Pick up paddle boarding at Lake Junaluska

By DeeAnna Haney | Jun 25, 2014
Tessa Shepherd and Sarah Womack try out paddle boarding at Lake Junaluska for the first time.

Stand-up paddleboarding, also known as SUP, is a relatively new sport that has rapidly grown in popularity. Though seeing someone standing and paddling on a board in the water looks daunting, it's actually quite easy according to the folks at Lake Junaluska.

This is the second year Lake Junaluska is offering paddle board rentals, along with the usual canoe, kayak and paddle boats. Rob Huckaby, COO of Lake Junaluska, learned about paddle boarding a couple of years ago from a friend who explained to him what the sport is all about.

"I think one reason it's taken off is it's great exercise because you're using your core to balance and upper body strength to paddle," Huckaby said.

It's a good workout without being rigorous and it's easy on people who experience joint problems with other types of exercise, he pointed out.

The calm waters of Lake Junaluska are perfect for the novice paddle boarder. Erica Neese, recreation manager at the lake, said she's seen people as young as six riding along with a parent on the board up to a 75-year-old, who picked it up right away. There was even one woman who took her dog out on the board with her.

In North Carolina, paddle boards are considered a vessel, which means anyone under 18 must wear a life jacket. Anyone older than 18 may sign a waiver to bypass wearing the life jacket.

Life guards and recreation staff are always available to give instruction for first-time paddle boarders. Neese said they start by telling people to push out into the water on their knees or lying on their stomach. Once they've cleared the shallow water and the edge of the dock, they are free to gain their balance and slowly take a standing position on the middle of the board.

After that, they are directed to keep their hand at the top of the paddle and gently glide across the water.

The board looks similar to a surf board in its shape, and measures from 10 to 12 feet long and about 30 inches wide, giving plenty of room for better stability. In the rare event that the person falls in the water, there is a handle on the board that allows you to flip right back on the board.

"It's not a difficult sport. You just have to have your balance and stay calm," Neese said.

Sarah Womack, a recent graduate of Haywood Christian Academy, tried her hand at paddle boarding last week.

"It was a little scary at first. You start off a little off balance, but then I got the hang of it," she said.

Providing paddle boards is just another way to achieve Lake Junaluska's goal to engage guests and residents more with the lake itself, Huckaby said. So far, paddle boarding has been a hit.

"It's been very popular," he said. "I would encourage people to come out and give it a try. It's just a neat feeling — It's like walking on water."

Until Labor Day, the Lake Junaluska Aquatic Center is open daily to the public and also includes canoe, kayak and paddle boat rentals. There are eight paddle boards that can be rented for $10 per hour. Rentals can be purchased at the Soda Shop, which is located at the Kern Center.