Paddle Boarding Makes a Splash in Eden Prairie

A slow-moving sport with fast-growing popularity.
Stand-up paddleboarding is a tranquil but invigorating sport.

Is there anything more serenity-inducing than gliding across the water on a sunny, summer day? Minnesotans have traditionally used boats, canoes or kayaks to achieve that state of summertime zen. But a new method is quickly gaining in popularity: stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). Megan Kelzenberg, a recreation specialist for the Three Rivers Park District, tried SUP for the first time last year and was immediately hooked. Last July, Kelzenberg and other park district employees completed an intensive, 3-day class offered by the American Canoe Association, to become instructors. Now, she teaches the sport in classes held at TRP facilities. Those classes have been very popular, Kelzenberg notes, an indication of the sport's fast-growing popularity. Why has the sport caught on so fast? It's relatively easy to pick up, and people find it a great way to combine exercise and fun. It also offers a more panoramic view of the lake or other body of water, Kelzenberg notes. “You can see more, looking out over the water and also into the water,” than you could sitting down in a canoe or kayak. Also, if the user falls off the board, it’s relatively easy to climb back on, because the boards are designed for maximum stability. People trying the sport for the first time often fall once or twice, “but that’s good, because then they realize it’s not a big deal, and that it’s not difficult to get back on,” she says. Instructors can provide some tips on the easiest way to get back on after falling off. For those interested in trying SUP for the first time, she says, one of the keys is picking the right board. Boards intended for novices are larger and heavier—therefore more stable and “forgiving,” Kelzenberg notes, than the boards used by SUP racers, and other, experienced users. “You can make it what you want: it can be relaxing or a strenuous workout, or both,” she says. Paddling mainly exercises and strengthens the body’s core, rather than the arms and legs. Paddleboards have become one of the fastest-selling items at Bokoo Bikes and Paddle Sports’ store in Chanhassen, according to general manager Jeremy Budd. The store sold out of its stock last year and expects to sell about twice as many this summer.  Paddleboards typically sell for $600 to $2,500 each, depending on the brand and features, Budd says. For a quality, all-purpose board, expect to pay at least $800 to $1,000, Budd advises. The lighter, faster boards made for racing generally range in price from $1,500 to $2,000.  Regardless of what kind of board you choose, “it’s a great way to spend a warm summer day or an evening,” Kelzenberg says. “If people are intimidated, we recommend taking a lesson.” Lessons will be offered this summer at Bryant Lake Park in Eden Prairie. Those course offerings will include an even newer activity, which originated on the West Coast—stand up paddle board yoga. Board rentals will be available at Bryant Lake.   For the second year, Three Rivers Park District will provide instruction to beginning paddle boarders ages 14 and older at Bryant Lake Regional Park in Eden Prairie. All equipment will be provided, for a $35 course fee; reservations are required.   Other offerings will include SUP lessons for women, a Beyond the Basics class, and even SUP yoga classes—the newest wrinkle from the West Coast. The district will also offer “SUP When the Moon Is Full: a chance to experience the peacefulness of an evening on the water, under a full moon,” on July 21 at Bryant Lake. Pricing: $20 ages 8-13; $35 ages 14+. Private lessons available for $65, $95 for two-on-one, or $122 for a group of three to seven people. Lessons two hours each; $8 for 30-minute board rental.