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Paddle boarding a great way to have fun - May 29, 2012

It's that time of year again to get out and enjoy the recreational aspect of our beautiful coastal bays.

Recreation offers a break from the monotony and a diversion from the daily routine. It is a positive change from the stereotypical lifestyle and involves an active participation in entertaining activities that one is interested in. Different recreational activities are a source of joy and they provide relaxation to one's mind and body. And we at Coastal Bays feel there is nothing more breathtaking than experiencing our waterways through recreational activities.

There are many ways to see firsthand the amazing and diverse wildlife our bays have to offer. Kayaking, kite surfing, motor boating, canoeing, swimming and the latest rage -- stand-up paddle boarding.

SUP is a simple watersport involving a wide, buoyant surfboard and a paddle. Participants can use it lying down, on their knees or, most typically, standing up.

"Paddle boarding has taken all the disciplines of watersports and brought them all together," said Delmarva Board Sports Adventure co-owner Janis Markopoulos. "The appeal of paddle boarding is multi-faceted. The ease, the simplicity and availability of this sport is why it is gaining such popularity. We've had people paddle boarding with us from ages 8 to 88. There is only about a 10-minute learning curve to get your basic skills and start. Women in particular are gravitating to SUP, as their lower center of gravity tends to give them a better sense of balance over men. And the equipment is lightweight and easily transportable."

The general consensus is the popularity of the modern sport of SUP has origins in the Hawaiian islands. In the early 1960s, the Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf. This is where the term "Beach Boy Surfing" -- another name for stand-up paddle surfing -- originated. But there is a current debate that this sport could have originated as early as 1886. A picture taken by Peter Henry Emerson in 1886 was recently revealed, called "Quanting the Marsh Hay." It is likely the photo was taken in the East Anglian fenlands in the United Kingdom.

The photo depicts a primitive paddle board prototype, according to

Renowned surfers Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama are credited with re-introducing the ancient sport of paddle surfing to the modern water sports world. The sport began in the ocean as paddle surfing, but has now evolved into a sport enjoyed on all bodies of water, including our Maryland coastal bays; hence, the term SUP.

The coastal bays offer unlimited SUP opportunities, from shallow, protected coves and creeks to open, choppy bays. You will find rentals stands at the Assateague Island National Seashore (and yes, proceeds from that stand go directly to the MCBP program), Castaways Campground, Ayres Creek Adventures, OC SUP and Fitness, and of course, Delmarva Board Sports adventures. Some of these venues even offer SUP yoga classes.

As the popularity of this sport is rapidly growing, so, too, are the opportunities for participates to compete. OC SUP and Fitness, with Fager's Island, is hosting a SUP race with proceeds to benefit the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. The event will be held in conjunction with the annual Fager's Island Surf Swap. The surf swap is free to those looking to recycle their old watersport equipment. There will also be a few surf shops and water related vendors on hand offering some great deals.

The races will cover a wide range of opportunities, for those who are serious to a fun-filled co-ed race catering to first-timers, with boards provided. There is even a free children's event on a first-come basis, with boards provided.

The Fager's Island Surf Swap and Paddle Board Race will be held Sunday at Fager's Island Restaurant, located on 60th street bayside. Races catering to paddle board owners will begin at 9 a.m. There will be 5-mile and 2.5-mile races. Registration for these races are available online at

Registration for the children's event will begin at noon. The race will start at 1 p.m., then the co-ed races will commence at 2 p.m. You can register online or at the event.

This event is a fun-filled family event, including food and beer specials followed by live entertainment beginning at 4 p.m.

And thanks to Coastal Surf Products and OC SUP and Fitness, beautiful 11-foot paddle boards will be raffled off at the event as well. If you have questions regarding the event, email Dawn Ehman of OC SUP & Fitness at, or call me at MCBP, 410-213-2297.

The Coastal Bays Program will continue to work to clean up the bays, to not only keep water sports viable, but also to get more folks out on the water to see just how much the bays behind Ocean City and Assateague have to offer.

Sandi Smith is development and marketing coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

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