It's easy to get hooked when you give paddleboarding a try

Julie Norman left her bike in camp and gave kayaking a try at Jordanelle State Park near Park City, Utah. There’s an awe-inspiring view of Desolation Lake from the Wasatch Crest trail above Park City.

Julie Norman left her bike in camp and gave kayaking a try at Jordanelle State Park near Park City, Utah. Renting a hard-sided kayak was one of the benefits of camping close to a marina.

Julie Norman left her bike in camp and gave kayaking a try at Jordanelle State Park near Park City, Utah. Renting a hard-sided kayak was one of the benefits of camping close to a marina. A quiet cove was also the perfect spot for the author to try paddleboarding for the first time.

If you’ve been a reader of this column for very long, you know that I enjoy two main sports: mountain biking and skiing. Some of you may even occasionally think, “Doesn’t she ever want to try something new?” Well readers, recently I did.

We take a trip to Park City, Utah, each year in the fall. We enjoy catching up with friends, testing our lung capacity on high-altitude bike rides, and stopping in at our favorite restaurants. We tend to bike six out of the seven days we’re there and reserve one day as an “off” day. This year was a little different.

We camped at Jordanelle State Park, which is right off of Highway 189 between Heber City and Park City. There is a large reservoir and it’s quite popular for water sports of all sorts: boating, sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding.

There are both RV and car/tent campgrounds, so there’s something available for all types of campers. Our campsite included both water and electric hookups, which was quite nice! Other campground amenities include several playgrounds for kids, laundry facilities, and free showers. You can make reservations up to 4 months in advance at 

Most exciting for me was that there was a primitive beach area close by. The first few days after biking we walked down to the beach to swim. As someone who grew up in Georgia surrounded by lakes and creeks to play in, being back in the water was a great feeling. After swimming for a few days we decided to get adventurous.

We’d borrowed an inflatable kayak from a friend and took that out on day 3 of our trip. We quickly discovered 2-person kayaking wasn’t for us, but the kayak had a “single boater” option as well, so we took turns paddling around the quiet cove.

It was so much fun to test out my paddling skills after years of neglect and find that I did, in fact, still know how to get the kayak to go where I wanted.

The quiet cove provided exactly the sort of practice area I was looking for, too. When I wasn’t kayaking, I spent time just floating around in the water with my life jacket on.

On our “off” day we drove to the other side of the park to rent paddleboards from the marina. Neither of us had ever paddleboarded before, but we were excited to try it out. On days when I can’t bike here in Grand Junction because of work, rain, etc., I often practice yoga. I am able to balance easily, so I was sure I’d get the hang of paddleboarding quickly enough.

We’d read some online tips from REI.com about steering and feet position, but this was about the only training we had before we set out on our boards. (There are options for lessons here in Grand Junction listed at the end of this article. If you don’t feel comfortable on the water or just prefer to have instruction, by all means, take a lesson!)

Thankfully our little cove was calm. It was mid-week and there weren’t as many boats or jet skis out on the lake, and we were grateful for that!

I waded out into the water with my board and carefully climbed on in a kneeling position. I started paddling out and sort of took a few minutes to understand the way the board moved and how to balance myself. I knew that when I attempted to stand, I needed to keep my feet side by side, about hip-distance apart, in the center of the board.

I carefully moved from my knees to my feet, one foot at a time, and before I knew it, I was standing! I used my hips to help me balance and kept my gaze on the horizon. I treated that like the bike mantra of “look where you want to go.”

My gaze was on the “no wake” buoy in the distance. I slowly paddled out, only falling once when I attempted to turn and got off balance. Soon I was far out from shore making my way around the buoy. I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to be out on the water on a paddleboard. It’s a unique feeling to be standing above the water like that as opposed to sitting in a kayak.

I won’t say that I didn’t have any more spills. I did fall off one more time before the day was over. However, I also spent quite a bit of time practicing various techniques: paddling on my knees and while sitting, turning, and getting on and off the board. I gave myself various goals of where to go in the cove and felt more and more confident with each successful trip. By the end I said, “I want one of these!”

As our final water sport experience, we rented a hard-sided sit-in kayak, just to experience the differences between the inflatable and the hard side. Perhaps it was the calmer waters or just the types of kayaks we were using, but we found the hard-sided kayak tracked much better than the inflatable one.

Taking time to learn a new sport, or at least try one out, was a great adventure for us.

Often we camp at places with lakes, and having a new sport to do there only means we’ll spend less time resting after biking and more time on the water.

There are plenty of places around Grand Junction to experiment with kayaking and paddleboarding: Corn Lake, Highline Lake, lakes on Grand Mesa, and the Colorado River. If you haven’t tried either of these sports, do so before it gets too cold.

There are also plenty of places to rent paddleboards. You might consider getting a rental and lesson through GJ SUP (gjsup.com) or Rapid Creek Cycles (http://www.rapidcreekcycles.com). Summit Canyon, on Main Street, rents both paddleboards and kayaks, but doesn’t offer lessons (summitcanyon.com).

I encourage you to GET OUT and try a new sport! If nothing else, make it your 2018 resolution. There are so many activities to do here in the Grand Valley, that there’s bound to be one you haven’t tried that you just might enjoy.


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