Prepare to get wet, especially if you’re on a river. Wear apparel suitable for the water temperatures as well as a helmet, proper footwear and personal flotation device.
Learn how: Check out Charlie MacArthur and Paul Tefft’s new River SUP DVD, detailing everything you need to know to get started. $26.95, www.c4waterman.com
Where to go: SUPs are best suited for lakes, ponds and easy, Class I to II rivers like the Yampa above Fetcher Pond. “I don’t think it’ll ever be big above Class III,” says former Steamboat local Joe Carberry, now editor of SUP magazine. “But on easy rivers, it’s great for everyone from beginners to experts.”
The boards: High-end boards are made from such materials as composite and fiberglass. Inflatables are more user- and river-friendly and don’t ding.
Info: Ski Haus, 970-879-0385; Backdoor Sports, 970-879-6249.
C4 Waterman Rapid Rider: Based on the company’s award-winning hardboard designs, C4 Waterman’s new 10-foot iSUP Rapid Rider is an inflatable SUP specifically designed for river use by blending stability and hull speed. Light and thick enough for river surf, it still can cruise lakes thanks to rocker in all the right places. $1,350 with travel bag and pump, www.c4waterman.com
Steamboat Springs Look out on the Yampa River this summer, or on local ponds and lakes, and you might think you’re in California instead of Colorado.
There’s something in the water — and it’s not just canoes, kayaks, rafts and tubes anymore. Originating in Hawaii as a way to work out when waves turned fickle, stand-up paddleboarding has gone mainstream and mainland. And it’s now showing up full force in Steamboat.
“It definitely fits the mold of the people who live here,” says local SUP aficionado Todd Givnish, who heads up the SUP sales and rental program at Ski Haus. “And Steamboat’s a great place for it. You can surf waves, run downriver, paddle upriver, and even tour local lakes — all during lunch.”
Indeed, practitioners have been seen surfing up to Sunpie’s Bistro and dismounting for a hurricane or paddling upstream from Rotary Park for late-afternoon workouts. Key to the sport’s popularity, which is bringing the beach vibe to the Boat, is a learning curve as shallow as the Yampa in summer. All you do is stand up and paddle — no rolling, escaping a confined cockpit, or cumbersome gear. The boards are wide and stable enough that you simply hop on and paddle.
“It’s a great sport for around here,” says local surfer transplant Adam Spector, who last year made a first SUP descent by paddling his board from Steamboat to Milner. “There are sections of the river that are perfect for everyone.”
Givnish says it’s also great cross-training and perfect whether you’re looking for fitness, adventure or adrenaline. “We’re consistently doubling our business with it every year,” says Givnish, who organized the town’s first SUP race at the Yampa River Festival this year. “We have some customers who bought a board for themselves, and then came in later to buy two more for their family.”
Steamboat’s not alone in its SUP appeal. Other regional events also are hanging their hats on hanging ten. In June, Vail’s Teva Mountain Games hosted SUP events for the second year, including a downriver race luring big wave surfers from Hawaii as well as a SUP cross event. Glenwood Springs, which recently built a Waimea-sized wave on the Colorado River, has hosted the National River SUP Championships three years in a row. In Salida, Zack Hughes even has launched a new line of Bad Fish river surfboards specifically designed for surfing river waves.
“The sport is huge in all of these mountain towns that have rivers,” says Charlie MacArthur, owner of Aspen Kayak Academy, which recently opened Colorado’s first SUP school. “We’re taking just as many students out now on SUPS as we are in kayaks.”