Stride Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Lesson, Brew Stash Bash, & Kayaking

Monday, June 18, 2012

WOW! It was an action packed weekend here in Charlotte, full of water (x3) and lots of eating! The weather was phenomenal and set the tone for a perfect weekend. I have to confess, I've been uncharacteristically sedentary since The North Face Ultra Endurance Challenge two weeks ago.  And it has been fantastic. My diet has been horrendous which usually isn't an issue when I'm logging 30+ miles a week running. I feel I made up for some of it this weekend.

Michelle and I made the most of the every minute this weekend, beginning early Saturday morning.  I had scheduled us a stand up paddleboarding (SUP) lesson for 10AM and decided we needed a good breakfast...really I just love eating and banana pancakes sounded amazing! I've been trying to be better about using all of the produce I buy. One way I have been able to accomplish this is by throwing fruit that is overripe into the blender and making smoothies. I almost always have bananas in the house, but sometimes its difficult to use them all before they go too ripe for my liking (I prefer them on the green side...not yellow with spots). I stumbled across a recipe via Pintrest that used overripe bananas for pancakes. Better yet, they're whole wheat. 

Banana Wheat Pancakes


Once we were all fueled up, we packed up the Subaru and headed north toward Latta Plantation which is on Mountain Island Lake about 15 miles north of the city. When I purchased the Groupon the details included a two-person evening/sunset paddleboarding lesson, but when scheduling the lesson I decided the earlier slot worked out best as we had plans to head to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for the Brew Stash Bash. More on that later.

We were the first to arrive at the put in location, which also happened to be where we took our kayaks Sunday morning. I introduced myself to the instructor who was unloading the paddleboards from his truck.  As soon as he mentioned his name, Luke Hopkins, I realized our instructor was also the owner of the paddleboard company, Stride. The company had caught my attention a few months back when I read an article in Blue Ridge Outdoors about best rivers, which quoted Luke about the New River as a favorite SUP run. What really caught my eye was the fact that the company is based out of Blacksburg, VA. Awesome! Buy Local. Eat Local. Be Local. The group was 8 in total, including the instructor which seemed to be the perfect ratio. After a brief on land lesson we were out on the water paddling but not standing up, instead paddling from a kneeling position.

Michelle kneeling to start

Eventually after a brief instruction on standing up the group bravely attempted standing, surprisingly with great success. To say that we had a blast would be the understatement of the century. I probably spent about as much time in water as I did on my board, not because of difficulty but because I was trying to challenge myself by walking forward and backward on the board.

This also proved an excellent opportunity to try out my new point and shoot camera. My old point and shoot survived 6 years, including a trip out west to Philmont in Cimarron, New Mexico and a summer in the back pocket of a sweaty cycling jersey cycling cross country. This purchase has been long planned for and while I waited (just over two years) they released two newer versions. I took a bunch of photos during the two hour course seen below. Two notes about the photos. I have not purchased a floating strap for the camera yet (all the reviews on Amazon say the smaller sections of straps break where attaching to the camera) so it was attached to my life jacket via carabiner. This made aiming/framing the photos more difficult. Second neat note is that the camera has a GPS feature and geotags each photo when taken (if the option is selected). This is useful and just really a cool bonus feature when viewing photos in iPhoto by place/location.

Everyone's first time standing up!

The inflatable Stride Airlite HD

Michelle dominated the balance aspect from the start.

After paddling around for awhile Luke suggested we play a little game by creating a really long train also known as the worlds longest paddleboard. Each individual pulled the person behind them onto the stern end of their board. We paddled around for a while together which ended up as us paddling around in a giant circle.  The fun thing about this was that everyones weight and movements were magnified through the train, so if one of us got wet, it was likely we all were!


Michelle being pulled up to form the "World's longest paddleboard"

"World's longest paddleboard"

At this point we began making very large circles.

The tricky part came when you had to detach yourself from the train, which was accomplished by moving to the back of the board lifting the front of your board off the train. I fell. Michelle didn't. Story of the day!



A really cool feature of the Stride SUP are rings on the edges of the boards, which can be used to add dry bags to the front or rear for longer outings (or optional kayak seat)...or to latch together two boards with carabiners, creating an awesome two person board!  I resisted the huge temptation to push Michelle off her board which was good because I needed her in my favor for the upcoming two person race. We didn't win...and almost ate it several times but managed to not fall in.

Michelle and my boards joined together via d-rings and carabiners.

Luke took some photos of us, pretty awesome start to our Saturday.



For the second hour of the lesson we were able to simply paddle around and try to hone our skills on the paddleboard. Michelle seemed to master moving to the back of the board and making a sharp tight turn...I managed to master the fall into the water looking silly. I did have a blast the whole time while doing it though, it was tough not to have a smile on your face.




The paddleboard provides an awesome platform for getting out on the water.  Stride paddleboards are inflatable and designed to be rugged for use in rivers where hitting rocks is likely. Portability is also a big advantage to inflatable paddleboards as they can be rolled up and easily thrown in the back of a car instead of having to deal with straps and a roof rack. In addition to just cruising the rivers, paddleboards are now being used for yoga. Some of our class decided to give it a try:

The class giving yoga a try on the paddleboards.

 
Michelle displaying her paddleboard dominance...

 almost.

The class wasn't all work, Michelle managed to find some time enjoying the other uses of a paddleboard...

hard at work...or hardly working?


Eventually I agreed to entrust Michelle with the camera...it is waterproof after all...it just doesn't float...yet.






A little after noon we paddled back to shore and thanked Luke for the awesome lesson. If your in the Charlotte, NC area (or near Blackburg or Roanoke,VA)  I would HIGHLY recommend looking into a lesson with Stride. The experience could not have been any better!

There is just something about being outside in the sun and out on the water that makes me think of grilling out. More specifically, hot dogs. That's exactly what I was craving as we were making the short 15 mile drive back from Mountain Island Lake. Michelle and I agreed that we would try to eat out less in an effort to eat healthier, but on a Saturday like this we couldn't help but stop to try Green's Lunch. Green's has been around in Charlotte since 1926 and somehow Michelle and I had not managed to try it (well the real reason is their hours are M-F 7AM-4PM Sat 9-2, a little tough for someone who doesn't work in the city). Additionally, I didn't even know they accepted cards until I just looked up their website (Yelp claims cash only). The place was pretty full when we arrived around 1, and after asking the lady what to order, Yelp say's they're the best hot dog place in town, hence why I thought of Green's to go for lunch.  We decided on a cheeseburger all-the-way (slaw, chili, mustard, onions, maybe some other stuff?) a chili cheese dog, and a hot dog all the way. $7. Can you beat that? I will definitely be stopping in again!

Green's Lunch. If you haven't tried it, you haven't lived!

For the second half of Saturday, on our 3x Water weekend, we headed out the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) for the Brew Stash Bash. The inaugural Brew Stash Bash was marketed as a "Carolina craft beer tasting" included beer samplings from 10+ North Carolina breweries and live music, free to the public ($5 parking fee). The USNWC is just a cool venue with the "river" flowing right behind the stage and plenty of large boulders for seating, it's perfect for concerts and provides a chill-relaxed-atmosphere.


When we arrived, parking was at a premium as folks arriving were being directed into employee parking only to find out the lot was already full. Luckily the Outback handled the off-road conditions, Subaru Love! The USNWC really is a great location for families, as it has not only whitewater rafting but also a climbing wall, zip-line, high ropes course...plus the Brew Stash Bash for all those overworked parents. Again, I brought my new camera to take photos and document the afternoon.

The picture above shows the zip-lines from a tower behind the stage.

Brewers Tents.

The Whitewater Center is pet friendly, four legged friends were abundant at the Brew Stash Bash and when we've been there on Thursday evenings for the Whiteater River Jam concert series (also free, $5 parking).

The dog enjoying the water...it was pretty warm Saturday afternoon.

Staches all around - Christy, David, Michelle, and I



Finally we called it an evening and headed back toward town with a scenic detour on the way home, as I was not paying attention and missed the exit for I-77. All that time at the Whitewater Center made us work up an appetite and I couldn't think of a better treat then froyo. Froyo (frozen yogurt) is like the cupcake of 2011. Little boutique stores are opening all over the place, but with so many the prices are great and the serve yourself makes sure you don't get "Coldstoned." 


Sunday morning we decided to continue our water themed weekend and do a three-peat...errr...triple-threat-water-weekend....3x Water! This was only the second opportunity we've had to take out our kayaks as Michelle has been out of town for the past couple weeks. After our great experience at Mountain Island Lake Saturday morning, we decided to return and explorer further out into the lake, plus it was only 15 miles to the put in which worked well for our schedule.




Just as we were leaving the no wake area we saw a bunch of Canadian Geese. Normally I'm not a fan as they make a mess of our walkways at work, but out here in their element swimming, plus there were like 30 of them...and they can be vicious!


Our experience on Saturday paddleboarding made me envy the ease of getting in and out of sit-on-top kayaks and the ability to go play in the water when you get hot. We managed though, we found a nice shore to go swimming at and cool off! I'm really looking forward to taking our kayaks out to a river, not anything serious, just something with a current instead of being entirely responsible for my movement.





Garmin data from Sundays Paddle.  I forgot to take off my watch when we went swimming, almost killed my Garmin 310XT...again...the screen is still cracked from the Warrior Dash

With Michelle headed home in the early afternoon for fathers day, I found myself tempted to go out for a mountain bike ride. It is sad to admit that I had to literally dust off my mountain bike, as I haven't taken it out since last fall (August??). The whitewater center is an awesome resource, but I didn't leave the house for my ride until 5 and I didn't feel like driving the 20 minutes over there +paying. Instead I opted for Renaissance Park, a county park with 145 acres including baseball fields, an 18-hole frisbee golf course, and a solid trail system for mountain biking. As it was late in the evening, I only saw one other mountainbiker out on the trails toward the end of my ride. All-in-all managed to get in over 7 miles which was good considering it had been 9 months since the bike had been out.

 The Epic at Renaissance Park


It was an awesome weekend, absolutely jammed packed both days, amazingly enough it didn't really feel that exhausting, nor do I feel wiped today. I like to think all that recovery and binge eating over the past two weeks since my first ultra helped!

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