MARQUETTE - Last week, the increasingly popular water sport known as stand-up paddle boarding was in the news again as five men from Traverse City vowed to make a 60-mile trip across Lake Michigan in an attempt to raise $10,000 for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Nic Dobbs, floor manager at Down Wind Sports in Marquette, said they really noticed the surge in SUP's popularity two years ago.
"Stand-up paddle boarding is probably one of the fastest growing sports in the area," he said. "We were always a big kayak and canoe dealer, and kayak sales are still going strong. But stand-up paddle boarding is by far stealing the kayak sales away."
Stand-up paddle boarders from left, Jeff Guy, Kwin Morris, Joel Mueller, Andrew Pritchard and Joe Lorenz, all of Traverse City, are seen on a West Grand Traverse Bay beach. The five friends plan to paddle across Lake Michigan to raise money for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. (AP photo/John A. Gessner Photography)
Floor manager Nic Dobbs stands by a selection of paddle boards at Down Wind Sports in Marquette, Thursday. Paddle boarding has increased steadily in popularity over the past two years. (Journal photo by Justin Marietti)
Dobbs said he believes some of the interest in paddle boarding comes from the fact that it is new and exciting, and it is also a sport that is easy to adjust to.
"Most people have tried a kayak at least and done it a little bit, but for stand-up paddle boarding, it's something new again," he said. "It brings that exciting mystery of getting out onto the water again and seeing what they can get themselves into."
He said that people use paddle boards for all kinds of different purposes, such as fishing, surfing, cruising from point A to point B, or circumnavigating islands in different areas.
"And they're so easy," he said. "There's very minimal equipment involved with them - a life jacket, a paddleboard, and a paddle."
Dobbs said he especially enjoys fishing from his paddle board, because it offers a different experience from fishing on a kayak or boat.
"If you catch something like a big Pike or something that fights a little bit, it can pull the nose of your board around and cause you to move on the water with the fish," he said.
Down Wind Sports offers a paddle boarding demo event every year during the second weekend in June to people who are interested in trying it out.
"They're a great way to try it out before you go and drop a bunch of money on it," he said. "You can make sure you're going to love it."
Rich Ross, co-owner of Sup Brah Sports in Marquette, said he and his friend Mason Miller founded the company in March 2012 in response to their own passion for outdoor sports.
"Whether it's downhill skiing, mountain biking, paddle boarding, and more - we've pretty much done everything as far as that goes," he said. "Then we knew that no one was really renting paddleboards in Marquette at the time, so we decided to put a business plan together."
Ross said that his company definitely saw a spike in interest last summer, and it has extended into this year.
"We were pretty much renting out all of our boards as soon as the weather got nice," he said. "Especially with people coming up to the area; everybody wants to try it out and get out on the big lake and just check out the scenery from the water."
Becky Tosa, 30, moved to Anchorage, Alaska, six years ago after growing up in Ishpeming. She said that outdoor sports are a way of life up there, which is very similar to Michigan.
"I first paddle boarded three summers ago on Big Lake in Alaska," she said. "I've done it every chance I've had since then."
Tosa said that anyone who has ever been on a kayak or canoe on Lake Superior knows the amazing views that can be seen from the water that just aren't offered from the shore.
"It's also a great workout that builds core strength and balance, and is just a great way overall to enjoy the water without needing a license, a boat, or a ton of experience."