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Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Manager Eden Lamb of Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot paddleboards on the St. Marys River.

Standing on water

Paddleboarding grows as activity for workout, fun

Sales associates Midas Betterton and Lamb show off their paddleboarding skills. The activity is gaining popularity.

When Eden Lamb of Fort Wayne first got on a paddleboard, she thought she would only last a few feet.

“But I just fell in love,” says the 25-year-old avid kayaker and manager of Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot in the Cass Street Depot just off North Wells Street.

“It was a totally different water sport. I started (at Fort Wayne Outfitters) and before I knew it, I was already down to Foster Park.”

Lamb is part of a growing area group of enthusiasts who say the long and flat cross between a surfboard and a gondola known as a Stand-Up Paddleboard is well-suited to recreation on northeast Indiana’s rivers and lakes.

The sport was invented in Hawaii by surfers looking for a way to keep up their training on days with disappointing waves. Over the past decade, it’s won over a much wider following as word has spread that a wide, stable board and a paddle make it possible to traverse long distances while getting one heck of a core workout.

Lamb says SUPs first made the local summer scene about two years ago. Fort Wayne Outfitters, which sells and rents them, began doing paddleboard demonstrations last year at festivals and on the St. Marys River outside the shop.

Last summer, paddleboards also began showing up more often in northern Indiana lake country – although still likely to draw gasps and stares as their riders propelled themselves across the water with a single-bladed oar.

One such place is Winona Lake near Warsaw, where The Lake House, 720 E. Canal St., rents and sells them, according to the business website.

One of the best aspects of the activity, Lamb says, is that it’s easy to learn.

Most people – especially if used to a canoe or kayak – can master maneuvering a paddleboard in just one session, she says.

After they get used to balancing themselves on top of the board or standing in a little depression on its surface, it’s off to the nearest body of water, so long as it’s relatively calm and not much more than two to three feet deep, she says.

“Paddleboarding doesn’t have much of a learning curve. You have to have balance, but a lot of boards are relatively stable,” Lamb says, adding she does recommend safety gear such as a life vest for uncertain swimmers. Other aficionados say they protect their head with a helmet.

But there’s also paddleboarding for the more adventurous. There are two kinds of board designs, and one type, which looks more like a surfboard, is more suitable for rougher water, as one might encounter on a lake with boats or in the ocean, Lamb says.

Then there’s paddle board racing, including the Lake Max Challenge in Culver scheduled for June 28 to 29. Racers skim along short- and long-distance courses at 6 mph, organizers say.

Lamb says a typical paddleboarder travels at the pace of a leisurely walk.

Some fans use paddleboards for upper-body workouts, and if you happen to travel to Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive, you might see paddleboarders on daytime or night-time sightseeing paddles taking in the skyline or fireworks from the Navy Pier.

The excursions, including a 50-hour endurance cross-lake paddle from New Buffalo, Mich., are organized by Chicago SUP, which has a website at www.chicagosup.com.

People also regularly practice yoga on paddleboards in Lake Michigan, according to that website, which includes photos of paddleboards on the lake on which people are engaging in headstands and other precarious-looking poses.

Paddleboards can be pricy to own – expect to pay $900 to $1,600 for an adult board and about $700 for a child’s board, which is slightly shorter than the typical 12- to 16-foot size for adults.

Fort Wayne Outfitters charges $16 an hour, $40 for a half-day and $64 for a full day to rent a paddleboard and also rents car racks for transport elsewhere, Lamb says. Weekend rentals are also available.

Free demonstrations will take place at 6 to 8 p.m. on the last Wednesdays of May, June, July and August.

“Right now, it’s the cool factor,” Lamb says of what’s popularizing paddling, adding that people have told her they’re renting a board just to paddle to The Deck at Hall’s Gas House for a bite to eat.

She says she likes paddleboarding for the river-based vistas and the chance to see wildlife from a new vantage point.

“It’s so peaceful,” she says.

rsalter@jg.net

The Washington Post contributed to this story.

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