Landlocked as it may be, Atlanta’s standup paddling scene has grown exponentially in the past few years. “Three years ago, I was standup paddling and people were looking at me like I was crazy,” says John Sloan, general manager at High Country Outfitters. “Once the store began selling boards, the scene exploded.”
RootsRated offers some inside tips on how to get started with standup paddling in Atlanta.
On the Water** **
Paddleboards are becoming just as popular on lakes and rivers as boats, only paddlers are getting a full body workout from the shoulders to the core to the toes. Standup paddling destinations aren’t far from the city. Just remember Georgia state law requires a lifejacket to be within reach of any paddler, and children under 13 must be wearing a lifejacket at all times.
About 20 minutes from the city, Morgan Falls Overlook Park, in Sandy Springs, is a quiet cove that offsets the Chattahoochee River and the Morgan Falls dam. The water is calm and flat, so it offers the perfect learning space for beginners. Be aware of the water levels, depending on whether water from the dam is released, some areas can be as shallow as two inches.
For a more aggressive environment, Warren Hamilton, an employee at High Country Outfitters, recommends paddling the Chattahoochee River from Johnsons Ferry to Paces Mill or putting in at Azalea Park. But use an inflatable board to prevent damaging your board on the rocky rapids. Be sure to check the National Park Service’s water release schedule to determine the timing of water release.
Lake Allatoona at Dallas Landing Park is a short drive up interstate 75, and with 270 miles of shoreline there is no shortage of put-in points. The opposite direction, up North interstate 85,Lake Lanier is by far the most popular destination for tourists and boaters close to Atlanta. Be cautious about paddling here, because boat traffic is particularly heavy on weekends and holidays.
Rent or Buy
High Country Outfitters has the largest selection of SUP boards in the southeast, with inflatables, recreational and touring/racing boards. Costs range from $700 to $3,000. The difference between renting and buying a board depends on price versus availability. The store has 15-20 paddleboards available to rent daily, but nice weather days mean there could be slim pickings. Recreational and inflatable boards are $55 per day, while touring/racing boards are $65. Ask about weeklong and weekend rates. If you fall in love with the board, the store will refund your rental rate off the purchase.
“We enjoy taking the time to teach people about the sport,” Sloan says. The store is a believer in “try before you buy,” so every Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. the store offers a SUP demo at Morgan Falls Overlook Park, where paddlers can try out the different types of boards in a safe and comfortable environment. The demos run through Labor Day.
“On a paddleboard, your presence and mindfulness is amplified,” says Amy Tyrrell of Atlanta SUP & Yoga. “You have to be honest with your body and it complements your yoga practice because you have to go through the poses the correct way.”
Tyrrell’s SUP yogaclasses are offered at Lake Lanier throughout the week and weekend. The 90-minute classes are usually in the morning and evening through the end of August. Tyrrell welcomes all ages and levels, regardless of yoga experience. Depending on the weather, warmer days are more vigorous because students don’t mind taking a dip. Board rentals are available for the class for $15. High Country Outfitters also has classes Sunday mornings in August from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Morgan Falls Overlook Park through Labor Day.
On August 10, High Country Outfitters is hosting the 2014 Toona Challenge, with 2-mile, 6-mile, ½ mile, and sprint races for recreational and expert paddlers.
“This race is unique because it is West Coast style with a beach start and finish,” says Sloan. “We are expecting about 80 to 100 paddlers, including some big-names in the SUP Southeast scene.” Registration for the race is available on-site as well. Gear raffles and demos will take place throughout the day.