By Chase Berenson
Stand-up paddleboarding—or SUP—is one of the fastest growing watersports these days. Between paddleboarders participating in the Ride the Bull fishing rodeo in Grand Isle last weekend and the Big River Regional paddleboard race through Baton Rouge’s portion of the Mississippi River on August 29, Louisiana is getting a big dose of paddleboard excitement.
Like many other people, I was intrigued by the sport and wanted to try it out. Luckily, Baton Rouge’s Muddy Water Paddle Company hosts public paddleboard demonstrations on University Lake every month.
The first thing you notice when you arrive at the demo is a line of paddleboards sitting on the edge of the lake just waiting for people to try them out. Muddy Water brings out a few different models of board, with different lengths, widths and materials to try out.
After a brief introduction to the sport and a little group instruction on basics such as how to hold the paddle, it’s time to head off onto the water.
There is a white buoy in the lake, and the “course” is to paddle out to the buoy and circle back to shore. There are experienced paddleboarders on shore giving instructions before you head out, and they also have people on the water to give you tips based on how you’re doing. Even if you’re feeling a little less than confident, you’re in good hands.
I started out on a paddleboard made for fishing. I figured that if it was built to hold a tackle box and an ice chest and also manage to stay afloat while fighting a fish, then I surely would be able to handle it.
From the fishing board I graduated up the ranks to try a number of different boards in different styles, and in a short time I was able to get a feel for a variety of paddleboards.
Paddleboarding veterans say that by your third time on a board you’re enjoying it, and by the fifth time you’re hooked. Those statements are definitely true.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can leave the “course” behind and explore around the end of the lake, practice turning and just generally have a good time.
In addition to the paddleboarding itself, the vibe of the demo really stood out to me. There were many “volunteers” and happy customers who were at the demo to help introduce new people to the sport. Seeing people who were helping out because of their sheer love of the sport was a good indication that this would be a good time.
Everyone was enjoying themselves, whether they were on a board or on land, and smiles were everywhere. The paddleboarding crowd is generally a laid-back group who just enjoy having fun, and that was evident throughout the demonstration.
The paddleboarding demos are open to everyone. People of all ages and abilities can paddleboard, and they have lifejackets available if you’d like to wear one on the lake.