Whitewater SUP: an introduction

My background in the paddling world has primarily been aimed towards kayaking.   I grew up kayaking on the Nehalem Bay which is located on the Northern Oregon Coast.  I lived in the perfect area for recreational and tour kayaking.  Recently this year, I made the big move to Portland to finish up my final year of college, and I was fortunate enough to get hired at Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe.  Immediately, I took interest in the stand-up paddle (SUP) department and was completely hooked the first time I stood on a board.  I found that SUP was a sweet combination of kayaking and surfing.  I suddenly had the access to try all types of boards including inflatable stand-up boards; these boards can be used for a variety of paddling (including whitewater).  Having little whitewater experience, I was nervous to try whitewater stand-up.  Luckily, one of my co-workers (Steve) was also interested in trying this up-and-coming water sport.

Steve Pilch SUPing on the Lower White Salmon. Photo by Andrew Romanelli

We decided to do our first run on the Barton-Carver section of the Clackamas River.  This section of the Clackamas River is pretty mellow except for several class II rapids.  We decided to practice on a smaller section before attempting these rapids.  I was completely stoked to be paddling on water that was actually moving, and by the time we approached the first rapid I was really excited (and nervous).  I managed to fall off the board: “When in doubt, paddle it out” quickly became my motto for that day.  I found that if I was nervous and raised my paddle out of the water to focus on remaining stable, I would actually become less stable.  Having the paddle in the water acts as a brace, or something to lean against and stabilize myself when feeling unbalanced.

Steve Pilch SUPing on the Lower White Salmon. Photo by Andrew Romanelli

We finished out that awesome day in a couple hours and were completely enthused about whitewater SUP.  Since then, we have run Bob’s Hole to Memaloose on the Clackamas River, and Steve just did a run on the Lower White Salmon.  We hope to keep getting out there in our spare time and do more whitewater SUP!

-Chelsea Neilson