A few weeks ago, Jean Alter-Johnson “got tired of living two blocks from Lake St. Clair and never using it.” The Grosse Pointe Park resident wasn’t a boater or a kayaker, but she’d heard of another water sport that seemed fun: stand-up paddleboarding. She rented a board, gave it a try, and loved it so much she launched a local league: G.P. S.U.P.
Not many people are so smitten with a sport after two weeks that they want their whole community to try it, but Alter-Johnson, who owns in the City, said stand-up paddleboarding will win over anyone who loves exercise and outdoor fun. The sport, which is a popular cross-training activity for skiers and snowboarders, consists of standing on a board and propelling oneself through the water with a long paddle.
“There is zero learning curve,” she said. “You get on the board, stand up and go. It’s fun for all ages, it’s a great workout because it engages your core and your arms, and it’s an easy and inexpensive way to access the water.”
While Alter-Johnson finds it “really peaceful in the water” when she paddles alone—such as last Sunday when she paddled from to and back—she believes there are advantages to paddling in a group. There’s the camaraderie, of course, but there’s also safety in numbers, she said, which allows paddlers to venture further from shore than would be wise if they were alone.
G.P. S.U.P, which already has about a dozen members, provides the perfect solution, Alter-Johnson said. With the approval of Grosse Pointe Park Parks and Recreation officials, the league will meet at Patterson Park every Monday night during the summer. The park has agreed to admit league members who don’t have park passes if their names are on a membership roster at the gate.
Because the boards alone can cost between $700 and $1,800, Alter-Johnson said, it’s a good idea for the curious to rent a board first or borrow one from a league member. Detroit Kiteboarding in Harrison Township has agreed to give customers who mention G.P. S.U.P. a 10% discount on a day’s rental, which includes a board, paddle and life jacket. With the discount, Alter-Johnson said, the rental costs less than $50.
Paddlers looking to buy their equipment should remember that not all boards are equal. On its stand-up boarding webpage, the outdoor gear retailer REI recommends that experienced and lighter paddlers choose narrower boards and that novices choose wider, flatter boards, which offer more stability. Paddles should be about six to eight inches taller than the individual, and a personal flotation device is a must. As for apparel, a bathing suit or shorts and T-shirt will do just fine, the company said, and sunscreen and sunglasses are indispensable. Alter-Johnson said she’s looking into ordering skins, also known as rash guards, made with the G.P. S.U.P. logo, which boasts a skull with an eye patch.
The sport is fun for all builds and interests, Alter-Johnson said, noting that her 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son love it. Moreover, one needn’t be fit.
“I do no sports—I’ve never been athletic,” she said.
Alter-Johnson said those interested in the league should join the group on Facebook or send an email. She plans to email members each Monday to let them know the evening’s meet-up time and weather conditions. Children are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.