Going to the Lake: Lake Coeur d’Alene–The Summer of SUP

With beaches and public access that wrap the city’s shoreline; a vibrant, laidback tourism scene; and an active water sports community, Coeur d’ Alene may be the perfect stand up paddleboarding town. Stand up paddleboarding (or SUP) has exploded in popularity at lakes and rivers around the region and is now the most popular outdoor activity among first-time participants according to recent outdoor industry stats. Coeur d’ Alene has capitalized on the SUP craze, offering amenities from rentals, lessons, new board retailers, to SUP events and races for paddlers of all experience levels. Here’s your guide to SUP fun on Lake Coeur d’Alene this summer.

Scout, who can't swim too well, trying hard to stay on the board and out of the lake. Photo: Shallan Knowles
Scout, who can’t swim too well, trying hard to stay on the board and out of the lake. Photo: Shallan Knowles

SUP Clinics for Beginners

“The beauty of paddleboarding is how simple it is,” says Jon Totten, Director of the Outdoor Pursuits Program at North Idaho College. “It’s not as scary as a kayak, and it doesn’t take any skills. You don’t need to know how to do anything!”

Two years ago they added SUP to their student program and their community offerings at NIC’s Workforce Training Center and their Coeur d’Alene Lake beach rental hut. “It is super unique for a program like ours to be open to the community,” says Totten. “But [the community aspect] iswhat has allowed our student program to flourish.”

This summer, NIC will be offering two beginner-oriented paddleboard clinics for those who still harbor a little fear of the sport. The three-session clinics cost $110 and run one day a week starting July 1 (Tuesday evenings) and August 1 (Friday mornings). But if you are game to go out on your own, literally anyone can walk up to the NIC beach house on Yap-Keehn-Um Beach across from campus, rent a paddleboard and the required safety gear (see sidebar) and go. Call 208-769-7809 for more info.

Lakeshore Stand-Up Paddle Series

NIC and ROW Adventures have teamed up to provide another paddleboarding opportunity at the NIC beach house on Yap-Keehn-Um Beach. The Lakeshore Stand-Up Paddle Series races will be held every Wednesday starting July 25 through August 6. No experience or gear is required – just a swimsuit and $15 ($5 for youth and NIC students). Race registration includes board, paddle, and safety gear rental. The races are part of the BIC One Design Challenge Race Series, which includes races around the country. Following the races,participants will gather at Slate Creek Brewing Co. for refreshments and BYO-barbecue.

Situated right downtown on Sherman within view and brief walking distance of City Beach, ROW is often people’s first stop for renting paddleboards and booking tours. “Paddling has grown so popular because it is fun and a good workout,” says Emily Kinsella, Adventure Consultant at ROW. “Paddleboarding is great because it can be done on still lakes as well as whitewater.”

Starting this summer, ROW is also launching Spokane Paddle-n-Brew. This half-day adventure of paddleboarding on the Spokane River with cold brew at No-Li Brewhouse will be available weekly.Rowadventurecenter.com.

Paddleboard Yoga

SUP yoga is getting more popular each summer, with new classes turning up at lakes all over the Inland Northwest. Yoga instructor Katie Fitzgerald has been offering 90-minute yoga classes in collaboration with Coeur d’Alene Paddleboard Company downtown for the past three years. “Combining yoga, fresh air, and the sun is a really beautiful compliment and a great core workout,” explains Fitzgerald. “You really have to slow down and think about your balance and your breath, what you are doing with your body.”

Coeur d’Alene Paddleboard delivers and picks up the equipment, including kayak anchors, to and from the class site, which is typically a nice shallow spot, like Sanders Beach on the east side of Tubbs Hill or Yap-Keehn-Um Beach near the NIC campus. This adaptation of the sport is providing a way for yoga practitioners or anyone interested in working on their balance and flexibility to experience the simplicity of paddleboarding. “We all fall off,” says Fitzgerald, but she can’t deny how much fun it can be. Facebook.com/CDAPaddleboard.

Peaceful evening paddle, with life jackets, near Tubbs Hill in Coeur d'Alene. Photo: Shallan Knowles
Peaceful evening paddle, with life jackets, near Tubbs Hill in Coeur d’Alene. Photo: Shallan Knowles

SUP Pioneer Offers U.S. Made Boards

The first shop in Coeur d’Alene to offer stand up paddleboards in 2007 was Kayak Coeur d’Alene on Locust Avenue, just north of downtown. “Boards have changed a lot since then,” says owner Chip Dalvini.

After seven years of selling and using paddleboards, Chip has seen boards come and go and technology become more specialized as the sport has become popular. This year, due to the wealth of low to mid-quality of boards from overseas companies, Kayak Coeur d’ Alene has decided to only carry U.S. made boards, particularly from Glide SUP in Salt Lake City, Utah. “They have a coating on them to protect them from cracks and are extremely durable,” says Dalvini. “Especially in our area where we have a lot of rocks and gravel on our beaches. They are perfect for what we do.”

If you are looking to buy, Dalvini insists you try a few boards first. “We will demo any board that we stock, any time,” he says. They will also deliver your rental, demo or purchase to Sanders Beach at no charge with a reservation. Kayakcoeurdalene.com.

Beating the Lake Crowds in Post Falls

A few miles downstream in Post Falls, Keith and Cara Quien of Fun Unlimited are making it easy for beginner paddlers to experience SUP a little removed from the bustle of the Lake Coeur d’Alene beaches. Fun Unlimited rents boards at two locations on the lake-like flat water of the Spokane River above Post Falls Dam: the marina at the Templins Hotel and at the beach at Q’emiln Parkacross the bridge. Both locations offer no-wake zone paddling in a beautiful setting that’s perfect for first timers.

“It’s a pretty sweet spot,” says Cara. “You can get out there and paddle around in an area where there aren’t any boats flying around, and it’s really peaceful and calm.” They give everyone a mini lesson before they send them off, and later this summer they will be offering full lessons for the first time on Hayden Lake. Cdasports.com/rentals/paddle-board-rentals.

Coeur d’SUP Paddleboard Races

On Sunday, August 17, the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce will be pulling together SUP enthusiasts for the second annual Coeur d’SUP. The event includes six paddleboard races, one of which is a four-person relay, an open race and a race for 12 and under. Whether you are a paddling newbie or veteran, you won’t want to miss this event. Check the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce website for more details available soon at: Cdachamber.com. //

"We all fall off," says Fitzgerald, but she can't deny how much fun it can be. Photo: Shallan Knowles
“We all fall off,” says Fitzgerald, but she can’t deny how much fun it can be. Photo: Shallan Knowles

I Need a PFD for My SUP?

There is much confusion and debate around the use of personal flotation devices (PFDs) with stand up paddleboards (SUPS). As of 2011, The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has officially classified a SUP as a “vessel” due to its ability to transport operators well beyond swimming areas (unlike inner-tubes and float toys). With a vessel classification, SUPs now have the same requirements as canoes, kayaks, and the like, even though the USCG does not actually have jurisdiction on our local inland waterways. Washington and Idaho are free to implement whatever boating laws they feel are necessary on any non-coastal waterways; however, following the USCG’s lead on this issue, both states have also given the vessel classification to SUPs.

So What’s Required? For the time being, in both Idaho and Washington, you are required to have a USCG approved PFD on yourself or attached to the board when operating anywhere on the water. Operators under 15 are required to wear the PFD. Additionally, you are required to carry a whistle, and in Idaho, you must also have an Invasive Species sticker, which you can get by calling 208-334-4197.

There is one exception to the USCG’s classification, and it’s for people operating a SUP within an ocean surf line-up. Surfers are exempt due to the fact that they often need to suspend themselves under water to avoid oncoming waves. The USCG has determined that it’s actually hazardous for surfers to wear PFDs for this reason. Organizations like The World Paddling Association (WPA) are currently trying to amend the USCG classification to allow SUP riders who are tethered to their board with a leash, which should suffice as an approved PFD, to be exempt from the requirement. //

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