Stand-up paddle boarding grows quickly in Georgia

One of the fastest-growing outdoor sports in the country has come to Georgia’s lakes, reservoirs and rivers. Stand-up paddle boarding, or SUP, is a close relative of surfing, with one catch — you don’t need waves to propel you, and that makes it a good water activity for the entire family.

“The stand-up (paddle boarding) community has really taken off in the area,” said Steve Combs, organizer of the Atlanta SUP Meetup group. Combs, who lives in Atlanta, also works with Surfrider Foundation on the national board and as a volunteer with the National Park Service and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

Paddle boarding originated in Hawaii. Surfers like Laird Hamilton are credited with bringing the sport to the mainland in 2001. It gained popularity soon after in places like Dana Point, Calif., where yacht and houseboat owners used paddle boards as a means to visit other boats as well as for getting exercise.

The Outdoor Industry Association reported that in 2013 SUP enjoyed the most first-time participants of any outdoor sporting activity in the United States, and in 2014 the association named it the fastest-growing water sport.

In Georgia, recreation spots like Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona welcome SUP enthusiasts, but the smaller or less crowded places like Lake Acworth, Sweetwater Creek State Park and the Chattahoochee River are where the sport is thriving. In early July, the fourth annual Stand Up for the Hooch SUP Race took place on the Chattahoochee, with more than 500 participants racing on 2- and 6-mile courses.

To try SUP, all that is needed is a stand-up paddle board, a paddle that is about 6 inches to 8 inches taller than you, a leash tether and a personal flotation device, since the U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand-up paddle boards as vessels. (Note: inflatable PFDs will suffice.)

Purchasing your own SUP gear will generally run from $600 to $1,200, and transporting a board is as easy as placing it upside down on your car and using a couple of tie-down straps or bungee cords.

Yoga classes are offered on stand-up paddle boards at Lake Lanier, combining two popular sports into one hybrid offering. Students in the 90-minute class spend 15 minutes paddling to a quiet cove on the lake, about an hour doing yoga, and end with another 15-minute paddle.

Ami Tyrrell of Atlanta SUP Yoga has been teaching the classes on the lake for five years and said it’s a better workout than traditional studio yoga. “It brings people more in tune with their breathing, and it’s great for the core, as it brings you more into the center and gives people the opportunity to try more difficult poses.”

Tyrrell, who also takes groups on moonlight SUP excursions at Lanier, said adults become little children when paddling on the water. “When on the water, people are a little more willing to try things.”

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