. “I love standing tall above the water.”
In the summer of 2011, Miller started a youth adventure camp that incorporated water- and nature-based activities. While standing at Lansing’s Myers Park on Cayuga Lake with her campers, she thought the spot would be a great location to open a paddle shop, and her business Paddle-N-More was created. She soon introduced her summer camp kids to SUP, who, to this day, have loved every minute of it.
In Candor, just south of Ithaca on Route 96B, Power and Paddle Outdoor Products has a boathouse stocked with kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards, as well as something a little different – a pond where customers can “try it before you buy it.” “If you can stand on one leg you can maneuver a stand up paddleboard,” says owner Jim Signs.
Doug and Diane Reagan, owners of Reagan’s Canoe and Kayak Livery located at 440 Hall Rd. in Himrod on Seneca Lake, will deliver their equipment directly to homes and cottages for rental. They are happy to outfit larger groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth groups or company picnics.
If interested in paddle boarding, consider taking an introductory lesson to learn how to properly hold the paddle and develop a comfortable stance, suggests Doug.
Paddle boarding for all ages
These paddleboard businesses have invited me, a grandmother, to come and try this new sport – and I wouldn’t be the first 65-year-old to try it. After all, it’s not entirely impossible to teach an old dog new tricks.
Blackbird Yoga Studio in Ithaca (blackbirdithaca.com) has been offering their Birdbath Yoga for three years, and it has been a big success. Participants must know how to swim, and must have taken a few yoga classes on land beforehand. A board, paddle and anchor are provided.
After basic instruction on water safety is given, along with some warm-up poses, the class begins. Blackbird instructors agree that, “Yoga poses will take on new meanings as the sun bathes your face and warms your skin, and your body learns to move with the natural rhythm of the water.”
Paddleboard yoga classes at Paddles-N-More in Myers Park in Lansing start in June and end around Labor Day, depending on the weather. Instructors are certified yoga instructors, and have also been certified by the World Paddlers Association.
The Nomadic Club has developed a relationship with a yoga instructor who instructs clients on the boards while in the water. “Even those who think they know everything about yoga find that balancing and centering yourself on the paddleboard is quite a different experience,” say the instructors.
Cody White will be hosting a paddle yoga certification program later in the summer, which will help train local instructors, and Power and Paddle also plans to offer classes later this year.
WHERE TO GET STARTED
Finger Lakes Paddleboard
147 Pulsifer Drive
Auburn, NY 13021
Lansing, NY 14882
Reagan’s Canoe & Kayak Livery
440 Hall Rd.
Himrod, NY 14842
Route 96 Power and Paddle Outdoor Products
1035 Owego Road
Candor, NY 13743
11 Lakeshore Drive
Canandaigua, NY 14424
by Gay Huddle