CAPE ELIZABETH — Kayak guide David Legere thinks the coastal waters around Bar Harbor are too cold for the latest sports trend to make inroads Down East.

But in southern Maine, Rafael Adams is so completely confident, he started a business dedicated to the newest outdoor sport to hit the East Coast.

For years, stand-up paddle boards, or SUPs, have dotted the enormous warm waves of Hawaii and California. But only in recent years has this next-generation surf sport come to New England.

Not until this summer did SUPs really take off at one of Boston’s biggest kayak operations. Now the guys at Charles River Canoe & Kayak can’t keep them on the shelves.

“It took a season to catch on. There is huge demand this season. We recently certified five guides for stand-up paddle boarding,” said Chris Tapper, the company’s assistant manager in Newton, Mass.

At Soposup in South Portland, Adams said it doesn’t take long for first-time paddlers to want more. And he’s a good example of this new addiction.

A furniture maker for 16 years, Adams only tried stand-up paddle boarding a year ago. He used it for fishing and found that the stability and lightness of the oversized surf board allowed him to get towed when he hooked into a big striper.

Then he tried exploring on his new board without the fishing rod.

Pretty soon, Adams was hooked.

Now his shop on the road to Portland Head Light, which used to house furniture, is chock full of stand-up paddle boards. It’s the only New England surf shop dedicated to the sport, Adams said.

The faith Adams has in the sport’s impending rise seems widespread.

Stand-up paddle boarding has been offered at several surf shops in southern Maine in recent years. Now it’s also at surf and sailing shops in Rockland and on Mount Desert Island.

National Park Canoe Rental on Long Pond is the only paddle outfit on Mount Desert Island that offers self-guided SUPs, said manager Michelle Merchant. But Merchant thinks the sport will grow on lakes and ponds.

“It’s becoming such a popular sport, especially among women. Paddle board yoga is incredible,” Merchant said.

Legere of Aquaterra Adventures in Bar Harbor doubts SUPs will grab hold along the Down East coast but said it could spread on warmer inland waters.

“I would not hesitate myself. But as far as commercial use, I don’t think it’s appropriate on the ocean (here). Too many times people don’t look at the safety side of things,” Legere said.

But on flat water, there is no denying how easy the sport is to learn.

Foot placement and stance are important, as is the grip on the paddle. But once they have the basics down, paddlers of all ages and athletic abilities can enjoy a paddle board. And go everywhere.

Last Tuesday, Adams gave Tonya DiMillo of Cumberland just 10 minutes of instruction, and within a half-hour she was paddling around Kettle Cove by herself.

After the first lesson, DiMillo wanted to purchase the board she paddled.

“I saw it in Maine last year in Scarborough. Then last year, (my family was) in the Caribbean, and we saw just a few. Pretty soon I think you’ll see them all over,” DiMillo said. “It’s another way to enjoy Maine.”

To Adams, the full-out convert, it’s the only way.

The owner of Soposup thinks paddle boards will replace kayaks in Maine and maybe even recruit a few surfers.

“You can paddle for hours with no waves,” he said. “We can get on a swell before it’s breaking. It’s so hard to leave the paddle board (for the surfboard) when we’ll get 30 waves instead of seven or eight.” 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at [email protected]

Twitter: Flemingpph


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