Paddle Boarding in Colorado Springs: Tips for Newbies

Calm waters make Prospect Lake the perfect location for beginners.
Calm waters make Prospect Lake the perfect location for beginners. Kirsten Akens
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Colorado Springs is known for plenty of outdoor activities: hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and, winter sports, too. But water sports? Many locals aren't aware of the active, if small, water sports scene in Colorado Springs.

Just ask Randi Hitchcock, a certified instructor through the Professional Stand Up Paddle Association. Hitchcock takes her standup paddleboard out on either Memorial Park's downtown Prospect Lake or the southwest side's Quail Lake a few times a week, and on average sees only about five individuals on the water at any one time.

Hitchcock and her husband, Steve, are aiming to get those numbers up. She teaches monthly SUP paddling and rescue technique classes through UpaDowna, the local outdoor adventure nonprofit they founded. For beginners, it's a great place to get a taste of the growing scene for paddle boarding in Colorado Springs.

"It's one of our programming offerings that's free," she says. "It’s just to get people introduced to the sport of standup paddleboarding."

SUP, kayak, or try out a mini-canoe on Prospect Lake.
SUP, kayak, or try out a mini-canoe on Prospect Lake. Kirsten Akens

UpaDowna also runs monthly water-sport socials at the 58-acre Prospect Lake and invites anyone who wants to canoe, kayak, or SUP to join in and play on the water. Bring your own gear, or borrow some of the nonprofit's. Everything from board to paddle, life jacket and permit, is available. Just wear water-friendly shoes, comfortable clothing, and sunscreen.

One of the big challenges with water sports here, Hitchcock says, is that on Prospect Lake, open time is split between motorized and non-motorized participants, "and the non-motorized people get a very minimal amount of time, unfortunately."

Right now, Prospect Lake allows non-motorized watercraft on Saturdays and Sundays after 5 pm to sunset, and from sunrise to sunset Tuesdays and Thursdays. (The 22-acre Quail Lake, she notes, is always open to non-motorized craft, sunrise to sunset.)

The way to get more time? Buy more permits, she says. "The more that we increase permit purchasing to use the two city lakes, the more time the city will give us on Prospect Lake. We're really pushing people to buy those permits and make a voice for us. They're $5 a day or $50 for the year, which is super cheap."

Randi Hitchcock teaches a quick turn on her SUP board.
Randi Hitchcock teaches a quick turn on her SUP board. Kirsten Akens

Of course, you could head up to Rampart Reservoir , the reservoirs on Pikes Peak (toll fees will apply), or Pueblo Reservoir—places worthy of a visit indeed. But in addition to proximity, there is a definite advantage for water-sport beginners at city lakes: calm water. "Reservoirs can be intimidating because they're larger and you're sharing space with motorized [traffic], so you're going to have more waves and more people," says Hitchcock.

Whether you're new to water sports like SUP or a seasoned pro, trying out a variety of gear is always a good idea. Aside from the opportunities to do so through UpaDowna, Pikes Peak Outfitter rents and runs lake demo days for boards, kayaks, and canoes, and Underwater Connection rents boards.

SUP Colorado Springs rents boards, teaches classes, and once you have a feel on a board, offers SUP Yoga on the city lakes. (We don't recommend crow pose right off the bat, unless you want to take a serious chance at getting wet.)

Sometimes you will share the water with canoeing campers chanting, "Heave. Ho."
Sometimes you will share the water with canoeing campers chanting, "Heave. Ho." Kirsten Akens

As far as Hitchcock knows, there aren't any other groups doing organized kayak and canoe events yet (aside from Pikes Peak Whitewater Club , which, obviously, focuses on kayaking different waters). She says UpaDowna would "eventually like to add that to our repertoire once we get storage space."

But for now, while walking through the sand on the west edge of Prospect Lake, Hitchcock is clear about her intention when it comes to water sports: "I want to see this whole beach filled."

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