SUP requires standing on a board, shaped like a surfboard but longer and more stable, and propelling yourself forward with a paddle akin to an elongated canoe paddle. Its popularity in Southern Maryland is increasing because the Chesapeake Bay’s flat-water tributaries promise a self-paced, full-body workout against a backdrop of picturesque shorelines, unique waterways and serenity.
SUP enthusiast and La Plata resident Steve Bunker doesn’t care if the water’s chilly and his sole company is nature. On a March Saturday, he donned a wetsuit and headed out on the Port Tobacco River in Charles County. Bunker is director of conservation programs at The Nature Conservancy; however, on this morning, the task was keeping his balance and using his legs and core strength to glide across the water.
For Bunker, a self-confessed exercise junkie, SUP combines staying fit with a love of being on the water. “It’s a great way to get in shape and stay in shape,” he says.
Unlike the vantage point from a kayak, SUP allows a paddler to see into the water and all around. “It’s almost like you have an aquarium view,” says Lusby resident Russ Morin. Morin is manager of the Solomons-based Patuxent Adventure Center, a growing SUP hotspot driving local interest in the sport. It rents and sells paddleboards, and is annually receiving more inquiries about SUP. The business also seasonally rents paddleboards at the Leonardtown Wharf.
Patuxent Adventure Center co-owner Dave Lane, an outdoors buff and athlete, paddleboards four or five times a week during the warmer months. A former U.S. Marine helicopter pilot and business consultant who’s used to both physical and mental challenges, Lane agrees that getting a good workout – while also being able to paddle back into a cove or spot bald eagles, rivers otters and fish – is part of the appeal in Southern Maryland.
“It is so relaxing when you go out in the morning and the water is like glass,” explains Lusby mom Amy Herrmann. “It’s very relaxing to paddle along and look at the scenery.” Herrmann and her husband, Ed, often go out from a small beach on Solomons Island, taking a couple’s break while their boys are in school.
SUP, which has roots in Hawaii, is exploding. It is the fastest growing sport in the world, by many accounts. “It’s definitely trending [here],” says Chris Cifone, manager of BluHaven Piers on Jutland Creek in Ridge. “We got involved with SUPs in the summer of 2011, after many inquiries from our kayak base. ... Our surrounding area offers calm waters, views of undeveloped landscapes and an abundance of wildlife.”
SUP enthusiasts are also enjoying Mattawoman Creek, one of the most pristine and productive estuaries in Maryland. Indian Head’s Up the Creek Rentals began offering paddleboard rentals last year and is offering them this summer as well. On Back Creek in Solomons, the Solomons Harbor Marina rents paddleboards to guests of the Holiday Inn, or anyone who’s interested. No experience is necessary; they provide a short basic training before sending you on your way.
There are always those motivated by more intense challenges. For instance, Stand Up Paddle Annapolis – a business enterprise helping spur SUP, social media buzz and the race craze in Maryland – will host its 3rd Annual SUP Race on July 28. It is expecting more than 100 participants – a big jump from 30 in 2010.
And through another emerging SUP wave, certified and registered yoga instructor April (Sutara) Tucker is merging hatha yoga and paddleboarding workouts on weekends at the Leonardtown Wharf.
If you’re interested in joining the craze, check out our tips and resources in the sidebars. Then get out and give it a try. ✦
• Go out on a calm day (low wind and low water chop)
• Take advantage of shops demonstrating paddleboarding and the chance to try various boards
• Learn with a group
• Wear a personal flotation device (PFD)
• Secure a leash to the board
• Launch from the shoreline
• Start out on your knees before you stand
• Align your feet symmetrically to help keep your center of gravity
• Expect a fall or several before you get the gist
• If you decide to buy a paddleboard, do research and invest in an entry-level, good-quality board and paddle, and expect to pay in the $1,000-plus range
Where to Try SUP or Rent a Board
Ridge; 301-872-5838; www.bluhavenpiers.com
Rentals: $20 for two hours; each additional hour is $10.
Patuxent Adventure Center
Solomons; 410-394-2770 www.paxadventure.com
Rentals: Solomons location –
$35 for four hours; $60 for three-hour guided tour. Reservations preferred.
Leonardtown Wharf location –
$25 for two hours.
For Tucker’s yoga/SUP classes, the cost is $10 for one hour and participants need to bring a board or rent one from the Patuxent Adventure Center. Contact the center about board rentals. Tucker can be contacted at 240-298-5797 or email@example.com.
Solomons Harbor Marina
Up the Creek Rentals
Indian Head; 301-743-3733
Rentals: $20 for two hours; $35 for four hours; $50 all day.