Stand-up paddleboarding rides a wave of enthusiasm in the Mountain State.
It’s not clear how stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, made its way from tropical Hawaii to our own snaking rivers and mountainous backdrops. But “hoe he’e nalu,” as the sport is known in its home state, is now on the menu at most adventure-driven resorts in the state.
Melanie Seiler, executive director of Active Southern West Virginia, has been behind the movement from the start here. “It’s really been growing for the last seven or eight years,” Seiler says. “This is just a great place to do it. West Virginia has so many rivers and lakes. It’s easy in having that access to try it out for the first time.” Paddleboarding is a great way for all kinds of athletes, from mountain-bikers to skiers, to cross-train and keep up their balance and strength.
Seiler says newcomers are often surprised to find the sport much easier than anticipated. Getting started is simple: all you need is a paddleboard, a paddle, a life jacket, and most importantly, confidence. And those who need a little extra time to build confidence can begin paddling on their knees.
As a paddleboarding guide, Seiler has seen customers of every age and background tackle the sport. Like any sport, paddleboarding has its extreme athletes—Seiler has even organized paddleboarding races for the more competitive enthusiasts. But there are plenty of paddlers who just want a scenic trip in the valley. The activity also makes for great, low-impact exercise for seniors. “We see more and more come out. It helps to build core muscles and provides cardio without being too physically challenging for them.”
Although advanced paddleboarders often take to West Virginia’s rivers, beginners can get a taste of the sport on calm lake waters.
West Virginia’s Top SUP Spots
✓ Summersville Lake “West Virginia’s largest lake is so pristine, is great in the summer, and has great climbing access,” Seiler says.
✓ Stonewall Jackson Lake
✓ Lake Stevens “This smaller, unknown lake west of Beckley in Raleigh County stays clean and clear year-round.”
✓ New River, Teays take-out to Hawks Nest Lake
✓ Upper Cheat River Water Trail “You have to hit the Cheat in spring and early summer to catch the good flows,” Seiler says.
✓ Upper New River, Glade Creek to Grandview “This is a great four-mile section getting into class II whitewater.”
✓ Middle Gauley, Sweets Falls to Masons Branch
✓ Upper New River, Stonecliff to Cunard “This run is a bit longer at around eight miles in distance, and includes class II whitewater.”
✓ Gauley River, Diagonal Ledges and The Perfect Wave
✓ New River, New River Dries during spring high water
photos courtesy of Adventures on the Gorge