Whitewater SUPing: Lessons Learned

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Hala Rado, Paddlexaminer, whitewater sup, inflatable sup, gore creek, vail colorado

I was first introduced to standup paddling (SUP) in 2012 in Marina Del Rey, California. I rented a board from a local shop and went out on the water with my brother. It was a lot of fun and a great workout! I had just started training for my first marathon so that took up most of free time, but supping was never far from my mind. Living in Colorado we don’t have the ocean to paddle on but there are plenty of lakes and rivers. That got me thinking about whitewater paddling.

I purchased my first board in the summer of 2015. Because I was new to the sport I bought an all-around board which could be used on flatwater or whitewater, but not specifically designed for either. I got on the river as much as I could. In the fall, I paddle on flatwater to hone my paddle technique. As I gained experience and met fellow paddlers, I became more confident and upgrade to a whitewater specific board, the Hala Rado

Here are some tips for paddlers who are getting into whitewater paddling based on my own experiences over the past few years.

  • Stagger your stance putting one foot slightly in front of the other. This will help your balance when paddling through the rapids.
  • Identify where the current is and where the obstacles are so you can avoid them. Obstacles to avoid: 
    • Strainers (clumps of sticks/logs along side the river)
    • Rocks
    • Logs
  • Read the river, think at least two moves ahead. This will help you plan your path instead of reacting to the river.
  • Keep your paddle in the water; this will help keep you balanced. 
  • Charge the rapids to create momentum to power you through.
  • Lower your center of gravity to help brace yourself in the rapids.
  • Lean back more when punching through eddies.
  • Try experimenting with turning the blade of the paddle to different angles to paddle in different directions

River people are pretty friendly, so if you see someone on a SUP go talk to them and let them know you’re interested in the sport. I’m sure they’ll be happy to chat and share some stories. You can also go to a river sports shops in your area or search for Facebook groups focused on paddlesports. I’ve found two solid paddle-mates this way.

hala gear sup, paddlexaminer
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Sometimes the logistics of paddling are the hardest parts of doing a trip. It’s not like going skiing at the resort where you just hop on the chairlift and go. Safety is also key. Be sure to get all the necessary safety gear specific to whitewater paddle:

  • Helmet
  • Coiled releasable leash
  • PFD
  • Whistle
  • Knife

Get outside, make some friends, and paddle on! 

Michael Chebatoris
Michael is a Denver, Colorado-based CPA, marathon runner, alpine skier, and white water paddler. He grew up in Nebraska paddling Marathon canoes with his brother on the lake behind their house. That led to a summer job leading canoe tours on the Platte River for Nebraska State Parks. Now a Colorado resident, Michael is the co-founder of the financial services firm Flagship Consulting. When he's not crunching numbers he can be found enjoying the abundant opportunities for outdoor exploration throughout the Rocky Mountain State and beyond.

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