Surfers Stand Up and Paddle
Florida Today - Melbourne, Florida
By: Wayne T Price
April 11, 2010
Longtime surfer Scotty Bumbalough moved to Central Florida from Hawaii three years ago, planning to pursue the sport he had picked up while living in the Aloha State. The sport was stand up paddle boarding and it was extremely popular in Hawaii. It was a different story in Florida at the time; few had even heard of it.
"I inquired about buying a board in 2007 here in Florida and one of the places I called thought I said 'powder board,' like for snowboarding," said Bumbalough, who now teaches paddle boarding in Orlando and all along the Central Florida coast.
"Nobody knew what it was, so I started doing it," he said. "Now it has really taken off."
A cousin to surfing, and with hints of sail boarding and kayaking, stand up paddle boarding is slowly but steadily moving into Florida after first gaining popularity in Hawaii and California. Stand Up Paddlers are popping up at traditional surfing hot spots alone the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the flatter waters in area rivers and lakes. It's the fastest growing segment in the surf "hard goods" market, accord to the Surf Industry Manufactures Association. Following the same pattern traditional surfing did decades ago, Florida is emerging as a great destination for Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
Florida also offers the opportunity for Stand Up Paddle Boarders to view wildlife like dolphins, manatees and exotic birds on the ocean and the state's waterways, which could mean paddle boarding could factor into and boost the state's efforts to promote eco tourism.
In Florida, you're just now starting to see it flourish. "Stand Up Paddle Boarding is definitely something that attracts more than traditional surfers. Aspiring surfers that do not have the luxury of having an ocean nearby can still experience riding a board with an SUP on other bodies of water.
The roots of paddle boarding go back centuries, probably starting in the islands of Polynesia more than 200 years ago. In Hawaii, locals -- known as "Waikiki Beach Boys" -- began using paddle boards in the 1940s as they helped tourists learn to surf and snapped their photos. About a decade ago, though, stand up paddle board competitions started springing up there and that carried over to California. A new niche in the surf industry had been born.
It probably was only a matter of time before stand up paddle boarding made its way to Brevard, home to Kelly Slater and other surfing legends and considered by some the epicenter for surfing in Florida.
Dr. Lance Maki, a 62-year-old obstetrician from Merritt Island, first saw stand up paddle boarders in 2005 while in Santa Cruz, California. A longtime surfer, Maki said he thought it was the dumbest thing he had ever seen. His wife, though, urged him to try, and two years later he purchased a board and took it to the beach across from Patrick Air Force Base. He has been a fan ever since and counts as a notable accomplishment paddle boarding in all five Great Lakes. "It's the absolute best for Florida," Maki said. "You don't need any waves at all."
Last week, Maki took his board to the Cocoa Beach Pier. The waves were too small for the regular surfers, but conditions were perfect, he said, for stand up paddle boarding.
"No one out but me," Maki said. "I had a great time, caught lots of waves and got a great workout. It's the best for core conditioning."
A good workout
That's what Will and Karen Lucan of Melbourne Beach also like about it.
Avid surfers for decades, they took up stand up paddle boarding as a way to pass the time at the beach when the ocean was flat. They found it to be a calorie-burning, thoroughly enjoyable experience that certainly beat perusing a novel under a beach umbrella. Because the sport requires users stand up, remain balanced and paddle using a 6-to-8-foot paddle, the aerobic activity works the muscles throughout the body's midsection.
"It's a good way to exercise and stay in shape for surfing," said the 56-year-old Karen Lucas, who works ate the Longboard house.
She added the short learning curve probably also would help with its popularity. Traditional surfing takes a considerable amount of time and dedication to master, while stand up paddle boarding is relatively easy and something people of all ages can grasp. "If the water is flat you can usually get standing up the first time out," Lucas said.
Bumbalough, who lives in Orlando and sells paddle boards and equipment, said two weeks ago he was stand up paddle boarding at the Canaveral National Seashore just north of Titusville when the potential for eco tours came to mind.
"A pod of dolphins, maybe five or six, came up next to me and I surfed with them for about an hour," Bumbalough said. "They were coming up to me, swimming under the board. The dolphins seemed to be fascinated by it."