Stand-up paddling is catching on in the Valley

FRESNO, Calif.

You may have seen folks over on the coast or in Hawaii on those stand-up paddle boards and thought it looked fun. It is - and you don't have to travel very far to give it a try.

Stand-up paddle's clearly made a big splash among locals. Gliding through the cool waters of the San Joaquin provided a great escape.

This sport has grown at a dizzying pace. Stand-up paddleboard instructor Nick Mendrin said, "It is becoming more and more popular especially in the ocean area where it started and we're trying to bring it to Fresno."

This board can take that bored look off your face. Mendrin taught high school kids from the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) how to stand up for themselves - in the water. A few basic strokes were all they needed to get started.

CART junior Trenton Webb said, "I thought it'd be a really interesting thing to do. I thought it'd be a really cool thing to try. I'm pretty adventurous."

The kids had no idea how cool their day would be at the San Joaquin river CBC pond. They were off and racing once they got comfortable. The big smiles were shared by all the students as well as their instructor.

Mendrin explained, "It's very fun. I'd spend all my time out here if I could on the weekends whether I'm working or not."

Steve Starcher serves as executive director of the San Joaquin River Stewardship program. He said, "We hear so many stories about people that live in Fresno going to Morro Bay, Monterey, going to Sacramento to do river and water recreation and you can do it locally."

Your standup paddling experience can be as relaxing or as strenuous as you like. You always start from a kneeling position before you get up and go on these sturdy stand-up boards. Mendrin said, "It's more surfing than paddling and I didn't expect that."

Of course you sometimes have spills to go along with the thrills. CART junior Belinda Vue said, "I think it's really fun and interesting because you have to keep your balance. It's kind of hard but you get used to it."

Safety played a big part of river instruction. The students were taught rescue maneuvers for incapacitated paddlers.

Starcher said stand-up paddle offers something new and challenging for more and more people. He added, "I think a lot of them are wannabe surfers. They say, wow. We've lived here all our lives we didn't know we could do this here in Fresno."

Now they do and they've discovered an activity which stands apart from anything else they've tried.

A view of an osprey and its massive nest helped hatch newfound appreciation for nature among these kids. At the end of the day they put their paddle boards away wondering when the next adventure would come.

Kids camps and adult lessons are held at Lost Lake as well as the San Joaquin river.

Call 559-289-8874 or visit The San Joaquin River Stewardship Program online for more information.

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