Red Card Roberts
June 5, 2012
You don’t have to look at a map to know Utah is a pretty landlocked state. And given our geography, you might be surprised to learn that one of the fastest growing fitness crazes in the country — one that requires a lot of water — has quite a following here in the high desert.
Participation in stand-up paddleboarding (known as SUP) is skyrocketing, in large part due to people like Trent Hickman, who actively promotes the sport/workout, and has been a key player in its growth here in Utah.
"It’s such a beautiful sport with a beautiful tribe of people. Everyone is welcoming and friendly and we all just want to be in nature and share the water," Trent says of his fellow SUPers.
Trent, who has been SUPing for about three years, owns PCSUP, a paddleboarding company that provides everything from private lessons and corporate retreats to fitness and yoga classes on the boards.
Much like yoga, standing on a board requires basic balancing abilities, which in turn strengthen and tone the muscles used to stay in position. A balancing act that works the legs, butt, back, shoulders and arms.
"You don’t know how hard you’re working until you wake up the next morning sore all over," says Helen Feltovich, one of Trent’s students.
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Helen is less than two weeks into the sport and she’s already hooked and planning to invest in a board. "I’m a high-risk pregnancy doctor. I have to go to work every day and tell people there’s something wrong with their baby. Paddle boarding takes my mind off that. And it puts me in a place where I can deal with it. It’s so Zen. Gliding over the water, being out in nature, it’s just magic."
One of the biggest selling points of the sport (besides the killer workout and glorious scenery) is that people of any age can get started. Children can use them alongside their grandparents, and smaller kids can even sit on the nose of an adult’s board and enjoy the ride. "Anyone can do it," Helen insists. "It’s really, really hard to get hurt paddle boarding."
She’s right, of course. At worst, a tumble means getting wet. But many veterans say they never do. "It’s one of the biggest misconceptions of the sport," notes Trent. "People always tell me they want to wait until the water warms up before they take a lesson. But I always tell people, ‘Feet wet, hair dry.’ I paddle all year long, until the lake is iced over. You really don’t spend time in the water unless you want to."
Or unless you have really bad balance.
Even I, who has been known to take a spill down nearly every staircase I come in contact with (yes, even when I’m sober), had a fairly dry first experience.
We went to the Jordanelle Reservoir in the morning and beat most of the boaters, so the water was calm and ideal for learning. Trent instructed me to start by kneeling on the board and paddling a bit to get the feel of things before standing up.
"When you’re just learning, early morning is better. But as you get a feel for things, the wake from boaters and choppy water become really fun. It’s like skiing: You start on the greens, but pretty soon you’re ready for more of a challenge," Trent said. "The waves are like moguls."
And eventually, the challenge goes beyond just staying vertical in the waves. In fact, for many, paddleboarding is also a competitive sport. That’s why Trent has organized a race series this summer. "Anyone can enter. We have an elite class, open class, co-ed tandem, even a kids’ race. This is my first year putting it on, but I really hope it becomes a destination race series soon."
Considering the popularity of the sport and Trent’s passion for it, it’s quite possible Park City will soon be known for both its skiing and its SUPing.
If you’d like to enter the race, learn more about the sport, book a lesson or buy a board, visit http://www.PCSupCup.com for more information.
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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.