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SUP THE MAG: Urban Paddling and MKC

Meeting of the Minds

Will Taylor, editor of SUP The Mag, writes in his forward of Urban Reprieve: “Cities make me feel like a child when I do go -whether it is New York, Bangkok or Rome – I wander around in a daze, my senses indulging in the constant stimulation, my neck craned skyward…”.  This reminded me of how I felt coming into NYC to work at my dad’s kayak shop on Union Square after I graduated from college at the University of Colorado. I would come home with him to the suburbs of New Jersey feeling dizzy from it all. In those days, the 1980’s, we often sold the famous Klepper Folding Kayaks to people who wanted to escape and find solace in the wilderness far from the city. NYC was not very paddle friendly at that time. However, a few gritty city stalwarts used their boats to explore all five boroughs and form clubs with dozens of people to do the same. They were the pioneers who set the stage for a time when access and paddling opportunity came into its own. They had the need to find “wilderness”  just blocks from where they lived with millions of others.

Reprieve

As Will goes on to say: “Cityscapes can be stirring, that’s certain. And thank goodness paddling exists because humans can only handle so much urban living.” When interviewed about the founding of Manhattan Kayak Co in 1995, I said that the service we were providing was much better than Prozac prescriptions! Fresh air, water, exercise, and sunshine.

Warp Speed with a Green and Blue Lining

In the 25 years that have passed running MKC, I witnessed both the mind boggling growth of NYC’s skyline and the incredible increase of paddling opportunity. Launching areas grew from a handful of legal launch sites to over 40 within the 5 boroughs. From 1 boathouse to 5 in Manhattan alone. We see the widespread proliferation of bicycles all along the Hudson River Park Greenway, making for a glorious waterfront experience almost around the whole perimeter of Manhattan. Pedaling and paddling  have never been better in NYC.

THE SUP: A Great Urban Paddling Craft

In 2009, I saw it coming. I was by no means the first but I believed that the Stand-up paddle board could add a new dimension to NYC paddling and it did. For one, you stand on it, giving a new view from the usual seated perspective. Then, catching even a 3 foot wave on an SUP feels awesome. Moreover, I quickly realized that there are high-quality portable SUPs that inflate in less than 5 minutes, fit in a sturdy backpack with a 3-piece paddle, and weigh less than 30 pounds. This could be an urban paddler’s magic carpet ride. There are quality inflatable SUPs made by SIC, RED, Starboard, and others. Their performance is excellent. Some folks even prefer the slight flex under their feet. I’m amazed at how quiet they are. But watch out for the low quality 5-star stuff on Amazon.

The Big Reveal: SUPs are cooler than I thought

Manhattan Kayak Company’s very own dynamic duo, Julieta Gismondi and Louanne Harris (aka-Atlantic Super Girls) completed a 1,400 mile, self contained, self supported expedition from NYC to Miami – more info here. They brought their camping, cooking, and multi-season clothing with them.

This journey and other long distance SUP journeys prove the SUPs worthiness for expeditions and adventures. In addition, these boards facilitate platform activities such as swimming, fishing, and yoga. SUPs are as happy on a large pond as they are rivers, lakes, bays, and the ocean. Finally, with modern advances in wetsuits, dry suits, booties and gloves, stand-up paddleboarding is an all-season activity. Try SUP. It’s a great compliment to seated paddling and leads to health, balance, and fun.

– Eric Stiller

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