A lingering summer may offer one more chance to try a new and different water-based adventure that’s recently arrived to Oregon’s waterways. This week Grant explores the latest innovation that’s a bit like canoeing because you use a paddle, but more like surfing because you’re standing: it’s called “Paddle Boarding,” and it has spread like wildfire across Oregon for the past few years.

If there’s one certainty about summer recreation, it’s that there’s no shortage of ways to get around Oregon’s waterways: running class III rapids on a favorite whitewater river; the smooth, nearly silent solitude of a canoe paddle on a mountain lake; or the sheer joy of a rocket ride in a jet boat that lets you run across rapids, slip past boulders and leave all your troubles behind. Each corner of Oregon offers a unique experience that proves the timeless adage: Oregon has something for everyone. Now there’s something entirely new with a different view to Oregon lakes, bays and even rivers.

Mahlie Whillas loves to paddle – kayak or canoe – and as a longtime kayaker, she’s been on the lookout for something new and different on the water after seeing a stand up paddle boarder on the Willamette River earlier this summer. On a simmering September afternoon, she decided to step aboard a 12-foot-long, 30-inch-wide floating board to learn how to paddle while standing!

Scappoose Bay Kayaking  recently started a lesson-and-rental program for folks interested in giving paddle boarding a try. Owner Steve Gibbons noted that the newcomer interest has really taken off. “We have so much water here at Scappoose Bay and greater Multnomah Channel and so many people are athletic and outdoor-oriented, and like to try different things.”

Mahlie quickly discovered that the standup portion wasn’t quite as easy as it looked from afar.  She was set to explore – under the watchful eyes of guide Ben Hedrich – Scappoose Bay; a shallow extension of the Multnomah Channel that is the perfect place to get started.

Gibbons added that paddlers must recognize that paddle boards are considered boats by the Oregon State Marine Board. There are critical and required safety items you must wear and bring when you paddle: “A life jacket, an audible US Coast Guard approved whistle, and if you are out at night, you’ll have to have the appropriate and required lighting for the board as well.”

Gibbons also advised that paddlers of non-motorized watercraft, whether paddle boards, canoes or kayaks, be extra cautious and always on watch when they head out to popular waterways dominated by high-speed fishing or ski boats.  It’s something that each paddler must be prepared for while they are on the water.

Within an hour of leaving the dock, Whillis was smiling and breezing along the bay, enjoying the silence of the stand up paddling experience and occasional glimpses of wildlife (bald eagles and blue herons) roosting in the nearby trees. “A little strange to be standing and paddling, and it’s amazing because you can see more – like wildlife or the tadpoles and frogs – up close. My legs are going to feel it tomorrow for sure, but I love the exercise and it really is much easier than I expected. I most definitely plan to do it again.”

About the Author: Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

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