I’ve been a kayaker for 13 years or so. As a kid, I grew up on a lake and once I had moved out of my parent’s house and no longer had a boat I needed a way to get back on the water. Over the years I bought 2 kayaks, one for the lake and one for the river. I was pretty much satisfied with my water toys. Then the stand-up board (SUP) craze started. To be honest, for a while, I really wasn’t interested. I’d get on them at our demos and screw around but still preferred my kayaks. They were faster, more nimble, easier to store and I didn’t have to work as hard to put some distance in. Surprisingly, though, I’ve started to turn over a new leaf. I’m still more of a kayaker but I’ve found an unexpected way for stand up paddling to fit into my life.
Recently our company decided to make our very own inflatable stand up board. In doing so, we ordered various samples from various manufacturers. Different graphics, different sizes, different padding, and they all ended up hanging around the office. One camping weekend I figured what the hell, I’ll grab one and it’ll be fun to float around on and jump off, more so as a swimming toy than anything. Being an inflatable I expected it to paddle poorly, but it paddled alright, and what really surprised me was just how convenient toting the thing around really was. In the past, I always classified inflatables as being for the person who lived in an apartment and didn’t have space, or the person who wanted to fly somewhere and take it with them. But what about me, the person who just wanted to pack an extra toy without strapping the boats up? Or what about going out for a weekend with a group and needing an extra vessel for someone to paddle? This was extremely easy to throw in the back of the truck and use it (or not) when you needed to. Suddenly SUP got a whole lot more interesting to me.
Fast forward to this past weekend. My husband and I recently purchased a cabin and were heading up to explore the surrounding area. We knew we were near a lake and a river so we figured we’d load up the boats. As we packed, I threw the inflatable SUP, the new staple of my pickup bed, just in case. One morning I decided to go for a quick swim. I didn’t bother loading up the kayaks as we had yet to find a good launch spot, but I knew there was a roadside park a few minutes up the road. Upon reaching the spot I immediately noticed it was atop a huge sandy bluff overlooking the lake. It was beautiful, but not a spot we’d be launching boats from without a ton of work, as about 143 steps led you down to the lake. Suddenly I remembered bag for the inflatable SUP had backpack straps. I threw it on my back and headed down to the lake. A few minutes to inflate, and I was on my way enjoying a quick hour of paddling. A few minutes to pack up, and back up the stairs, I went. The next day I had my system even more dialed in. I had found a better access point, but it was way back on an old two track. Since it was a little too tight for a normal vehicle, I strapped the bag on to the back of the 4 wheeler and headed out. When I got there, I inflated the board, climbed down the sandy bluff and spent a few leisurely hours on the water. Upon returning I climbed back up, deflated the board and strapped it back down. It was easy and I was able to once again access a location that would have been a pain with a normal board.
The cool part is, there are just as many types of inflatable SUP’s out there as there are regular boards. You can get a recreational, touring, yoga, river or fishing boards all unique in their shape, size, and capabilities. Some come with a 2 or 3 piece paddle that fits right in the bag and most also come with a hand pump. I recommend getting a small electric pump as well. If you have a small pump for an air mattress, that will work just fine. You still will want to bring the hand pump along to top it off and make it firm. I would also recommend paying attention to the type of bag it comes with. Some have better straps than others and some have features like hip belts to make carrying the weight easier. I still wouldn’t consider myself an avid stand-up-paddler by any means, but I think I’ll be picking my own up soon. What I’ve found is yet another way to get out on the water that is convenient and fits into my lifestyle.