The Lewiston-Auburn YWCA in Lewiston has recently begun offering Introduction to Paddleboarding classes in their pool. According to YWCA’s Aquatics Director Linda Sherman, the organization has teamed with Ian Barclay, owner of Windsurfing-Maine and certified U.S. Surfing and Wind Surfing instructor, to generate enthusiasm for the sport. Barclay said the one-hour sessions have enjoyed good attendance.

“Due to board size, I can teach four or five people in a session. Recently, we offered two sessions, three days week,” explained Barclay. He said paddleboarding is a great water sport for beginners. “Almost everyone who comes to class is nervous, regardless of their athletic abilities. Usually within five minutes, I can help them resolve that. We develop their confidence by first teaching how to get on the board and then learning how to fall.”

He said that once students feel more comfortable and relaxed on the board, he can teach them different paddling techniques from positions of sitting, kneeling, and standing. “It’s just like skiers. They ski the bunny slopes before they tackle Black Diamond,” said Barclay.

Barclay, who has a passion for the surfing sports and scuba and has been teaching the sports since 1998, particularly enjoys paddleboarding for the full body workout it provides as well as the peacefulness it affords on a calm, quiet morning.

“There’s nothing like being out on the board in the morning when the fog is just starting to lift off the lake. It’s a great photography vehicle!” He added, “And the fitness industry is really catching on to it. I hope to introduce paddleboard yoga soon.”

While paddleboarding can be done on any of Maine’s bodies of water, Barclay, who has personal and professional experience in all waters, prefers lakes or ponds with less boat travel for new paddleboarders. “I like teaching in lakes where the environment is more controlled. In the ocean, you have the pull of the tides.”

As the U.S. Coast Guard classifies paddleboards as “a vessel under the definition of recreational watercraft,” Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s website at www.boat-ed.com/maine/handbook/ offers “need to know” information for paddleboarders and boaters alike.

In short, there are some rules and safety precautions for ensuring an enjoyable paddleboarding experience. First, “a person using a paddleboard shall carry at least one Coast Guard-approved Personal Floatation Device (PFD), Type I, II, or III for each person on board.” Second, “children 10 years of age or younger must wear a Type I,II, or III PFD at all times on a stand up paddleboard as is required for all watercraft.”

Barclay added that the U.S. Coast Guard considers the paddleboard itself a PFD for an individual; however, he recommends PFDs be worn for ages under 16. He also advises his students to know and respect their limitations and wear a PFD if swimming skills are not strong.

Paddleboarding equipment and cost is contingent upon the recreational expectation of the shopper. Mike and Kathleen Simpson, owners of Al’s Sports on Lisbon Road in Lewiston, offer paddleboards by Maine’s Old Town Canoes and Kayaks. The Old Town Ocean Kayak Nalu comes in two lengths, 11 feet and 12-and-a-half feet, and is constructed of ABS plastic, making it a durable, maintenance-free choice for families, according to Kathleen.

The Nalu also features the ability to add a seat to the vessel; with an extra blade added to the paddle, the paddleboard can function as a kayak as well, but with the added benefit of leg room for a more comfortable paddling experience.

“We have a camp in Rangeley,” said Kathleen. “We had kayaks there but we decided to bring a paddleboard up to see how people liked it. People saw us using it and asked questions. It wasn’t long before we brought the kayaks home and brought up another board. It was always being used.”

Kathleen said one camp neighbor told her about her grandson who was afraid of going out in a canoe or kayak. “She said he was always using the paddleboard, so much so she was going to have to buy him one of his own.”

Like Barclay, Kathleen loves paddleboarding as a workout. “I go to the gym but I never take classes. I always felt too uncoordinated, but using the paddleboard has done wonders for my balance. I love it! Plus, when you paddleboard, you can see the whole structure of the lake – the rocks, the fish. You can’t see that sitting in a kayak.”

In addition to plastic, paddleboards can also be constructed in lighter fiberglass and come in varying sizes and lengths depending on the desired performance and the paddler. Barclay sells both plastic boards by BIC as well as fiberglass models from his shop, Skindivers Paradise, in Auburn.

Paddles, too, come in different styles, lengths, and material including aluminum and carbon. “All paddles have bend,” explained Barclay. He said a paddle’s bend response is different depending on material construction and may become more important as a paddleboarder becomes proficient.

“In any case,” advised Barclay, “ride before you buy.”

Would-be paddleboarders want to make a smart purchase that meets or exceeds expectation.

Like so many who appreciate Maine summers, Barclay and the Simpsons agree that Maine is a beautiful place, especially when seen from the water. According to them, it’s hard to beat the beauty you can see from the vantage point of a paddleboard.

Indeed, there seems to be something ancient, spiritual even, in the sight of a lone individual standing on a board, pulling through water silently, using the body in a way for which it was designed. That description in itself might be just the reason to give the sport of paddleboarding a try this summer — that is if old-fashioned fun in Maine isn’t enough.


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