A Nod to Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Oregon

The Best Way to Enjoy the SUP Experience in Oregon

Bend, Oregon resident Gerry Lopez is often credited with building the first stand up paddle board in his Maui shop for a client who was about to launch into the otherwise surf-only waves. The legend might not be wholly true, histories do vary, but stand up paddleboarding could not have asked for a better advocate than that client could offer. Laird Hamilton is a surfer with worldwide renown. With a paddle in hand, he made it cool.

Lopez was quoted several years back in 1859Magazine, “In stand-up [paddle boarding], unlike any other aspect of surfing, there’s almost instant success. It’s a terrific workout, and if you do it a lot, it’s an unbelievable workout.” But there is quite possibly no better location to enjoy this sport than in Oregon.

Oregon is one of the most geographically diverse states in the lower forty-eight. Mountains, coastline, deserts, and unbelievable vistas await both traveler and resident around almost every turn. It is little wonder that this state gets so much attention from writers looking to capture the beauty of this state in their journals and travel logs.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding: Image from OutsideOnline

Stand Up Paddle Boarding: Image from OutsideOnline

So it came as no surprise that Outside Magazine gave paddle boarding in Oregon a well-deserved nod on national television recently. While those unfamiliar with the rapidly growing sport of paddle boarding might scoff at the notion (listen to Al Roker’s comment on the topic during an interview with Michael Robert’s, executive editor of Outdoor Magazine on a recent visit to the Today Show), the sport as Mr. Robert’s suggested is not only growing, it is here to stay.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding, or as aficionados refer to it, SUPing has gained an ardent following among the fitness seekers in an already fit community that spends a great deal of time hiking, biking, or running. But that is about to change as more part-time enthusiasts explore the sport that has put Oregon on yet another best-of map.

So what does it take to get from your couch to the most invigorating experience you might ever have? Not as much as you might assume. Bend is centrally located in the high desert country of eastern Oregon with the Cascade Mountains as a backdrop, stunningly wide skies, and almost year round sunshine, it has become a destination for all sorts of activities. Now, paddle boarding will takes its rightful place amongst those outdoor choices.

What do you need to get started? Lessons are always a nice start. Companies like Stand On Liquid offer a variety of lessons to get you on the water. The lessons focus on safety and fundamentals. Bring a bunch of friends and cut the costs dramatically and you get the paddleboard for a 24 hour period. If you are more experienced, go straight for the rental offerings.

Where is the best place to go? While Outside Magazine offered a couple of choices, some of the best places don’t require much effort to get to and enjoy while others do. So let’s break it down by skill level and match a board to each experience.

For the beginner to intermediate…

One of the best, most easily accessible spots is Riverbend Park. The water is often calm and warmer later in the season. And even though the pace at this part of the Deschutes River can be rather placid, you’ll wind your way around folks practicing yoga on paddleboards or working on their racing techniques. Try something different and take your paddleboard out after dark for a workout by moonlight.

The nearby Cascade Lakes (Todd, Sparks, Elk, Cultus, Paulina) offer some incredible views, pristine waters, and an excellent place to practice your flatwater paddle boarding techniques.

Suggested board: Try the Bic SUP ACE-TEC 12’6” Paddle Board. This board is perfect for beginners to intermediate SUPers. What I like about this board is the design of the bow on this board.

For the more experienced…

The Deschute’s is more than just a meandering stream. It can get serious in spots and can offer some more advanced SUPers a good test of their skills as well as an epic time. The Rogue River offers a bit more excitement and is just a short drive south of Bend. But the more experienced paddle boarder might just decide to pack it up and head uphill to some of the glacial lakes that surround the city.

Suggested board: The Boardworks Badfish MCIT Inflatable SUP is the perfect whitewater board. It has incredible rigidity with multiple inflatable chambers. And because it is inflatable, you can pack it to the back country of Broken Top.

Because Bend is so centrally located, with some incredible weather, visitors from all over the northwest flock to its natural beauty. A paddle board, whether your own or rented adds to the adventure and can make the trip much more memorable.

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