Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP for short, has quickly swept its way into the hearts of Moab locals. It’s become one of the most popular river activities to cool off during the heat of the summer for all ages and skill levels. The possibilities with a stand-up paddleboard are endless–the boards have the independence and mobility of a kayak with the freedom to move around such as on a raft. Stand-up paddleboarders can be found practicing yoga on their boards at Ken’s Lake, cruising down flat-water stretches, or charging the whitewater on the Colorado River.
Josh Surkes, owner of Paddle Moab, initially learned about the sport while on the river here. Surkes grew up surfing on the East Coast and moved to Utah as a river guide based in both Green River and Moab. “One day I was kayaking the river and this guy comes by on what looks like a surfboard. I asked him what he’s on and he told me it was this thing called stand-up paddleboarding. I knew I had to try it.” Surkes quickly fell in love with the sport, as well as sharing his passion with others. “After my first kid was born, I realized that as a river guide I couldn’t be around as much as I needed to be–so in 2012 I started my guiding company Paddle Moab. We offer SUP lessons, guided tours and overnight trips.”
Since the launch of the company, Paddle Moab has remained the only company in Grand County to focus solely on guiding stand-up paddle-board tours. Canyon Voyages, Red River Adventures and Wild West Voyages offer guided SUP tours and rentals as well. Local Tiffany Jade, owner of Wild SOL Retreats, offers wellness retreats on stand-up paddleboards as well as acro-yoga on SUPs. Natali Zollinger, a local competitive stand-up paddleboarder, also offers private lessons and guided trips. It’s all about getting people on water and on boards to conquer their fears, Zollinger explained.
This year is an unusually low-water season on the Colorado River, and while rafters and kayakers struggle to make the most of the water level, stand-up paddle boarders have thoroughly enjoyed the low water as much as high water. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to Class II rapids,” said Surkes. “Stand-up paddleboarding is fun and exhilarating at all water levels. It’s easy to get a group of friends and go enjoy the river.”
Rocky Rapid at 5,500 CFS [cubic feet per second] is a mellow class II, but on a SUP it’s definitely class III kinda fun, Jade said.
Sarah Fisher, a current guide at Paddle Moab, learned how to SUP just last year. “Some friends took me out to Ken’s Lake and we just practiced doing headstands on the flat water,” she said. “It was really fun just to fall off into the water.” Fisher quickly took her newfound interest to the Colorado River. “The first time I ran the Daily was last year when the river flow reached a bit above 20,000 cubic feet per second. I was so nervous but everything, somehow, went well.” At that level, the Colorado River was a fast-moving waterway with intense hydraulics and powerful eddy-lines. Yet, despite her fear, her first SUP trip down the river solidified Fisher’s love for the sport. “I took a long swim in New Rapid, but it made me realize I’d rather SUP than kayak or raft.” She added. “I like the thrill of carving through the rapids and choosing the best line. I forget everything in life except for the waves in front of me.”
Elaina Budris is a local resident who recently started stand-up paddle boarding. Like Fisher, she practiced a few times on flat water before paddling down the river. “It’s challenging, interactive and so much fun to do with friends.” Budris said. “I highly encourage anyone to try SUP if they haven’t already.”
ByBy Emma Renly