Friends going down a river on paddleboards
Friends going down a river on paddleboards

SUP Adventures Are Better Together

Every new outside activity is a chance to explore the world in a new way—and push ourselves outside our comfort zones. And while you don’t always need new gear to do that, let’s face it, new toys provide a little extra shove to get out there.

And so do friends—especially when being a beginner at something can feel a little intimidating.

I brought both with me when a few of us from KEEN HQ took our new stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) to learn the SUP ropes a bit more and explore the Scappoose Bay tidal inlets in the lower Columbia River estuary. I’ve only ever taken my SUP out on lakes, so I was eager to explore a new type of paddling with the support of a posse.

Spoiler alert: It was a blast; I didn’t capsize or get stuck hopelessly paddling against a current; I may have made a complete fool of myself a few times; and I managed to paddle through afternoon headwinds to make it safely back to the marina. Here’s what else was so great about it:

I PADDLED FARTHER THAN I EVER HAVE.

I thought to turn on my GPS fitness tracker (which I’ve only ever used for running and cycling) when we got close to our turnaround point. I’m glad I did, because it showed that our meandering added up to about 6 miles of paddling over roughly 3 hours. That’s probably about 5 miles and 2.5 hours longer than any of my previous lake outings on my own.

I WAS BRAVER.

I have an inflatable SUP from Surftech. I love it. It's easy to throw in my car and takes me about five minutes to inflate, and it feels super solid. But since it’s new, I still haven’t tested how well it does when it scrapes against underwater objects like tree limbs and rocks. There were a few very shallow and narrow inlets with downed trees everywhere that we wanted to check out. On my own, I probably would have turned around. But I felt a little more fearless knowing I could hitch a ride back on Alie’s or Maliah’s board if something catastrophic happened. (In hindsight, I realize that inflatable whitewater rafts are made out of the same material and get tossed against hard objects in the water all the time.)

I WAS SILLIER.

Who better to look ridiculous in front of when attempting to do some SUP yoga and nail a Crow Pose than your work family? (Truth: I didn’t nail it…yet…but we all laughed hard trying!)

And perhaps the best part is that I connected with my coworkers outside of the office. We bonded over newbie maneuvers and near misses, and came away with a few inside jokes.

I still enjoy paddling solo to recharge in solitude. But I’m definitely hoping to organize a few more—and larger—coworker group paddles before the Pacific Northwest rain sets in. Our office closes at 3 p.m. on Fridays during the summer, so we can all jumpstart a weekend of outside fun (it's one of the best perks you can give a Portlander).


IF YOU GO:

1. You need an Aquatic Invasive Species Permit on Oregon waterways if your vessel is 10 feet or longer in length, and you need to have a personal flotation device (PFD) and emergency whistle with you.

2. Try before you buy. The Scappoose Bay Paddling Center offers SUP rentals by the hour or day. You can/should call ahead to reserve one.

3. Time your paddle with high tide to explore the inlets.

4. Water sandals are a must for getting from the parking lot to the water, and they’re great for launching since the shoreline is a little mucky. Maliah wore KEEN EVOFIT ONE sandals, Alie wore Whisper sandals, and I wore my Newport sandals, and we all strapped them to the webbing on our boards after we launched. You can hook them on with a carabiner for extra security.

5. Waterproof/foolproof storage: If you plan on bringing any valuables, like a phone or camera on your paddle, a dry bag will keep your stuff safe in a worst-case scenario.

6. Many PFDs have pockets for easy-to-grab snacks. Pack compact energy-filled goodies or put them in your dry bag to refuel along the way.

7. Bring H2O. Even though you might be surrounded by water as far as the eye can see, it’s still crucial to drink a fair amount of water during your adventures. Pro-tip: Leave an insulated water bottle filled with ice-cold water back in the car for a refreshing drink when you are back on dry land.

8. Go with a group. There are Stand Up Paddleboarding meetup groups all around the world. And the Portland group often paddles Scappoose Bay.

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