Utah is on board

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Landlocked Utah and the islands of Hawaii have very little in common. Except for their love of stand-up paddleboarding.

Alex Bertha and Lauren Ramsey enjoy a day of paddleboarding on a pond in Park City. Photo courtesy Alex Bertha
Alex Bertha and Lauren Ramsey enjoy a day of paddleboarding on a pond in Park City. Photo courtesy Alex Bertha

Stand-up paddle surfing/boarding, or SUP for short, is a water sport in which the boarder uses a paddle to propel forward through the water while standing on an elongated surfboard.

Robert Beck, a senior majoring in conservation biology and BYU Surf and Skate club president, talked about the club’s involvement with paddleboarding. He mentioned they often rent boards and go to Utah Lake or the Provo River.

“I am from Hawaii, so it has been interesting seeing stand-up paddleboarding explode and spread to inland places like Utah. Ten years ago it wasn’t even a big thing in Hawaii,” Beck said. “I remember after an outrigger canoe practice one day in Hawaii, Todd Bradley, one of my coaches and a kick-starter of SUP, comes in to shore on a paddleboard. We ask him what he’s doing, and he tells us that it’s going to be big in five years. Lo and behold, he was right.”

But just how did paddleboarding make its way to Utah? The answer has a lot more to do with BYU than most know.

Rebekka Stone, a conservation biology graduate from West Hartford, Conn., was the first to open a paddleboard rental shop in Utah in 2009, after first trying the sport while teaching biology in Miami.

“I came from Miami Beach to Salt Lake City in the middle of winter. My first weekend here, I put on boots and a coat and took one of my boards out on the Great Salt Lake,” Stone said. “Not only did it feel like I was on the ocean again, but it’s amazing because you can paddle year round there.”

Stone started renting out just two boards in 2009, eventually expanding to 30 boards and renting to over 10,000 people within the first four years. She has now turned her website into a resource for all things paddleboard in Utah, including river safety, paddleboarding events, where to rent, buy or repair a board and more.

There are now over 35 rental shops in Utah as the sport is growing incredibly fast. In fact, it is even recommended by trainers and fitness enthusiasts, as SUP is a great head-to-toe workout.

Standing on the board helps with balance, coordination and core stability, while using the paddle to maneuver through the water creates a low-impact, high-benefit cardiovascular workout that strengthens legs, glutes, arms, shoulders, back and core. In addition, arguably one of paddleboarding’s greatest benefits is being out on the water, a relaxing and enjoyable way to de-stress.

“Balancing was way more intense on a paddle board, especially when I tried yoga on it, but it is easily something I could do regularly,” said Lauren Ramey, a recreation management major and novice paddleboarder. “It’s super relaxing and a ton of fun.”

Buying a paddleboard would cost between $1,100-2,100. Luckily, there are plenty of locations and rental resources throughout Utah to meet the high demand for this popular sport. BYU’s Outdoors Unlimited rents boards for only $30 a day, or $120 for a week.

Outdoors Unlimited is well-situated near both Utah Lake and the Provo River. A few other great boarding locations, as well as nearby rental shops include:

  • The Lodge at Stillwater near Jordanelle Reservoir
  • The Lindon marina at Utah Lake
  • DIG Paddlesports, about eight miles from the entrances to both Sand Hollow Reservoir and Quail Creek Reservoir — overnight and multi-day rentals available for those heading to Lake Powell, Ariz.
  • Moab Adventure Center on the Colorado River in Moab.
  • Park City SUP located at 1375 Deer Valley Drive in Park City.

There are several types of paddleboarding activities, from SUP yoga, to wildlife sightseeing or a relaxing sunset paddle, as well as many different types of events being held this summer, such as paddleboard races, community paddles and night paddles under fireworks. For a complete event guide, visit utahpaddlesurfing.com

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