If there’s one certainty about summer recreation in Oregon, it’s that there’s no shortage of ways to get around our waterways.
From rafting class three rapids on a favorite whitewater river to the smooth, near 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 speed across rapids, slip past boulders and leave all your troubles behind.
Each corner of the state offers a unique experience that proves the timeless adage:Oregon offers something for everyone.
Now there’s something entirely new with a different view to Oregon lakes, bays and even rivers; it's a bit like canoeing because you use a paddle and it's a bit like surfing because you're always standing: it's called "Paddle Boarding."
Mahlie Whillas loves to paddle – a kayak or canoe – and as a longtime kayaker she’s been on the lookout for something new and different on the water after she saw a standup paddle boarder on the Willamette River earlier this summer.
Ever since that moment, she's been eager to give it a try: “It looks different, looks like fun and I am sure I will fall in the water but that’s okay,” she said with a laugh and then quickly added, “I am really happy that it’s a hot day.”
On a simmering September afternoon, she decided the time had arrived to step aboard a 12-foot long, 30-inch wide floating board to learn how to paddle while standing!
Scappoose Bay Kayaking in Columbia County recently started a lesson and rental program for folks interested in giving paddle boarding a try. Steve Gibbons, owner of SBK, noted that newcomer interest has really taken off.
“We have so much water here at Scappoose Bay and the greater Multnomah Chanel and so many local people who 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. It required some patience and slow maneuvering to slide onto the board, then rise to her knees and finally, to stand up - and then grasp the 8-foot long paddle.
She was set to explore - under the watchful eyes of guide Ben Hedrich, Scappoose Bay - a shallow extension of the Multnomah Channel.
It's a perfect place to get started and it didn’t take her long: “It’s not too bad,” she noted with a grin. “I’m a little shaky, but definitely fell more balanced than I did fifteen minutes ago.”
Gibbons added that paddlers must recognize that paddle boards are considered boats by the Oregon State Marine Board.
So, 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 or canoes and kayaks - be extra cautious and always on watch when they head out to popular waterways dominated by high speed fishing or ski boats.
"It can be a sobering experience when they pass close by and something that each paddler must be prepared for while they are on the water."
Within an hour of leaving the dock, Whillas was smiling and breezing along the bay – she enjoyed the silence of the stand-up paddling experience and the occasional glimpses of wildlife – bald eagles and blue herons – roosting in the nearby trees.
“A little strange to be standing and paddling but it’s amazing because I can see more - like wildlife up above or the fish and frogs down in the water. 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.”