Lake Erie was smooth as glass as I attempted to stand up on my paddleboard, or SUP, for the very first time last week. I might not have caught a wave that day, but I was still standing on top of the world.With knocking knees, I gained my balance slowly.
As I grew more confident, I put power into my paddling, picking up more and more speed. Then I attempted to turn my board around. With a slip and a squeal, I lost my footing but was able to catch myself before falling into the water.
I was stuck paddling while kneeling, unable to get back up with the current shifting beneath me. Still, I wasn’t scared. In fact, a wide smile was plastered on my face the entire hour I spent on the lake with Jim Lawhead, owner and instructor at Lake Erie Paddler.
Lawhead, unlike me, was gifted with steadiness. He easily maneuvered the shifting waters, and even did a seemingly impossible headstand on his board.
Lawhead, who is a native of Lorain, is a yoga instructor-in-training with Solaluna Yoga Studio in Oberlin. He says transitioning yoga from mat to board is more natural than anything.
“On a mat, there’s resistance, but on the lake, it’s totally fluid,” he said. “It’s calming, it nurtures the soul, and it’s really soothing in our stress-filled world. It’s a really good solo sport because you’re just out there with the flow of the water and it’s a great way to let everything go.”
Jackie Kapalin, fellow SUPer and a sterile processing technician from Amherst, agreed.
“It’s just you and Lake Erie out there and it’s just so relaxing,” she said. “I mean, who doesn’t like the wind in their hair? If you don’t have trust in yourself, you’re gonna fall in. You have to be strong and confident on your own. I find it so peaceful.”
But this sport, while channeling positive energy, proves to have a different, more specific effect on everyone.
Alison Phillips, 14, a cheerleader from Vermillion who has a season pass at Lake Erie Paddler, says stand-up paddleboarding tends to pump her up.
“When I get off the water, I’m hyped to get back out there and try new tricks that I just thought of,” she said.
After a pause, she smiled and said, “Hungry, too, because I normally go out there for hours on end.”
These results are exactly what Lawhead hopes to see in his students.
“I believe in a really holistic approach – the mind, body, soul connection,” he said. “We’re investing in quality, and delivering a rich experience.”
This is something also subscribed to by the Lorain County Metro Parks. The Metro Parks have partnered with Lake Erie Paddler to provide space at Lakeview beach for the sport to take root.
Bryan Goldthorpe, the park’s manager and a resident of Lorain, is happy with the outcomes of this summer’s launch of the “symbiotic partnership.”
“We enjoy forming partnerships like this to promote different types of recreation,” Goldthorpe said. He explained that the Metro Parks allow Lake Erie Paddler to use part of the water trail that runs from the Black River to Lake Erie.
While the summer season dwindles down, there still is time to experience the rush of stand-up paddleboarding. I would encourage everyone to give it a try at least once.
If I get a break in my busy end-of-summer schedule, I’ll probably go again. Maybe next time, I can stay standing the whole time. Who knows, maybe eventually I really will catch that wave.
Lake Erie Paddler
- Location: 1249 Colorado Ave., Lorain
- Details: Rentals are available on a walk-up basis, one-on-one lessons start at $50, and group lessons start at $30 per person.
- Contact: (440) 935-1645, (440) 935-9291 or LakeEriePaddler.com
NALU SUP & Surf
- Location: 429 S. Riverdale Dr., Rocky River
- Details: Rentals available for $15 per hour, including an extra 15 minute beginner’s lesson. Shop is usually open Friday-Sunday, but only occasionally Monday-Thursday.
- Contact: (216) 272-1504 or NALUSUP.com
Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park
- Location: 301 Huntington Beach Dr., Fairport Harbor
- Details: Rentals are available from 10:30 am to 8 pm every day for $10 per hour.
- Contact: (440) 639-9972 or Lakemetroparks.com/select-park/fairport.shtml
41° North Coastal Kayak Adventures
- Location: Rocky River Reservation, just south of the public boat ramps and the Emerald Necklace Marina.
- Contact: (866) 529-2541 or Kayak41North.com
Contact Rachel Rieger at 329-7243 or email@example.com.