August isn’t usually considered “high season” in Charleston, but it may be in one category: stand-up paddleboarding, aka SUP.
With water temperatures ranging in the low to mid-80s and a tendency for calmer mornings and evenings (barring tropical storms and hurricanes), along with beach and boat fatigue setting in, it’s prime time for paddleboarding basically from now until early to mid-October.
Unless you’re oblivious or just spent the recent weeks out of town, you’ve likely seen paddleboarders somewhere on the water. Shem Creek. Folly River. The Intracoastal Waterway. James Island County Park. Station 28 at Sullivan’s Island. The Washout on Folly Beach.
Paddleboarding seems to be taking over the waterways.
Heck, on a bike ride on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge a few weeks ago, I peered down to see one lone, ripped paddleboarder going full tilt up a river that dwarfed him. Needless to say, we have some serious SUP paddlers in this town.
Even though I have yet to buy my own board, I’m excited about the sport and how it is getting people motivated about exercising outside in nature.
Two years ago this month, I wrote a cover story for the Your Health section of The Post and Courier on the emergence of paddleboarding, both for fun and fitness, in Charleston.
Now it seems full-blown.
And just like there are different kinds of paddleboards for surfing, touring and racing, there are different approaches to paddleboarding.
Many local outfitters and outdoor stores, as well as the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, are offering lessons, “socials,” tours, exercise classes and races.
Jon Ory, owner of Charleston SUP Safaris on Folly Beach, says people love paddleboarding so much that they often want to buy a board after their first or second time on the water. So he’s also started selling boards, too.
“I’m doing well. I don’t have health insurance yet, but I might be able to afford it next year,” jokes Ory, who spent years in New Zealand teaching surfing, kayaking and paddleboard before starting Charleston SUP Safaris in May 2011.
While Ory admits that most of his business involves tourists, he is seeing increasing percentages of locals coming to him for lessons and tours.
“I grew up in Charleston and know that we don’t always jump on the latest and greatest fad, but I think people are starting to try it out, partly because they are hearing friends say they have,” says Ory.
The fitness angle
In addition to a full time marketing job at Lowcountry Local First, Misty Lister still manages to teach three fitness classes and lead one social paddle, along with helping with “corporate paddles,” on SUPs for Ocean Fitness at the Isle of Palms Marina.
Lister echoes what Ory is saying: “I feel like it (SUP) keeps blowing up.”
“I think people are really starting to realize how easy it is to do. It took time for that to happen,” says Lister, adding that the fear of falling in the water is fairly baseless. “I’d say only one in 10 people actually fall in.”
Some local yoga instructors are working with local outfitters to hold SUP yoga.
For example, instructor Ji Hwang is working with Charleston Paddle Expeditions on Shem Creek.
SUP events ahead
Many outfitters and groups also host SUP events that involve both elite- and recreation-level races.
Half-Moon Outfitters has been holding a Summer SUP (Race) Series, a “friendly competition” that wraps up Aug. 13. Check out www.halfmoonoutfitters.com/happenings.aspx for details.
Among the newest is the Chucktown Showdown SUP Race and BIC One Design Championships on Sept. 14-15 at Brittlebank Park and James Island County Park, respectively.
Joey “SUP Joey” McQuaid and other local paddlers are organizing the event, which will benefit Special Olympics. The event will feature cash prizes for the 8.5-mile course, which will leave Brittlebank and loop Castle Pinckney before returning. Go to www.chucktownshowdown.com for more.
Half-Moon returns with its fourth annual Golden Nugget SUP Paddle ’n’ Party on Oct. 12 at The Lighthouse at Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. The event includes a 10K for advanced paddlers and a 5K for novices. It features $5,000 in cash and prizes. To register, go to www.go-greenevents.com/goldennugget.