By Lisa Girard
Paddleboarding growing in popularity with area sports enthusiasts
On any given afternoon in the milder months, you can look out into Barnegat Bay or the Navesink River and see people of all ages paddling around in the water. They’re participating in a growing sport called stand up paddleboarding, an emerging global craze with a Hawaiian heritage that can be traced back to the 1930s.
“It’s a hugely popular and growing sport,” said James Gregorio, the regional director for the World Paddle Association, who can often be seen paddling through the waters of Monmouth and Ocean counties. “You don’t have to be on the ocean to do it. A guy in Omaha, Neb., can just as easily go to a lake and do it as someone on the East Coast. Unlike surfing, it basically opens up the whole United States to the stand up paddle market.”
Paddleboarding involves standing on a board and using your legs and core to stay balanced, and then using a long paddle to row across the water. It can be done on a surfboard, but there are fiberglass boards made specifically for the sport that measure anywhere between 12 and 19 feet and cost $1,500 to $3,000. And, one of the best parts is anyone with access to an ocean, lake, bay or river can join the fun.
“If you’re athletic and you like to be on the water, you should enjoy this sport,” said Gregorio, 40, who is a meteorologist with News 12 in New Jersey. “Initially, people who did paddleboarding were surfers or skiers looking for a new outlet, but now the sport is attracting everyone from kayakers, to triathletes, to ‘average Joes.’ ”
After taking up the sport five years ago, Gregorio began racing in 2011 in the 14-foot men’s elite stand up category. He has participated in events in North Carolina, Long Island and Turks and Caicos, among other places. He calls paddleboard racing the “great equalizer.”
“In the racing scene, on any given day, a 16-year-old kid can beat a 45-year-old, or vise-versa,” he said. For example, in the last race Gregorio entered, three of the top four finishers in the “over 40” category were in their early 50s. “It’s a sport you can do long-term because it’s low-impact, very therapeutic and doesn’t put pressure on your joints. It’s a great core workout, a great whole body workout, and renowned physician Dr. Bob Arnot recently called it the best all-around workout of any sport.”
In addition, Gregorio says, recent studies have shown that stand up paddleboarding is the fastest-growing water sport for women. That doesn’t surprise Christine Burke, a public relations/event planning specialist with Full Circle Communications, who tried the sport for the first time in September on the Navesink River and then again in Puerto Rico in April. Burke, who also rows, loves to be on the water and says she plans to do a lot more paddleboarding this summer.
“I have read that stand up paddleboarding is a tremendously fast growing sport, and that women tend to be better at it than men, in part because our center of gravity is lower, giving us better balance on the board,” she said.
Whether we’re talking about male or female participants, Gregorio is just glad to see the sport catching on in a big way in the Two River area. “I began training five years ago on Barnegat Bay, and to see the sport take off and grow so much since then has been really gratifying,” he said.
See additional summer stories and listings in the Summer at the Jersey Shore section, beginning on page 23.