By Meredith Pruden | Photography by Shanda Crowe
Just because we’re landlocked four hours and 267 miles from the nearest coastline doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy our fair share of water sports here in metro Atlanta. With an abundance of rivers and lakes, we don’t really have to travel very far to enjoy an afternoon on the water. Thanks in large part to our proximity to so many inland bodies of water (and Atlantans’ well-known love for the great outdoors), a new craze is spreading across the city — and it’s the fastest growing sport in the world.
Standup paddleboarding (or SUP as it is affectionately dubbed) has been around in one form or another for thousands of years. But, while it’s difficult to trace the exact origin of SUP, the sport in its modern form has “undeniably Polynesian roots” that can most likely be traced back to the 1940s and the “father of modern SUP” John Pops AhChoy.
Believed to have started as a way for surfers to easily paddle out to distant breaks, SUP quickly became a sport all its own. Today, SUP is popular for both laid back recreation and some seriously competitive racing.
Whether looking for a leisurely afternoon on the water with family, itching to beat your buddies in a head-to-head, or even hone your SUP skills to hit the open ocean in a future championship competition, Lake Acworth, Lake Allatoona and the Chattahoochee River provide excellent proving grounds to get your bearings and see if the sport is right for you.
And, these days, you don’t have to spend hundreds (and sometimes thousands) on a new board because rental companies are popping up on the shores of our area waterholes.
One such company is Acworth Beach Rentals on the banks of Lake Acworth. Owner Brandon Barlow and his business partner Eric Keener opened last June after noticing a conspicuous lack of other rental companies along the shores of the no wake reservoir.
“We were trying to do some kayaking up at the lake, but we drove little sports cars,” Barlow said. “We didn’t have the ability to haul stuff up here, and there was nowhere to rent, so I contacted the park.”
The pair opened for their second season in May, and are looking forward to getting even more people hooked on SUP.
“A lot of the locals come down to support us, and we get people coming back again and again,” Barlow said. “A lot of customers come try it and then buy their own [paddle board]. People don’t have too much trouble getting the hang of it. Most people are zipping around the lake in no time.”
To ensure a great time on the lake, Barlow said he is happy to get in and give pointers to beginners (such as how to balance, where to stand and how to hold the paddle) but that SUP really is so easy almost anyone can do it.
“It’s a good workout but it’s also relaxing because it’s a comfortable, natural position to be in,” Barlow said. “I’ve even had elderly people come out and say it’s relaxing.”
So, what are you waiting for?! Book a sesh (that’s SUP lingo for session) and get on board the fastest growing sport in the world. Just catch, stroke and return! SUPs up!
Things to know before getting on board:
>> The Coast Guard classifies SUP as a vessel like canoes and kayaks, so personal flotation devices (PFD) are required on board. Kids under 13 are required to wear a PFD.
>> Make your reservations at http://www.acworthbeachrentals.com. Summer 2015 hours are Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. Weekday outings can be booked in advance for groups.
Be sure to consult a professional when buying your own SUP. There are many different hull, fin and material types, as well as varying volumes, lengths and widths.