Looking for a gentle but fun way to explore Oregon’s rivers and lakes? Test out the waters with Stand Up Paddle (SUP). It is a fun activity for all ages and we’ve got the lowdown on how to get your family started with SUP… ASAP.

SUP Kids-Virginia State Parks-flickr

Photo: Virginia State Parks via flickr

What Is It, Anyway?
If you’ve been to the quieter parts of the Willamette or a local lake lately, you’ve probably seen them: people standing on boards and paddling their way down the river or acrross a lake. It’s called Stand up Paddle Boarding (SUP for short) and it gives paddlers a spectacular view of the water — from a much higher perspective than when sitting in a boat—  as well as a full-body workout. Of course, there is the possibility of falling off, but that’s half the fun.

Kids as young as two can join an adult on a board, and some seven-year-olds can paddle their own. It’s also a sport that family members can enjoy well into their older years making it a perfect activity for grandparents to do with their grandbabies. It’s easy to get started on your own, but lessons are recommended for safety, as not all of it (like how you hold the paddle) is intuitive.SUP Spirit Lake-Deb Deppeler

photo: Deb Deppeler via flickr

Finding Equipment
Boards are rated by weight, so if you’re planning on hoisting 40 pounds of kid on board, plan ahead when buying and/or renting. Wider boards have more stability, though they’re tougher to paddle if you’re on the short side. Have a chat with the experts at the shop about your needs and desires. We’ve seen kids’ boards that range from $400 on up, adult boards can range from about $600-$2000.

All the local shops that rent SUP boards and equipment will sell, them, too. Some companies will only rent to people with prior experience, so ask ahead of time…and take some lessons!

Alder Creek offers rentals from several locations around the Portland metro area. Some allow equipment to be reserved ahead and others are first-come first serve only.

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Next Adventure  rents boards out of their shop and at Scappoose Bay Paddling Center. ($16/hour to $250/week)

SUPortland rents boards at Janzten Beach and Vancouver Lake, but reservations are required. If you are looking for paddle elsewhere, you can transport the boards yourself. No experience is required. ($50/day, $155/week)

Lessons
Alder Creek offers a Basic Stand Up Paddling course, and kids 10-14 are welcome with an adult. Completion of this class means you can rent a board from the shop anytime you feel the need to paddle.

Don’t be confused by the name — Gorge Performance is based on SW Macadam. Kids 12-16 can participate in private group lessons.

/SUP Hood River-Bill Reynolds-flickr
photo: Bill Reynolds via flickr

Where To SUP Near Portland
Vancouver Lake is inviting when the wind is calm and offers plenty of space for non-motorized water play. With ample parking, restrooms and a playground, it’s a great place to to day trip—and there’s something to do if your young paddlers or the weather don’t cooperate. Rentals are available by appointment from SUPortland.

Lost Lake offers gorgeous views of Mt. Hood while on a lake with no motorized boats. Just you, kayaks, canoes and floaters paddling along. About 1 hour and 45 minutes from Portland, you might want to plan a weekend camping trip, or book a cabin, depending on how your clan rolls.

Rent a SUP at nearby Hagg Lake. It’s only 45 minutes west of town (closer for those in Washington County), so you can run out there for a day of fun when the weather looks favorable. There are plenty of other amenities too, like disc golf, restrooms, and picnic sites.

Need To Know
Put your child on the board in a seated position before getting on the board yourself. When your child is ready to start paddling themselves, stick close, and bring a tow rope in case they get too tired before they get to shore.

Stay away from places with currents when paddling with small children on board. If you fall in calm, protected waters don’t panic, kiddo and board will be bobbing right there next to you. Wait to take your junior adventurer on board until they know how to swim, and of course, everyone on the water should wear an appropriate personal flotation device. In fact, paddle boards are considered boats by the Oregon State Marine Board, which means you have to have PFDs, a US Coast Guard-approved whistle, and lighting at night. Those are the rules!

What’s your favorite place to SUP near Portland? Let us know in the comments!

—Kelley Gardiner