Lake Norman & Mooresville

Paddle boards gain in popularity on the lake

If you've spent time on Lake Norman recently, enjoying recreations such as boating, skiing, kayaking, fishing or swimming, you've probably noticed individuals standing on huge surfboards using a paddle to maneuver their way through the water.

The official name for this activity is called Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP).

SUP originated in Hawaii more than 50 years ago as a way for surf instructors to stand up and watch large classes of beginning surfers as well as the swells coming offshore.

The sport didn't make an appearance in the mainland until legendary surfing icons Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama, along with Rick Thomas, helped introduce it in California in 2000.

Now, just a little more than a decade later, the sport has made its way to the East Coast and can be found inland on lakes like Lake Norman across the country.

Bryan Wisdom, who lives in the Harbor Cove waterfront community in Mooresville, is an SUP enthusiast who moved here from California in 2006. Wisdom has seen the sport gain in popularity over the last couple of years and hopes to organize not only a future SUP race but possibly a SUP club that could meet a couple of times a month.

"Having moved here from California, I had surfed my whole life in the ocean," said Wisdom. "But once I moved to North Carolina, I stopped surfing. It wasn't until 2009 on a trip to Myrtle Beach where I tried SUP for the first time in the ocean, but rough conditions and poor equipment deterred my interest.

"The following year, on a surf trip to Virginia, I talked to a SUP who seemed to be doing very well with it," said Wisdom. "Later that summer, I connected with a local SUP who let me try his board on Lake Norman.

"Instantly with the right board and right paddle, it was easy and I was hooked ... giving me a way to simulate surfing."

SUP is not only a great way for the entire family to enjoy the water but can be a whole-body workout.

"SUP is a great sport that works your body from head-to-toe," said Wisdom, who also owns Fitness Together in Mooresville. "It works on your balance, along with core, upper and lower body.

"The cool thing is anybody can do it, and to be honest, it seems that women often pick it up quicker than guys.

"It's also a very fluid low-impact activity that can be done by almost anybody," he said. "As long as you can swim."

Kip Croft, also a Mooresville resident who recently moved here from Virginia Beach, has found Lake Norman to be a great SUP spot and can be seen on the lake nearly every week.

In 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard classified SUPs as vessels and, as a result, SUP riders are obligated to wear a personal flotation device when paddling in certain areas.

New custom SUP board prices range from $950 to $1,500. The boards are 9 feet to 12 feet or more in length, with features such as padded decks and concave hulls. Most all boards have one or three surfboard-style fins in the stern for tracking and are about 30 inches wide.