Suddenly this season, stand up paddle boards are popping up all along Connecticut's coast. "From Hawaii to California to Florida and now, the last two years, there has been a surge in paddle boarding here and I think it's just going to grow more between this year and next," says Greg Echtman, who recently became an instructor. "This year I decided why not make this a summer business. So far, so good," he says, noting that he's been giving local folks lessons at several area beaches, including those in Old Saybrook. An architect by trade, he's practicing his hobby after hours and on the weekends. "It's just a great time on the water," declares Echtman.
Echtman's venture, "Kahili Surf", provides boards, paddles, a foot leash and a personal floatation device, if need be. But, according to Echtman, the Connecticut waters are pretty safe and calm: "here at the beach at low tide, rarely are we in water that's over waist to chest high." Jumping atop the board and successfully paddling about isn't really all that difficult but this expert believes "form" is really important. "It's not that it's very hard but there are actually times you'll see people paddle improperly," says Echtman. Paddlers should stand with their feet 6 to 8 inches apart while keeping their legs springy yet strong, like a skier's stance.
Enthusiasts believe "SUPing" is fantastic exercise. "People don't realize the workout you really get when you're paddling," says Echtman. "A casual paddle for an hour will burn roughly 500 calories." Juliana Pisanzio of Deep River appreciates the benefits of the sport, as well. "You're working out and you don't even feel like it. You're just having a blast on the boards," she says.
With a wry smile, Echtman says gender plays a role in stability. "When women and men come out together, men fall substantially more than women," laughs Echtman. "I'm guessing women have a lower center of gravity and it helps them out." But, generally, people quickly get the hang of it and have a great time enjoying the unique perspective which feels like walking on water. "You're seeing wildlife that you'd miss sitting down in a kayak," says Echtman. His clients range in age from 14 to 74.
Passionate paddlers say there's absolutely nothing like it. "When there's a nice little chop out there, you get a little rush," sighs Pisanzio. "If you catch a little wave that hits the back of your board, it's this feeling that's amazing, like you're unstoppable."
Echtman adds: "It's just a new way to enjoy the ocean!"
Group lessons and tours with Kahili Surf cost $75 per person for 1.5 hours. Private lessons cost $100 per person for 1.5 hrs. Lessons include equipment, personal floatation device, on land and water instruction and free paddling time. Log onto www.kahilisurf.com for more information.