As I took a few hesitant steps off the beach sand into Prospect Lake heading for the stand-up paddleboard I had borrowed, I admit I was less concerned with looking good than with falling in the cold water. The mini-celebration in my head that happened when I managed to sit on the board was short-lived because the hardest part was still to come.
Like most people’s, my first attempts to stand on the paddleboard three years ago were wobbly and worthy of America’s Funniest Home Videos. But thanks to Randi Hitchcock of the local outdoor adventure nonprofit UpaDowna, I received a solid talking-through and managed to get myself upright without taking that dreaded dip into Prospect Lake.
Once I found my balance and got comfortable with paddle control and the gentle lapping of the water underneath my feet, I fell in massive love with the meditative state I can reach through this water sport, and I have successfully SUPed a few lakes and lazy rivers on my own.
Whether you’ve never paddled and want to give it a go, or like me, you’re craving more water in your life, here are six ways to SUP the Springs and beyond.
Get Social With or Without Lessons
One of the best local ways to get on a stand-up paddleboard for the first time is through one of UpaDowna’s SUP Socials. The events are held throughout the summer at Memorial Park’s Prospect Lake. UpaDowna provides lessons with all the gear you need, including a board, paddle, life jacket and permit, for free. And for those who want to bring or rent their own gear and join in on the fun, all ages and skill levels are welcome. upadowna.org/programs/paddleboarding
SUP Locally on Your Own
Prospect, Quail and Monument lakes are open to stand-up paddleboarders, but each has its own permitting and gear requirements, as well as specific times when SUP is allowed. Check the Colorado Springs and Monument city websites for details. You can bring your own gear, or rent through one of these local outfitters:
Pikes Peak Outfitter, pikespeakoutfitter.com
Underwater Connection, uwcscuba.com
SUP Colorado Springs, on-site at Prospect and Quail lakes, supcoloradosprings.com
Find Your Om on a Board
Find your inner water-warrior for an extra-special yoga flow class—yes, on an SUP. Christine Malmborg, founder of Dragonfly Paddle Yoga, and her crew teach weekly 90-minute sessions on all three local lakes throughout the summer, and all necessary equipment is included in the $25 fee. Malmborg also offers Friday night Glowga at Monument Lake, which adds LED-lit boards to the early evening ambiance.
“Practicing yoga on a lake is a rather magical experience as you are connecting with the elements and the great outdoors,” Malmborg says. “If your feet get wet, or if you make a splash, it’s all part of the experience.” Classes are made accessible for everyone, whether you’re a beginner, advanced yoga practitioner or somewhere in between. Most importantly, Malmborg recommends taking more than one class because you’ll be amazed by how much more you can do each time. dragonflypaddleyoga.com
Fit in With a Fitness Class
Alongside swim lessons and teams, you’ll find paddleboard-based, low- impact, high-intensity aquatic fitness workouts at the newly opened Pikes Peak Athletics Training Center. Take your plank to the pool year-round with these 60-minute, all-level classes. Individual drop-in sessions include all the gear you’ll need and cost $35, or you can save some money by purchasing multiclass packages. pikespeakathletics.com/group-fitness
Float Flatwater on a Reservoir
Ready to take your paddling on the road? Reservoirs can offer more flatwater to explore. Rampart Reservoir, all of the reservoirs on Pikes Peak except Mason on the South Slope, and the Lake Pueblo State Park reservoir are all great nearby options. Day-use fees range from $5-$20. If you want to use the North Slope Recreation Area, let the Pikes Peak Highway entry gate folks know, and your cost will only be $5 per person. Keep in mind that early morning and evening hours offer better chances for lower winds and calmer waters.
Paddle a River
Paddleboarding a river varies greatly depending on where you are on that river. Consider the Arkansas. Grab your SUP and hit the waters at the Pueblo Riverwalk, and you’ll enjoy a soothing afternoon floating a gentle current. Head out to Buena Vista or Salida, and you’ll be running Class II/II+ rapids on the very same Arkansas. It’s doable, especially in and around the local whitewater parks, but you might try some lessons first with the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center. The 36-year-old organization even offers SUP instructor certification courses: rmoc.com.
Get Started Tips
As a certified instructor through the Professional Stand Up Paddle Association, Randi Hitchcock offers these three tips for SUP newbies.
1. Use a stable board. Long and wide is the key—aim for longer than 11 feet, about 30 to 33 inches wide, and 4 to 6 inches thick. “The more stable, the better,” Hitchcock says. Also ensure all proper fins (or skegs) are on the board, use an SUP paddle, and wear a personal flotation device, or PFD in paddle-speak.
2. Find your comfortable stance. Hitchcock recommends that beginners kneel on the board and paddle away from shore. “Once away from others and the shore, slowly crawl to all fours, and carry your paddle with you as you stand,” she says. “Keep knees slightly bent and feet a little more than hip-width apart.” You should be near the center of the board, lengthwise, or slightly behind it.
3. Practice an even paddle stroke. “Place the blade of the paddle perpendicular to the side of the board at the very top (nose),” Hitchcock says. “Pull the blade evenly through the water toward the middle of the board, keeping the blade fully under water. Every couple of strokes, switch sides that you are paddling on.”
Hit the Road
Hear the rivers and roads calling? There’s plenty of water out there among the Rockies to enjoy on an SUP. Here are a few favorite spots.
This insanely scenic river winds through Crested Butte without whitewater. It’s a mellow, beginnerfriendly favorite.
Get Your Gear: Float Shack, float-shack.com
Blue Mesa Reservoir
Just west of Gunnison, you’ll find the largest body of water in Colorado. At 20 miles long, with 96 miles of shoreline, there’s enough to paddle to your heart’s content—or until your arms give out.
Get Your Gear: CB SUP, cbstanduppaddle.com
Roaring Fork River
The well-named Stillwater section just east of Aspen delivers serene water and nature preserve views for an easy, popular float.
Get Your Gear: Aspen Kayak & SUP Academy, aspenkayakacademy.com