Folks around Cody are used to seeing canoes, kayaks, and even those personal fishing float tubes on area lakes and rivers. But on Friday afternoons this summer, stand-up paddleboards will be invading local waters, thanks to a program offered by Gradient Mountain Sports aiming to get women on boards and on the water.
SUP is one of the country’s fastest-growing sports, but it’s just gaining a toehold here in Cody. The folks at Gradient think SUP is perfect for the region, with its various lakes and waterways, and they’re committed to introducing the sport to locals.
If you're interested, but still a tad intimidated, a couple of Friday afternoons with a program called Paddle Like a Girl could be just the ticket to have you paddling in no time. The class size is small: no more than 15 women, with 2-3 instructors per group. You'll start on land and learn about the types of boards, board construction, and which boards are best for various types of water. According to Amy Quick, Gradient co-owner and paddleboard instructor, standing up is the hardest part. "Once you're up, it's simply a matter of balance and enjoying the water," she says.
Participants are encouraged to sit or kneel on their boards to get used to the feel. Instructors give insight on how best to stand up and where to place your feet for optimal balance. During a recent session, the group of mostly newbies pretty much floundered through the water, but gradually got the hang of how to paddle, some basic strokes, and getting back on the board after a tumble into the water. Within five minutes of launching into the lake, everyone was upright and paddling to the other shore like pros.
"Paddleboarding is my favorite water activity because it's so peaceful," Quick says. "It's a great workout because you use all those little muscles in your toes, feet, and calves as well as your upper body while paddling, but it doesn't feel like exercise. It's just fun."
Informative as they are, the drop-in sessions are also laid-back, with lots of laughs and good food from local restaurants and caterers afterward. Among the refreshments are wine and chocolates, worthy rewards for the on-water workout.
Paddle Like a Girl is offered every Friday afternoon from 3-6 pm through July 31. This is a drop-in class and no experience is necessary, but pre-registration (by Thursday afternoon) is a must. Fees are $25 for equipment, instruction, and snacks. The group will explore different lakes around town, and at the end of the program paddlers venture onto the river for some experience on moving water.
Once you've mastered the basics, you'll be ready to head out on your own. Cody has several quiet lakes just minutes from downtown that are great places to practice your newly learned SUP skills. Beck Lake and Newton Lakes are both easy to access, with good ramps for putting in.
A little farther out of town are Hogan and Luce Lakes. You can drive right up to Hogan Lake, but you’ll be schlepping your board for about a quarter mile to paddle Luce Lake. Both lakes have quiet water and few visitors other than the fishing crowd. The water is clear and spring fed, meaning it’ll be refreshing on a hot day in August. Plus, you’ll have great views of Bald Ridge to the west and might get a glimpse of deer, elk, and occasionally a bear.
More experienced paddleboarders can try their skills on the Shoshone River later in July when the flow is reduced. The section of river from the Corbett Dam Road put-in down to the Willwood Dam is great for floating. It's mostly flat water with a few rock features and just enough waves to get your heart thumping a little. The river snakes along the base of the McCullough Peaks; pheasants, chukars, and deer will watch you glide by.
If you want to go farther out of town, drive north 30 miles to the Clarks Fork River. Take a left when you get to the Edelweiss Store and go west toward the community of Clark. Take another left on Road 1AB and continue south until you get to the river. You can put in here and take out at the Edelweiss Store. The water meanders along with sagebrush, pinyon pines, and cottonwoods lining the banks, and the paddle will take you at least three hours. A helmet is a must if you’re paddling either of the rivers.