First, the fun. Paddleboard sales show the growing excitement of this popular mode of making way on the river, in this case the Tennessee above the Fort Loudon Dam. Rentals offer a great way to experiment with the sport and give it a go. Called Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) offers the opportunity to become instantly mediocre at it assuming one has an iota of balance. The exercise component is significant as a cross-training full body workout results from the pulling, bending and balancing motions. Now small boutique stores along with the large outdoor stores like REI sell a variety of brands and options. Of course some controversy helps like in the length of the board.
One rule of thumb suggests six inches to eight inches longer than one’s height. Others recommend up to ten inches. Now called a Personal Flotation Device, thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard, one should always wear a life-preserver and now must wear one as a rule of theirs. Yes, required since the board earned a “vessel” designation. There are now 19 million hits when one searches the word “paddleboard.” That provides plenty of confirmation of the storm the sport stirs on rivers, lakes and seas.
Kayaking remains the granddaddy of river fun though the elder statesman remains the canoe. Kayaks offer either top riders or cockpit driven models.Favorite models known as tandems offer fun with a friend. Work hard and the Olympics may beckon you to chase a medal.
Sailing works just as well though the sport involves a substantial outlay plus maintenance. Sometimes the air doesn’t cooperate and out comes the putt-putt to make it to the dock. Refrigerated spaces and even bathrooms may help in many ways along with the opportunity to drop anchor and sleep overnight. Just find a nice cove somewhere.
At the end of the day, exercising, getting fit while having fun, refuel with a healthy assortment of fruit and unsweetened tea. A shake with a mix of unsweetened hemp milk, Carob powders, ice cubes, chia seeds, a banana or two, berries of your choice and maca powders blends a perfectly refreshing nutritious drink.
Dangers linger on the big rivers; not only with speed boats, pontoons, and party boats, but also hazards when tug boats push 500 feet or more of heavy, lumbering weight in front of them. The Bearcat makes the Tennessee River home but has two separate incidences here and here of running over much smaller boats on the water, killing three. Both accidents, without placing fault, were fishing boats anchored in navigation channels; never a good idea. If you see a tug, get to the side or onshore to enjoy them. Watching a big tug rounding a huge curve is a lesson in river-piloting like no other. Just remember, any craft less than another tug boat will lose a confrontation. Even if just in fun in your eye, don’t let fascination with the river and those working on it ruin your day.
[All photos by Paul E. Smith]