What’s SUP? Weekend warriors wild about stand-up paddle boarding
Evan Young of Scott Depot fell in love with stand-up paddle boarding on a beach in Puerto Rico. It was also the occasion when he proposed to his girlfriend.
“I took the knee on a beach at sunset,” Young recalled. It was a happy moment, made more magical by what he saw on the water. “This girl was out on a paddle board. She was way out on the horizon and really shreddin’ surf. It looked like she was walking on water.”
His girlfriend, Brooke, eventually became his wife, and Young eventually learned to paddle board.
“I learned on the Ohio River at Shady Waters Campground,” he said.
That was five years ago. Since then, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP, for short) has proved it’s not just a fad. It’s now firmly entrenched as a recreational water pursuit -- and also becoming a competitive sport.
For Young, it became more than just outdoor recreation. Young was working in retail as a store manager. It was a high-stress job. He worked long hours and binged on fast food. His weight ballooned to 285 pounds.
He realized he needed to make some changes. He gave up fast food, and took up paddle boarding.
“It helped me find balance in my life. You could say it unleashed me.”
Now fit and passionate about his pursuit, Young quit his retail job and became a certified stand-up paddle board instructor – one of the first in the state.
“We want to motivate people to get off the couch and go outdoors,” he said. “We just want to help them have fun. It’s also a good low-impact workout.”
He and his wife (also a certified instructor) started Appalachian Boarding Company, which Young describes as a “mobile outfitter.” He works out of a large van, and gives boarding lessons at area waters. His favorite place to conduct classes is at Tornado’s Meadowood Park, on Pettigrew Lake, an eight-acre lake restored by the Coal River Group, which also has its headquarters at Meadowood Park.
On a recent evening he met with a class of nine at Meadowood. “The pond here is home water for beginners,” he said. “After two or three lessons, we move them to the Coal River.”
Michael and Katherine Lowe of South Charleston were among the group for their third lesson. The couple are planning a trip to Hawaii, and want to go surfing and paddle boarding when they get there.
“I’ve learned a lot from Evan. You can tell he really enjoys it,” Katherine said.
Lora Flores of Cross Lanes was there for her fourth lesson. A mother with six children, she likes the fitness element. “It’s upper body and core,” she said. “And it’s more fun than going to the gym.”
She also praises Young as being an inspiration. “Evan will bend over backward to help you. I’m hoping he will train me to race.”
Paddle-board racing (called SUP racing) is starting to come into its own. Young recently won the Bluegrass River Run on the Kentucky River. The race, part of the Kentucky Waterman series, launches from Fort Boonesborough State Park. He also competed in last year’s New River Gorge SUP Race. That competition, held during Gauley Fest, is the state’s only stand-up paddle board racing event. This year’s Gauley Fest runs Sept. 14-17.
“We need to do more to get racing going in West Virginia,” Young said.
Back on the water, Young demonstrates to beginners the proper stance, paddling strokes and other basics. He refers to the paddle as a third leg. “Keep your third leg tight against the board in the water ... pretend you’re a tripod!” Young tells them.
First-timers can start out a little wobbly. Everyone cheers to show support when a newcomer stands on their board for the first time.
After they’ve had a few lessons, Young likes to take students to the Kanawha River. “One of my favorite trips is to paddle from Daniel Boone Park to the Barge Restaurant. That’s five miles, and beginners can do it in a couple of hours. Then we celebrate at the restaurant.”
Young also sells gear and is a dealer of BIC Sport SUP boards. Hidden Trails Motorsports in Charleston displays some of his boards.
For more information about Appalachian Boarding Company, call 304-693-2955, or visit the website at appalachianboardingcompany.com.
To learn more about the New River Gorge SUP Race, go to www.adventuresonthegorge.com/resort/new-river-gorge/nrg-sup-race.