Say SUP to the Potomac: Stand Up Paddleboarding the DC Area
What could be finer than gently canoeing or kayaking along the Potomac as the sun sets on a burning hot DC summer day? How about paddling your own private vessel where you serve as mast, motor, captain and passenger into the horizon? Stand up paddleboarding (commonly deemed SUP) has floated its way into the hearts of DCers and options abound to hit the areas various waterfronts in a whole new way.
SUP originated in Hawaii as an offshoot of surfing that allowed surfers to paddle out farther, view incoming surf from greater distances, propel faster through waves and enjoy riding the ocean on days when the waves were nothing to hang ten about. The sport emerged in the United States around 2005 and has rapidly gained popularity in the last several years. SUP most significantly arrived on the DC scene in 2011 when the Waterman’s Paddle for Humanity 10K SUP race was held on the Potomac River. Since then, the sport—which can be enjoyed by almost anyone who can stand and walk—has drawn seekers of leisurely fun and intense fitness fanatics alike. The DC area now offers options to hit the water for stand up family fun, hone your skills with private lessons, push yourself to your physical limits and more.
Boating in DC offers a variety of options to get you SUP-ing like a pro in no time. The company offers board rentals at Key Bridge Boathouse and National Harbor for $20 per hour. You can also choose from the SUP Orientation ($35 for one hour of basic instruction and techniques), SUP Workshop ($55 for three hours of specialized skills training atop high end boards) or SUP Yoga Class ($35 for one hour and fifteen minutes of board-top om-ing—no yoga experience necessary but previous SUP experience required). Members enjoy free orientation and discounted classes—consider joining Boating in DC today for waterfront fun all summer long.
Paddle DC offers beginning SUP lessons ($59 for two hours) on the calm waters of the C&O Canal north of DC. Once you’ve mastered the basics, one of their skilled instructors will take you out on to the more rapid waters of the Potomac for a more advanced lesson. One of the master instructors at Paddle DC is Wayne “Cobra” Cohen, an experienced water sport guru. Cobra does not accept payment for his lessons and instead collects donations for a charitable organization agreed upon between himself and his students.
Valley Mill Kayak School allows you to learn the basics of SUP on their calm, private lake at Valley Mill Camp in Germantown, MD, just 20 minutes north of DC. The school offers 3 hours of introductory instruction for $105 from 11 am to noon on scheduled days. Check out the summer schedule and reserve your spot here. Get ready to hit the river once you’ve perfected your skills.
The SUP community at Potomac Paddlesports invites you to join them on the river. Learn the basics in their SUP 101: FUNdamentals class ($125 for three hours of instruction), or consider their Stand Up Paddling Membership Package which includes 11 hours of individual instruction, access to free coached weeknight practices, use of all SUP equipment you’ll need, discounts on purchases from their stores and more. Learn more here, grab your sunscreen and get ready for a summer on the river.
River Riders offers a variety of river fun options to get you paddling the Potomac. Their 3-hour intro SUP class goes for $99 and promises sightings of river turtles, blue herons and egrets, among other river wildlife and beauty. Experienced paddleboarder? You can rent boards and equipment for $29 per 2 hours, $39 per 4 hours or $68 for a full day rental. Possibly the best deal in DC area SUP, come in on a PlayPass Thursday (Thursdays 10am-2pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day) to enjoy $29 rentals for the whole afternoon.
Led by Greg “Suggz” Miller, a DC veteran of all things SUP with over 30 years of paddling experience, Paddlestroke SUP offers calm-water instruction for beginners, Potomac river surfing lessons for more advanced paddlers, SUP race training, SUP summer camps for kids and more. Paddlestroke SUP specializes in SUP and only SUP to bring you a truly safe, fun and quality river experience.
Prefer to hit the river on your own? Check out Potomac River Surf, a community-based website maintained by SUP enthusiasts dedicated to sharing their love of the sport and growing it in a fun and safe way. The website includes tips for getting started including what equipment you’ll need, safety and water level considerations, recommendations on lessons and what to expect on your first day on the water. Want to get super pumped before your first paddle? Check out the photos and videos on the site of recent Potomac SUP action to get inspired, then hit the board! Also, keep an eye on the DC SUP Meet Up group and the SUP DC Facebook page to stay up to date on this passionate and growing community or water sport enthusiasts.
All pictures by and copyright Abbott Klar Real Estate Group