Late Summer and early Fall is a peak time to enjoy stand up paddleboarding in the Salida area. If you’re unfamiliar with this exciting sport, imagine a cross between surfing and kayaking and you’ve almost got the idea.
Stand up paddleboarding (known as SUP) features wide boards resembling surfboards. Participants kneel or stand on the boards and use a long paddle to move and steer in the water. It’s relatively easy to learn on flat water, though it takes a little balance, core strength, and coordination. With practice, you can step-up from calm water SUP to some whitewater river paddles or even to some river “surfing.”
If you’re just starting out and don’t have your own equipment, several local shops offer inexpensive rental packages that include everything you need. Dvorak Expeditions and Colorado Kayak Supply Main Street are two great options for rentals. Here’s a quick rundown on the basic gear.
SUP boards come in all shapes and sizes, but if you’re just starting out you’re going to want a board with a lot of width for stability and the proper amount of flotation for your weight. The location where you plan to put in will help you select the type of board you’ll want. Rigid inflatable boards are more portable and sturdy than most epoxy and foam boards, but are better for smooth water, while the epoxy and foam are a better choice for riding waves. Look for a board with a cargo net on the nose if you want a place to stash your gear while you’re out on the water. Your rental shop can help you select the right board for your needs.
SUP paddles come in a wide variety of constructions and weights. The staff at the rental shop can help you choose if you’re renting, but you typically want one with a good balance between weight and durability. The primary requirement is that it’s long enough to fit you. To measure, stand beside the paddle with one arm held straight over your head. The handle of the paddle should reach your wrist.
You should not forget a personal flotation device (PFD) even if you’re a strong swimmer. It’s a good idea in case of an unforeseen emergency, and in fact, they are required in some areas. Especially if you plan to test your SUP skill in whitewater or on river waves, it’s an essential safety item.
Other optional but potentially important equipment includes a leash to tether your board, a waterproof bag for anything you bring along that you don’t want to get wet, and a helmet if you’re heading for rougher whitewater or river waves. Sunscreen is also important!
If you need a little guidance getting started, check out SUP School at Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center just 25 minutes away. You can start with a class on the basics and work through levels all the way up to advanced and river surfing. If you prefer some specialized or one-on-one instruction, they offer private lessons as well.
Dvorak Expeditions offers multi-day SUP Clinics for beginners that start with flat water techniques, move on to working in currents and eddies, and finally into more technical sections of river boarding. Clinics can be private or booked for groups. One day guided instructional trips are also available.
Where to SUP
If you’re brand new to the sport, the best spots to practice and learn are on the flat water. Calm water is easy to negotiate and relaxing to paddle on, and there are several excellent lakes and reservoir areas nearby perfect for those just starting out.
McPhelemy Park in downtown Buena Vista is only a short half hour drive from Creekside Chalets and Cabins and is home to the Town Pond. Though it really is just a shallow, flat pond area, it is a great place for absolute beginners to learn how to get on the board, maneuver, and paddle.
A local favorite for SUP is O’Haver Lake Campground. It is a short drive from the Creekside Chalet property, and they have a lovely day use area. If you go, please remember that they do not rent gear. However, a quick stop at The Adventure Hub will get you everything you need. Each less than an hour away, beautiful Cottonwood Lake, Clear Creek Reservoir, and Twin Lakes are also easy to access for scenic and easy paddling. These calm water locations are close by and great for beginners who are ready to get out and paddle a little farther.
If you’re willing to drive a bit, you’ll find Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest lake, just over an hour away in Gunnison. With 20 miles of waterfront and beautiful views, it’s worth a bit of a drive. The Elk Creek Marina there rents SUP gear, too, which is convenient if you don’t have room in your vehicle to transport your own equipment.
The Salida Whitewater Park offers two man-made waves created especially for SUP surfing. If you’re still learning, you might prefer just watching the surfers catch the endless waves, but if you’ve picked up a little skill, you can give wave riding a shot!
For those unfamiliar with the river or with SUP in general, river boarding can be a little more demanding than flat water SUP. A few companies offer guided SUP trips when you’re ready to move onto river paddling, and it can be helpful to have a guide your first time out. Negotiating a stronger current and whitewater can be a lot more challenging, but many find it exciting and fun as well. If you’re over 12 and a strong swimmer, you can check out a River Runners tour that includes an hour of instruction on the river followed by a trip down the Milk Run with class II rapids. It’s geared for beginners, but first-timers on the river may find it demands more practice and skill than flat water SUP.
Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center offers a SUP trip down the Salida Town River Run with some class II and II+ rapids. Again, though these are considered beginner rapids for rafters, you’ll find them much tougher on the SUP board. This trip is a beginner to intermediate one for SUP, and though it’s more of a challenge, it’s exhilarating once you get the hang of it.
Stand up paddle boarding is a great way to have fun and stay cool on the water, and Salida offers many opportunities for beginners as well as more advanced SUP activities. Creekside Chalets has the perfect place to make a home base for your SUP adventures. Please contact us if we can help you plan your next trip to beautiful Salida.