Surf’s up in Saratoga, dude.
At least that’s what it looks like this summer on Fish Creek, where stand-up paddleboarding, also called SUP, is riding a major wave of popularity.
Ten minutes from downtown Saratoga Springs, at the Fish Creek Marina, you can rent a board and paddle out on the peaceful water or join a paddleboard yoga class, where students do the downward dog position on a board in the middle of a quiet stream.
If you are serious about SUP, there’s a new Mountainman paddle shop a few feet from the water where you can take lessons or buy your own board.
“It’s crazy what’s happening,” says Beau Stallard, owner of Fish Creek Marina and operator of the marina’s Kayak Shak, which rents kayaks and paddleboards.
Two summers ago, Stallard had a couple of paddleboards around as an experiment. “Last summer we started renting them,” he says. “It was a hard sell.”
Paddleboarding on Fish Creek
WHERE: Kayak Shak, Fish Creek Marina, 251 County Route 67, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 9 a.m. until an hour before sunset.
HOW MUCH: $20 for four-hour rental
MORE INFO: Kayak Shak: 587-9788 or www.saratogakayak.com; Mountainman Saratoga Paddlesports Shop: 584-0600 or www.mountainmanoutdoors.com; for paddleboard yoga: 669-3005 or see Chelsey Yoga Everywhere on Facebook
But then something happened. With SUP on the rise in the Adirondacks and a cyber promotion by Kayak Shak on SocialLiving, the word got out.
“This year, we have 20 and I think we need more,” says Stallard.
While there are several places in Lake George and the Adirondacks where you can rent paddleboards, the Kayak Shak is the only rental spot in the Saratoga area. Paddleboarding on Saratoga Lake is also limited because the lake does not have a public beach.
“Paddleboarding is insanely popular. People are loving it,” says Chelsey Backus of Saratoga Springs, one of two paddleboard yoga instructors at Fish Creek.
“You can jump off and go swimming. If you lie on the board, you can get yourself a sweet summer tan,” she says.
“The reason that it’s getting so popular is that you can get in the water,” says Rhiana Stallard, Beau’s daughter, the artist and marketing specialist for the Kayak Shak. “You don’t jump out of a kayak and then get back in. It’s like putting a deck in the water; it’s playing in the water.”
Different than surfboard
To the average non-Californian, paddleboards may look like surfboards, but they are not surfboards. They are made differently so it’s easier to stand up and stay up. To move the board while standing, one uses a lightweight paddle that’s about seven feet long. You can also kneel on the board and paddle with your hands or lie on your belly and paddle with your arms.
Nine to 13 feet long and 32 inches wide, the boards weigh 35 to 53 pounds and have a textured pad in the center that grips and cushions your bare feet.
Fitness and fun
While some people do SUP as a fitness workout, as standing and balancing on the board can strengthen core muscles, most people do it for fun, says Beau Stallard.
“People are just amazed what they can do on it,” he says. “They come off the water pumped up, they feel like they’ve accomplished something huge.”
Rhiana Stallard recently rented boards to a couple in their 70s who were fit for their age and wanted to try it. “They got up, they loved it,” she says.
“But you don’t need to be in great physical shape. You can just lie around.”
According to Backus, the yoga teacher, nearly all the yoga poses that one can do on a mat in a studio can be executed on a board in the water, although students who lose their balance do fall into the water.
Backus leads a small group of women on Fish Creek on Tuesday and Sunday mornings.
“We paddle out for 20 minutes and then anchor together with rope so people don’t drift away,” she says.
They meditate, do a sun salutation and then a series of postures.
“It’s so nice and relaxing on the water, to be far out with nature, with the sounds of birds and fish jumping,” Backus says.
Families with school-age children can SUP wearing life jackets, says Stallard, and jump from a board into Fish Creek, which is about 15 feet deep in the center.
Paddleboarders do not have to wear life jackets, but by law they must have one secured to the board by a bungee cord.
“Paddleboarding is hot, there’s no question,” says Ike Wolgin, owner of the Lake George Kayak Co., where they rent and sell the boards and give lessons.
West to east
“Paddleboards are a West Coast thing that moved east. We do this on Lake George but people are doing it all over the Adirondacks,” Wolgin says.
Five years ago, Lake George Kayak was the first place in the Adirondacks to offer SUP rentals, he says.
Wolgin remembers when they used to teach people to windsurf, and says paddleboarding is easier to do.
“We found board types that work for everybody,” he says. “Age doesn’t matter.”
He says SUP is one-third of his business, but he doesn’t expect the boards to compete with kayaks because people who love water sports are doing both.
“In the heat of the summer, paddleboards are great,” he says. “In September or October, I’m probably going to get back into my kayak.”
Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co., based in Old Forge, opened a Mountainman Saratoga Clothing & Gear Shop on Broadway in Saratoga Springs a few years ago, and this spring it expanded, adding the Mountainman Paddlesports Shop on Fish Creek, which sells kayaks, paddleboards and accessories.
“We’ve been real busy since April,” says Joseph Vidarte, manager of the shop, where paddleboards by Naish, Boardworks, Surftech and Bic hang from the ceiling.
A new board costs $800 to $2,000; paddles run from $100 to $400; and a Yakima or Thule car carrier has a pricetag of $350.
Vidarte uses his paddleboard for fitness and fly fishing.
“It’s a full body workout,” he says, demonstrating how you stand up straight and use your entire body as you paddle. “I could paddle 10 miles before I really get tired.”
Vidarte is a certified American Canoe Association instructor and teaches paddleboarding at 6 p.m. every Wednesday. The two-hour lessons, with gear included, are $75.
Mountainman also holds paddleboard races at 5 p.m. on Thursdays.
Relaxing on deck
For most people, however, a visit to Fish Creek Marina is about relaxing and recreation, not racing.
Adirondack chairs face the water on the deck of the brightly painted Kayak Shak. Seven huge colorful hammocks, each big enough to hold three or four loungers, hang near the water. And at 4:30 p.m., six days a week, the Harvest & Hearth restaurant at the marina opens its doors, serving wood-fired artisan pizza.
“We try to give it an island feel,” Stallard says of the marina. “It’s an escape. It’s getting away from town.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.