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Inflatable Paddleboards are Awesome. Here’s Why.

August 20, 2015

You may have realized by now that I’m kind of into paddleboarding. The obsession happened almost overnight and it took everyone, myself included, by surprise.

It took all of one trip out on the water to make me realize that I absolutely needed a board of my own. I spent days researching boards, dreaming about blissful outings on the lake, and thinking about all the cool things I’d be able to do from a board of my own (take pictures! take the dog and kid out! take a nap! … you get the idea).

There was just one problem: we had very limited space in or on the car for another piece of equipment.

If you’re the type of person that is reading this blog, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re in the exact same boat. A Yakima roof box pretty much lives on top of our SUV and a hitch mounted bike rack is always on the back. The inside, especially if we’re going anywhere overnight, is crammed with a kid and dogs and camping/biking/hiking/photography gear. If I was going to get a board, it would need to be highly portable.

Enter the inflatable paddleboard.

I will admit that I was a skeptic at first. I mean, how could an inflatable board possibly be sturdy enough to do all the things that I wanted to do? I called up our local paddle shop and asked if I could demo some inflatable boards and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. So much so, that I walked out the door with a board of my own.

The inflatable board gets a lot of attention whenever I take it out of the water and a lot of people have questions about it. They hear the rush of air that comes when I open the nozzle and are shocked to find out that I was literally standing on air. And then the questions begin.

The question that I get asked the most is how do you like that inflatable board? And my answer, without fail, is always something like OH MY GOD I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. Because I do. This is why:

I can take it anywhere. No seriously, anywhere! My board rolls up and fits into what is essentially an oversized backpack. I can easily throw it into the back of the car, walk with it up the trail, or even check it on a plane just like regular luggage. When I bought my board the guy at the guide shop told me that one of his employees had actually taken it to Fiji! How cool is that?! The fact that no extra racks are required to transport this thing is probably it’s biggest benefit.

It’s super stable. I have paddled a ton of boards now and I can tell you that a good inflatable feels just as stable as a traditional hard board. When it’s properly inflated (this is key!) my board is pretty much bombproof. I regularly paddle with a kid or dog on board and even in those more tippy situations, I have yet to fall in. Part of this is because I purposely got a board that is wide and stable so I could take my kid, but it just goes to show that an inflatable SUP can be super freaking solid.

It’s soft. Despite what I just said about how hard the board gets when it’s properly inflated, the deck of it is also nice and soft. This matters when you’re paddling with a squirmy three year old who tends to flop down unexpectedly. He has yet to hit his head on the board but I take comfort in the fact that, if he does, it won’t hurt nearly as bad as hitting something that isn’t filled with air.

It’s bombproof. Running into rocks? 60-pound dog tiptoeing around on the board? No problem. My inflatable board is damn near indestructible. Not having to worry about doing any damage to it allows me to focus on what I’m doing and enjoy the moment more.

It’s easy to inflate. People always ask how long it takes to inflate the board and my answer is “well, it depends”. I started out with the hand pump that it came with and, let me tell you, that didn’t last long. Pumping the board up by hand is work. After a couple weeks I got wise and picked up an electric pump that attaches to the car battery. Now I just pop the hood, hook up the pump, and within the 5-10 minutes it takes to get everything else ready, the board is inflated and I can head out on the water. And deflating it and putting it away takes approximately 1 minute.

So yeah, I love the thing.

If you’re curious about my gear, this is what I use:

Board: The board that I use the most is a Naish Mana Air. I picked it up for a song from a local guide company. It’s several years old now but I have no complaints about it! I also looked at boards by NRS and Hala which were really nice (especially the Hala!) but I couldn’t turn down the deal I got on the Naish.

Paddle: This isn’t the paddle I started with (that one got ran over by a car … long story!) but my current paddle is the Kialoa Insanity. I found that, as far as quality and price go, this is a winner. It’s also super comfortable in my hand.

PFD: Most of the reservoirs around here require you to have a PFD on the board with you (it doesn’t need to be on you). I have an inflatable PFD (like this one). I love that I can wear it around my waist and not even know it’s there.

Pump: I thought an electric pump would be optional but, yeah, not optional. We have this one, which we bought from a friend. It has made life so much easier, you guys!

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Live, Play, Travel

Paddelboarding Leadville’s Turquoise Lake

August 14, 2015

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I am on a mission to paddle as many places as possible this summer. I added #8 to the list today – and it was a doozy.

Leadville is one of my favorite places in all of Colorado and Turquoise Lake, which sits just outside of town, is a beauty. It’s also really high and really cold, making the paddling season fairly short. I had been wanting to get up there for a while – I just hadn’t had a chance to do it when the weather was good.

I found myself with a few child-free hours to kill this morning so I decided to give it a go.  And since the furry dog hadn’t been out on the water yet this year, I decided to bring her along. I also knew that this was possibly a very bad idea.

Neither the kid nor I have fallen off the board since the very first time we went paddleboarding and most of the time I feel pretty confident that neither of us is about to go for a swim. I have pretty good balance on the board and he knows that he has to sit still. We’re a pretty good team.

Put a 60-pound somewhat high-strung herding dog on a paddleboard and it’s a whole nother ballgame. She gives exactly no warning before she jumps up and moves to the other side of the board and counterbalancing her weight takes some effort. And did I mention that this water is cold? I did not want to fall in.

I learned just how cold the water was before we even left the shore. I had coaxed Spotty onto the board and was about to hop on myself when she decided it was time to make a break for it. She leapt for the shore which sent the board shooting out into the water. Before I knew it I was up to my waist, rescuing my board before it floated off into the sunset.

This seemed like a really bad way to start to our adventure.

Fortunately things got a lot better after that. She settled in and we found our groove. The water was calm and quiet and the air was warm. And the reflections of the clouds? You guys, I have never seen anything like it.

I had always thought that paddleboarding in Leadville would be like floating on the clouds. As it turned out, I was right.

We wrapped up our morning with a quick stop for coffee and a croissant and then headed back over the pass towards Summit. It was a perfect way to spend a morning on the water and the company most certainly did not suck!

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

If you go: Turquoise Lake is a perfect place to paddle but remember that it is high and cold. Start early to avoid the storms and winds that rip through the high mountains on summer afternoons. I highly recommend a stop for coffee and lunch at City on a Hill on Harrison Street in Leadville. I have pretty high standards for coffee shops and this one is one of my favorites!

Live, Play, Travel

On the Water: Gross Reservoir

July 29, 2015

Gross Reservoir has been on my “want to SUP” list since last summer when I first got hooked on paddleboarding. I was hoping to make it out there last year but summer went by crazy fast and all of a sudden the lakes in the high country were freezing over and I was dreaming of snowboarding and cyclocross. So it had to wait.

This past week was the first time that everyone was home on a weekend in something like two months so we decided to spend a few low key days in town. My husband is two weeks out from the Breck Epic and needed to get a long ride in on Saturday, so the kidlet and I decided to go for a paddle.

Gross Reservoir is a nestled high in the foothills to the west of Boulder. It is one of the main water supplies for the city of Denver and the city is super protective of it’s most precious resource. Swimming is prohibited and motorized boats are not allowed. This is bad news for boaters but great news if you like to paddle. The only thing that kicks up the water here is the wind that comes rushing off the mountains. And the views definitely don’t suck.

We got a little lost en route to the lake (I’m not sure how – it’s really easy to find) and there were a few times that I considered turning the car around and heading home. The wind had kicked up and I was starting to fear that the water would be too choppy for the little guy. While I have the luxury of standing on the board and staying mostly dry, he sits and gets pretty wet. A cold kid is a grumpy kid and I definitely did not want to paddle with a grumpy kid!

When we finally made it to the Osprey Point boat launch we decided to give it a shot and, man, am I glad that we did. It was a great day.

The best part about Gross Res, and one of the reasons that it’s really fun to paddle, is that it’s full of little coves that you can explore on a board (or kayak or packraft or whatever else you happen to be paddling). While many of the lakes around here are generally just … big round lakes … this one is full of secret spots that you can check out. All those little coves gives this place the added benefit of having a bit more privacy than some of the other lakes in the area. It’s easy to find a quiet spot to tuck away in and feel like you’ve got the place to yourself.

I’m not sure why it took us so long to get and paddle this reservoir but I can tell you that we will definitely be back, hopefully sooner than later. This place is close to the Front Range but feels like it’s way up in the mountains. And maybe the best part? It’s totally free.

If you go: Gross Reservoir is open to car-top nonmotorized boats (think kayaks, canoes, paddle boards) from Memorial Day through September 30th. Because strong afternoon winds are very common in this area (and make paddling a lot harder), it is best to go in the morning on a calm day. There are no rentals onsite so BYOB(oat)!

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