Where to go

Stand on Liquid has one of the largest inventories of boards and paddles in the United States. The store is located at 1320 SE Reed Market Road in Bend, and you can check out the selection at www.standonliquid.com.

Stand Up Paddle Bend offers lessons and rentals. To learn more or book a lesson, visit www.standuppaddlebend.com.

Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe sells and rents paddleboards as well as kayaks, canoes and rafts. The store also offers classes in each discipline and tours of the Deschutes River. Tumalo Creek has two locations, 805 SW Industrial Way, Bend, and 56805 Venture Lane, Sunriver. For more information, visit http://tumalocreek.com.

Adventure Fitness offers SUP whitewater clinics and race clinics for adults as well as lessons and a team for kids. The company also offers ding repair for damaged boards. Visit http://adventurefitnessbnd.com for more information.

Let’s start with the obvious question: If you’ve never tried stand-up paddleboarding before, will you topple into the water during your first try?

Well, maybe.

“I would say about 50 percent of the people in my class fall in, to be totally straightforward,” says Sue Fox, a SUP instructor at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe in Bend. “For some people, they take to it right away, and I’ve literally had people not be able to stand up. It’s not very often, but it really is a wide range.”

Stand-up paddleboarding defies easy categorization — in fact, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide if the sport, in which participants stand (or sit) on large boards and propel themselves forward with a paddle, should fall under the authority of the International Surfing Association or the International Canoe Federation. Either way, the activity has enjoyed a boom in popularity in Bend during the past decade as paddlers have sought out a new and outdoorsy way to improve core strength and balance on the Deschutes River and the calm lakes across Central Oregon.

If that all sounds a little too mellow for your taste, hold on. Over the past few years, Fox says, she has noticed in increase in interest in “alternative” paddleboarding activities, such as paddle surfing on waves and whitewater paddleboarding on river rapids.

“The cool thing about paddleboarding is it can be as nonathletic and easy or as adrenaline-filled as you want,” Fox says. “You can cruise around at sunset, even on your butt, just paddling with your dog. It seems like before there was that idea or that mindset that, well, that’s super easy, and if I want to get a real adrenaline rush, I’m whitewater kayaking. But you can easily take that thing surfing on double overhead waves on the ocean or you can take it on Class IV rapids. And people are doing it, and they are standing up through it.”

Jen Kjellesvik, owner and operator of a Bend-based paddling company called Adventure Fitness, suggests that part of the appeal of paddleboarding is the diversity of places and ways paddlers can use a board.

“It’s such a good way to get fitness,” Kjellesvik says. “You can get a workout in your swimsuit if you want. I also think it’s good if you’re recovering from an injury. I know some people with lower body injuries that can paddle, just stand, and at least keep their fitness up. Then there’s yoga on the boards, there’s all kinds of different stuff.”

But before you attempt a downward dog on a paddleboard — or bring your own pup along for the ride — both Kjellesvik and Fox suggest beginners work with an accredited instructor to find their sea (or river or lake) legs.

“It’s like anything else: If you’re kind of cruising forward on your board, not really caring about form or whatever, it’s super easy, but if you really want to dial in the correct form, it’s going to be more challenging,” Fox says. “We forget that balance is a practiced event, it degrades if you don’t practice it. That’s not easily tweakable, but you’d be surprised how fast you can recover balance in just a few weeks by practicing.”

As laid back as SUP can be, it is still a water-based activity, so paddlers should take basic precautions and be careful about which waterways they visit. The Oregon State Marine Board requires that all paddlecraft (that includes you, paddleboarders!) carry a personal flotation device for each person on board, and children 12 and younger are required to wear their life jacket on the water. Boats — and yes, paddleboards are big enough to legally qualify as boats — must also carry a sound-making device, such as a whistle.

“There are tons of places to go — Mirror Pond is really mellow,” Kjellesvik says. “If you’re starting in the river, always paddle upstream, that way you are sure to make it back to the takeout (if you get tired). And while you’re going upstream, paddle the edges — those are the eddies, the slower water. The current will go down the middle. It helps a lot, to know how the river works.”

Fox says lakes are a good place for beginners to practice, as there is no current to contend with, but warns that paddlers can find themselves far from the security of shore if they are not careful.

“Be aware that jetting out to the middle of Elk Lake on a breezeless, sunny, clear morning might not be the best idea because a lot of the lakes, the wind kicks up,” Fox explains. “So be tentative and stick around the shore for something like that until you feel more comfortable in your paddling skills.”

And if you are worried that you are running out of summer days to hone those paddling skills, Fox emphasizes that it is never too late in the year to paddleboard.

“September is an amazing time to be paddleboarding, especially when leaves are changing color, and it’s not so populated on the waterways,” she says.

And it’s also never too late in life to get out on a board for the first time.

“I took a woman out on her 80th birthday for a private lesson, and she nailed it,” Fox says. “I love that gal.” •

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