Once seen as a passing trend, stand-up paddle boards can be seen everywhere along Maine’s coast and inland waters. It seems that “SUPs” are now firmly rooted in the state’s outdoor culture.

“The reason a lot of people like it is because you see wildlife. You get to look into the ocean and see what’s on the ocean floor,” said Zack Anchors, owner of Portland Paddle. “People love the simplicity of it. You can easily load them on your car. And it’s a great workout.”

Anchors started a kayak guiding business five years ago at Portland’s East End Beach but quickly added paddle boards because of the demand. Last year, he offered weekly sunset and harbor paddle board tours in addition to lessons and rentals.

Fans of summer are drawn to the sport for many reasons. For those who lack arm strength, the boards are easier to carry than a canoe or kayak. For those with back issues, it’s a healthier option than sitting in a kayak. And for those who simply love being on the water, it’s a unique way to travel.

Ashley Flowers, a Portland paddle board yoga instructor, said paddle boarding builds intense core and leg strength because of the need to balance.

“It really forces your brain to focus,” Flowers added.

So the big question is not when are you going to try this, but where and how are you going to paddle board this summer? Here are some suggestions.

TIP 1: MASTER THE TECHNIQUE

The biggest suggestion experienced paddlers and guides offer to those new to paddle boarding is to get some instruction. Even taking a tour, if not a lesson, is better than a rental, because there is some direction involved.

To start, maybe the ocean should wait. A paddle boarder can have an easier time learning the craft on smooth waters, and maybe take in the sunset on Flagstaff Lake at Bigelow Preserve in Stratton at the same time, as this paddler did last summer. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

While paddle boarding looks simple, the strokes and moves are made easier when done like the pros. A novice can injure an arm or even dislocate a shoulder if they use the wrong technique. They also can get into danger, especially on the ocean where you need to watch the tides, the weather, watercraft and currents.

“Wind is a big factor on a stand-up paddle board,” Anchors said. “Your body is like a sail, it’s very vulnerable to the wind. It can carry you out to sea. We’re lucky here on this peninsula. There is a protected area. We send people there.”

Paddle boards weigh between 15 and 35 pounds, so they’re easy to carry under an arm or overhead. But standing up, paddleing and turning can be tricky.

“The strokes are not instinctive,” said Sandy Moore, a certified kayak and paddle board instructor. “If you do it wrong, you expend all this extra time and energy. At some point, it’s a safety issue.”

Master Maine Guide and certified SUP instructor Scott Anchors, Zack’s father, said the easiest way to stand is to kneel first in knee-deep water and put the paddle across the board, then push up off the board with both hands. But getting back on from deep water if, or when, you fall off is harder. Trying it first in shallow water is recommended.

TIP 2: GET THE GEAR

To get outfitted to use a stand-up paddle board seems simple enough. But there are many safety considerations.

 

Yes, you can lose that board. So make sure to have a leash, one of the key pieces of equipment needed.

To start, there’s the paddle board, the paddle, the leash you wrap around your leg, and a life preserver. Paddle boards can cost anywhere from $500 used all the way up to $3,500 for a carbon board. They rent in Maine for as little as $25 an hour to $200 for the week. Some outfits, such as Seaspray Kayaking, deliver.

Those who rent may not think of having on hand the same safety pack you would stow in a kayak, but they should, Scott Anchors said. You can lash it to your SUP under the board’s chords. Anchors does, and always stocks it with water, a towing rope, compass, a ginger snack, and a beacon. On his life preserver, Anchors also carries a whistle, a knife and a VHF radio.

Of course in Maine, for most of the summer a wetsuit is a good idea, if not essential.

TIP 3: START SMALL

Whether it’s tidal water or a lake, pond or river, some locations are better for beginners. They are more protected with less chop, and it’s on these where a novice should take their first paddle, said Moore, co-author of “Paddling Southern Maine.” She offered a few suggestion:

n Along the coast, try the Webhannet River and Mere Point, two protected and easy-to-navigate areas. The first is a river that empties into a salt marsh with luxurious white sandy shores; the other is a protected cove. In either case, you have to watch the tides.

n For freshwater, Moore recommends Kennebunk Pond in Lyman because it has a gentle put-in with a sandy bottom. She also likes Nequasset Lake in Woolwich, which has a launch off busy Route 1 yet is a 20-mile lake that is quiet with a remote feel.

TIP 4: ASK THE EXPERTS

While many outdoor retailers rent paddleboards, not all offer instruction. Here’s a few that do:

L.L. Bean, Freeport: Offers trip, tours, SUP yoga and private lessons, even a women’s-only course. Contact: 888-552-3261, or bit.ly/2sO9ynL.

Portland Paddle, Portland: Offers tours, rentals, lessons and SUP yoga. Contact: 370-9730, [email protected], portlandpaddle.net.

Seaspray Kayaking and Paddleboarding, Brunswick: One of the oldest kayak guiding outfits around, it offers rentals, lessons, tours and SUP yoga. They even deliver. Contact: 443-3646, [email protected], seaspraykayaking.com.

Soposup, South Portland: The seven-year-old SUP shop is closed this year, but owner Rafael Adams still continues to rent and teach. Contact: 317-0425, [email protected], soposup.com.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

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Twitter: FlemingPph