It’s stand up paddle boarding, one of the newer activities exploding in popularity at Bethany and other Delaware beaches. Just ask our knowledgable staff! Our guides will lead the Stand Up Paddle Boarding trips on the Assawoman Canal, teaching vacationers stand up paddle boarding basics, and helping them safely test their new skill in the Atlantic Ocean.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Delaware has surpassed kayaking in popularity because it is a fun, safe, reasonably priced new way to experience the ocean and the region’s intricate web of inland waterways with their scenic plant and animal life.
...And it’s even good for you – healthy, wholesome, close to nature.
Along the canal we often see birds, otters and other critters. In the ocean you get a whole new perspective because you’re standing. By standing and because the boards are so quiet you get closer to marine life than swimming, snorkeling or even kayaking. When you SUP Delaware beaches, Dolphin sightings are common.
And it helps that stand up paddle boarding has a short learning curve, meaning curious first-timers will instantly know whether stand up paddle boarding is going to be their newest passion or a distraction from babes and dudes on the beach. Some have been hooked enough to plop down anywhere from $600 to $2,000 for their very own board, while others are happy making SUP a vacation rental indulgence.
Our staff advises newbies to start on the Assawoman Canal behind Bethany Surf Shop’s outlet location at 7 Town Road, Ocean View. Parking is free and the canal itself is shielded from the wind. Wind is important because it affects the water current and pushes along sails. In stand up paddle boarding you are the sail, unless you are kneeling, which really isn’t stand up paddle boarding.
Still, short learning curve means you only have to pay attention to our guides for about ten minutes, which is probably more of a learning arc. Anyway that’s how long it will take for our staff to get your board in the water and explain the basics. But you are on vacation, so if even ten minutes of training is too much, here’s roughly what they will tell you:
Set the paddle to your height. Most are adjustable. Boards have a carrying handle at the midpoint and that’s where you want to stand, feet parallel. Mount the board by sliding up on your belly, then your knees and finally stand up. Starting, turning and stopping is a combination of balance and where you paddle. Anytime you feel uncomfortable get down on your knees. For instance, when you are about to run into somethings is a good example.
And something you may remember from riding a bike: It’s easier to stay upright if you are moving. Same with SUP. Another balancing tip: when you feel you’re tipping, stifle the reflex to over-correct.
What about the best age for stand up paddle boarding? We say our oldest customer was a lady in her 80s who did very well. The youngest was four, but he shared a board and rotated paddling chores with his dad. Dogs ride free but vary in aptitude and inclination. Some love it, but so far some have been skittish.
We always start tours off against the current, saving that force to help make the return trek as carefree as possible. He advises day-trippers on their own to do the same. An hour-long tour typically covers three or four miles and usually allows time to explore the Salt Pond. If that’s too much work for anyone, they can always sit down and paddle, or tie onto our guides' tow rope. (paddle board shaming is prohibited.)
Among the other critters travelling the canal are other paddle boarders, pontoon boats, kayaks, and marine police. Our staff enjoys cutting through power boats’ wakes and showing the marine police that everybody on his tours have lifejackets aboard. One-hour tours don’t provide enough time to reach either White Creek or Indian River Bay to the north; Assawoman Wildlife Area, Miller Creek or Little Assawoman Bay to the south. Longer tours or day-rentals for the more experienced put those and other natural areas within reach.
The payoff in the ocean is the exhilarating experience of standing on the surface of a seemingly endless expanse of water and feeling superior to the landlocked sand-bound beachgoers in the distance. If you want to feel especially superior by working out, try racing other stand up paddle boarders. Less competitive? Try Yoga. They actually make paddle boards specifically for that.