Friday, July 6, 2012

What's SUP at NOC?

Originally from Hawaii, Stand Up Paddle boardingis increasing its popularity in the Southeast, and NOC now offers classes on this new river and lake-based activity. When I [Michelle, a returning NOC staff member] came to NOC this summer, I had no idea how popular it had become.  I immediately wanted to try it and learn what all the hype was about, so I signed up for a paddle board instruction course.
Instructor Andrew Koch testing his balance on Lake Fontana
Because I can be very clumsy, I was expecting the experience to be challenging for me, but very entertaining for the instructor and my classmates. True to my expectations, I did not stay dry for very long, falling as soon as I leaped on my board (without waiting for guidance from the instructor). After this failed attempt,  I decided to let my NOC Paddling School instructor, Andrew Koch, do his job.

NOC's Kids Camp enjoying their SUP session
With much patience Andrew walked me threw all of the necessary skills needed to advance from the lake to a river.  I learned how to safely get on and off the board, use correct stroke technique and learn when the different actions are appropriate. I also gained information about the equipment and gear that is available and what would be best for my interests and progression.
Variety of Shubu SUP Boards at NOC
So, after working for a few hours on the lake, we went to the Little Tennessee for my first river experience.  This river consists of class I and II rapids, which was the perfect amount of whitewater for my first time out there.  It had the perfect balance of current and obstacles.  Andrew taught me how to read the water, what obstacles to avoid and how to get where I needed to go.  I followed closely behind him trying to hit all of the same lines and catch the same currents at the beginning.

When we got into the harder class II rapids, I was pretty nervous.  Andrew reassured me if I didn’t feel comfortable I could just get on my knees to obtain a lower center of balance.  It made things much easier and lifted my confidence after getting "skegged" on some "not even class I" rapids.  (Skegged - when the fin catches a rock, and your board stops).  After a few miles on the Little Tennessee I was hooked on SUPing. The sensation of gliding on water is amazing, and the connection you feel with the river and your surroundings is different than it is in a kayak or a canoe.
Our group going down the Little Tennessee
Looking back on the day, I only fell on the river once, and I took some swims in the lake when first beginning.  But, I learned correct technique along with terms and knowledge about SUPing.  I was instantly hooked and could not wait to get back out on a board after the day was over. If you are looking to learn a new sport that can be enjoyed on a various bodies of water, this could be the one for you! Check out SUP options at NOC to get out there and have some fun.

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