By JERRY HITCHCOCK
Spend any time on the shoreline in North Idaho in recent years and you’re bound to see all kinds of activity on the water. Families on a boat, either waterskiing, fishing of just enjoying time on the water. Swimmers, some just thrashing about, others getting in a workout for a triathlon. Canoeists and kayakers paddling to nowhere in particular.
But in the last decade, stand-up paddleboarding has taken off, not only in North Idaho but elsewhere across the country.
“Paddleboarding is not too hard, there are just a few tricks you need to learn,” Kayak Coeur d’Alene owner Chip Dalvini said during an interview at the store at 311 Coeur d’Alene Ave. “You learn how to hold a paddle, how to get on board, how to stand on it, you’re 90 percent of the way there. After that it is just bonus stuff, most people just go out and paddle.”
I had the chance to tag along with Kayak Coeur d’Alene’s stand-up paddleboard instructor, Chris Celentano, as he conducted a class for beginners, eager to take on the latest trend in water-bound fitness.
Emily Boyd and Danielle Costa of Coeur d’Alene helped Chris and Jack Judge unload the paddleboards on the shoreline of the Spokane River, and once all the equipment was positioned near the shore, Chris began the lesson. He took Emily and Danielle through the basics — how to determine the length of your paddle (they are adjustable for a universal fit), the basic strokes and also the basic stance, how best to place the board in the water to avoid damage to the fin, how to climb aboard, paddle out and, last but not least, stand up.
Chris has lived in the area a dozen years, and took up paddleboarding in 2007, two years after he started kayaking. He has a friendly demeanor, and his instruction not only covers the basics, but hits on the range of “what not to do,” and “why you do it this way and not that,” all based on the experience a seasoned instructor can offer. The questions from the students helped reassure them that they had the knowledge and process down and helped them get ready to climb on board.
The class had no problem getting in position out on the water, and Emily slowly inched her way up to a vertical position, followed quickly by Danielle. Both seemed a bit hesitant once standing, but Chris’ instruction had them gliding along the water in no time. First they navigated downstream, then they soon made turns and headed back up, with a little more effort involved in navigating a steady course.
The foursome was soon paddling upstream at a decent clip, making turns here and there along the way and gaining confidence with each stroke.
A while later the group returned to shore and, after a brief pause, they were ready for more.
After returning to shore after the first part of the lesson, Emily was relieved to see that she could not only stand up, but control the board and make it move in the direction she desired.
“It was easier than I thought it would be,” she said. “My feet fell asleep a while back, but I’m ready to continue.” Danielle couldn’t add much to Emily’s thoughts, but the smile on her face of accomplishment and future adventures spoke volumes.
With that, the foursome headed back out and off into the North Idaho sunset.
The two main types of paddleboards are planing and displacement hulls. A planing hull is flat and wide, good for surfing, SUP yoga, fishing and general recreational paddling. A displacement hull is good for touring, fitness paddling, racing and recreational paddling.
Board lengths mainly affect maneuverability, board width affects stability.
A single fin, is good for flat-water paddling, a 3-fin (thrusters) design is good for straight tracking, and good control in surf.
Dalvini started out the company as an outfitter, doing pack tours every day of the week, back in 2001.
“We opened a retail shop a couple years later, and continued to do tours,” Dalvini said. “Then in 2008 just before the recession, we shut down touring business and started doing lessons. We went from tours to doing just retail and rentals — that seems to work well for us.
The company did tours out of Mica Bay, Loffs and Windy bays. “With the repeat business, we liked to show them different parts of the lake.”
Dalvini said there are many parts of the lake great for kayaking and paddleboarding.
“I send people to Mica Bay all the time — all of our bays for the most part have wetlands, and there are all kinds of things to see — you can see moose in Mica Bay in the mornings, beavers, muskrats, bald eagles, even osprey.”
Dalvini said weather conditions favor kayaks or paddleboards differently.
“You can do kayaking in the wind, but generally the wind is a huge issue for paddleboards. You are a sail, and in a combination with the waves, it is tiring.
“If it is choppy out there, paddleboarding is not on the top of your list.”
Dalvini said he sees the apprehension in students all the time. “We use user-friendly boards and kayaks, a very simple sport, but it works every muscle in your body.
“And like any sport you can do it at any level — you can get a faster board and go out when it is rough and it will kick your butt, but it’s fun. An incredible workout. Like any sport, once you get those muscles, you can do it.”
Dalvini said the paddle stroke is the same as kayaking. “You are using your torso and cord to generate the board or kayak forward. You do use your legs in kayaking, but not to the extent you use them for paddleboarding.
Kayak Coeur d’Alene offers lessons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday afternoons for $50 per lesson. They rent kayaks and paddleboards, with SUP rentals rates of $40 for a half day and $65 for a full day. Multi-day rentals are $40 a day.