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Paddle board is a sport on the rise

  • Ellen Moran of Hancock demonstrates her fiberglass paddle board on Norway Pond in Hancock on Tuesday afternoon.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Ellen Moran of Hancock demonstrates her fiberglass paddle board on Norway Pond in Hancock on Tuesday afternoon.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Ellen Moran of Hancock demonstrates her fiberglass paddle board on Norway Pond in Hancock on Tuesday afternoon.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Ellen Moran of Hancock demonstrates her fiberglass paddle board on Norway Pond in Hancock on Tuesday afternoon.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, August 11, 2017 10:32AM

“My favorite aspect is the calming quality,” said Ellen Moran, seated on the shore of Norway Pond. On the grass nearby is her foam core, fiberglass paddle board. 

Moran, of Hancock, has long been an avid kayaker. But through her former position with Eastern Mountain Sports as a paddle sports buyer, she was introduced to a new love: The paddle board. About ten years ago, they began popping up at trade shows, and EMS was early on the trend, mostly because it was a piece of equipment that just about anyone could learn to use and could be used for a variety of outdoor sport and recreation. People use them for fun, exercise, as a fishing dock for shallow waters that aren’t conducive to a motor boat, racing and touring. There’s even a trend where people practice yoga on their boards since balance is a key component of mastering the paddle board.

“The perspective is very different from when you’re in a kayak,” said Moran. “In New Hampshire, we’re very lucky to have access to many very still, very clear lakes. You can see the fish go under you. You can see the painted turtles and the snapping turtles.”

And, added Moran, after so many years spending hours in a kayak, sometimes it’s just nice to stand up.

Moran gave a talk this week at the Hancock library about paddle boards and kayaks for the uninitiated looking to get a start in paddle sports. Most everyone knows the basics of kayaking in this region, said Moran, who called it a “known entity” in New England. But paddle boarding is a much newer sport.

The paddle board saw its first burst of popularity in Hawaii, where professional surfer Laird Hamilton started to paddle standing on his board for fitness when the waves were down. He began to advocate for paddle boarding as its own individual activity that was fun as well as functioning as exercise.

Today’s paddle boards reflect that history strongly – they are very similar to surf boards, and there are boards that are made so that you can surf with them (something that’s still on her to-do list for her own paddle boards, said Moran) as well as use them for their intended purpose.

“The beauty of paddle boards is that people of all different ages can use them,” said Moran. “On calm water, the learning curve is short.”

In many ways, she said, the attractions are the same as the ones that drew her to the kayak. One of the best things is going in the early morning and evening when the wildlife is the most active – she rarely goes a trip without seeing some.

“I see wildlife every time,” said Moran. “I’ve seen the otter at Willard Pond, a bald eagle in Warner. Deer coming to the water. All sorts of small mouth bass.”

But if you’re thinking about getting on a paddle board, there are a few things that you need to know, said Moran.

First, not all paddle boards are the same, and you should think about which one is right for you. Some have a foam core and a fiberglass casing – this is the kind that Moran has. They’re lighter and faster – and the most expensive – but dropping it on a hard surface could result in the casing cracking. Another kind has an extra plastic layer around the fiberglass, which is slightly heavier, but more durable. Or you could get an all-plastic one, which can weigh up to 60 pounds but is very sturdy. People who want to fish from their paddle board may prefer that kind because they have the best stability, said Moran. Or, if you don’t have a lot of room, or plan on traveling a lot with your board, an inflatable one might be the best fit.

And the material isn’t the only thing to take into account. There are also various widths and nose configurations.

Of course, the best way to know what kind of board you like the best is to try it out, said Moran, which is why looking around for rental boards or sporting goods stores that are holding a demo day may be the best way to determine which kind of board best suits you.

“There is something for everyone,” said Moran. 

And keep in mind the weather, she added.

“The wind is your nemesis.”

Even a relatively mild wind – 15 miles per hour or so – can make paddling much harder, noted Moran, and can make for hard work. And if you’re paddling on a large body of water, such as the ocean or even a large fresh-waterbody such as Lake Nubanusit, you’ll want to wear a life jacket and attach yourself to the board with a cord, to ensure that if you fall off, the wind isn’t able to pull your board away.