Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cross Country Surfing!?

I think we can all agree that skiing and surfing are siblings — the original extreme sports and ancient sources of stoke.

I think we can also all agree that cross country is an indispensible part of skiing, expanding participation, making it a mode of travel in addition to an adrenaline pursuit, and leading to alpine touring and mountaineering. 

That’s why it is so fitting that Stand Up Paddling has come along. Surfing now has its cross country component, a feeder that opens the sport up to literally every body of water.

So if you’re ever looking for a way to describe SUP to your friends, parents or the otherwise uninitiated, take them back to their grade school days with an A is to B as C is to D statement. This works especially well in Vermont, a mountain-lake state with an ingrained alpine culture.

Q: Downhill skiing is to cross country skiing as surfing is to:

A: Stand Up Paddleboarding!

SUP opens surfing’s door to flatwater exploration, and if you’ve ever been SUP surfing, you know it’s a perfect ocean equivalent to alpine touring through the mountains. 

We can’t surf in Vermont, except when the onshore lake winds kick up — which is not uncommon and can be super fun. But we sure can Cross Country Surf.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vermont SUPsets

Of all the reasons Stand Up Paddling makes so much sense in Vermont — our abundant waterways, our human-powered ethos, our board-riding culture — the quality of Lake Champlain sunsets is the most vivid.

Something just feels right about standing up for the setting sun — paddle idle at your hip, facing west. It's a like salute to the cosmos.

I’m grateful that when those oranges and pinks start to mix before dusk that it’s all happening over an Adirondack backdrop. And if you’re out far enough on the lake, the dark purple of night that hangs over the Green Mountains becomes visible to the East, with a rising moon floating above the ridgelines.

The SUP media landscape (yes, there is such a thing) is obsessed with silhouetted SUP'ers standing in front of the setting sun. I suppose it derives from paddleboarding's surfing roots (this iconic "Endless Summer" movie poster is exhibit A).

But I’ll put our SUP sunsets up against any West Coast or Pacific island backdrop.

If there was any doubt that Vermonters belong on paddleboards, there is always affirmation at about 8 p.m. in the middle of Lake Champlain on a calm day in July.

 Paddle on!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

'A slight chance'

I had the occasion to meet meteorologist Steve Glazier from the local FOX affiliate this week and give him some feedback on summer weather forecasting from a paddleboarder’s perspective.

I got my snide jab out of the way first, mimicking him and his colleagues in Lt. Frank Drebin tones: “Okay, we have a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms this afternoon, but there’s only a 10 percent chance of that.”

Then things got serious. Meteorologists have been relying on percentages so long that they’ve lost sight of how little value they offer. As a Lake Champlain person, you can’t do much with a “40 percent chance of …” forecast, especially if it’s more than 12 hours out.

Steve acknowledged this, as well as the general shortcomings of forecasting through audio/visual media — the flashing lightning bolt graphic that is displayed when there is a slight chance of thunderstorms offering a prime example of the disconnect between reality and covering your bases.

Being surprised on the lake by a pop-up lightning storm is no joke, and meteorologists have an important role to play in helping us avoid that. But some phrases should never be uttered, like: “there is a slight chance of a passing shower.” Really, don't bother. We’ll see it coming. We’ll experience it as it passes by, and we’ll enjoy the calm lifting clouds on the other side.

So I offered a suggestion. Keep the computer-generated percentages to yourself, and if it’s less than a 40 percent chance of precip, just say: “Showers and thunderstorms are unlikely.”

It’s positive. It’s accurate. I really think I got through to Steve on this.

But he had a counter.

“How about, ‘Showers unlikely — but possible,’” he said.

Redundant? Yes, but I’ll take it. There's even a slight chance he'll use it on the air.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Spring Mendoza Line

Sixty degrees. That’s the magic mercury, for both water and air.

After the typical Vermont freeze, when the strength of sun becomes noticeable on your cheeks, it’s not until the air reaches 60 that you first feel free of winter’s clutch. Sixty degrees brings the toes out to wiggle in sandals and reveals legs all around us after so many months of mandatory pants.

For Vermont Stand Up Paddlers, that first 60-degree day starts the clock ticking to the moment you’ll hear the slap of your board hitting the water for the first time in the New Year.

Finishing the ski season strong, thoughts shifting to leis and the Lake

This was an especially chilly winter as far as recent memory goes — although typical by Vermont folkloric standards. Lake Champlain froze completely for the first time in ten years. March was cold. April was cool, cloudy. May has been all over the place, but decidedly not warm. The last patches of mountain snow are just now dispersing into creeks and tumbling toward the valley.

Water temps in Lake Champlain remain in the upper 40s …

Dry suits and jackets — spring in Vermont
But they are rising toward 60! — that next plateau in our SUP season. Sixty degree water marks an unofficial beginning to the Lake Champlain summer. It’s when Stand Up Paddling in Vermont can be what Stand Up Paddling is meant to be.

This is a Hawaiian sport, rooted in surfing. It's brought a real connection to that sunny spirit of Aloha to the Green Mountain State. We have no doubt added our twists, donning dry suits to play with ice chunks on the Winooski River in March and pushing early season outings on Lake Champlain.

But as much as we can gear up for some guerilla spring SUPing, the sport goes best with summer days and sunset colors. That iconic surf vision of running over sand toward water with a board under your arm can only happen in-season.

And it all starts at 60 degrees.

Behind schedule perhaps, but it's coming ...


Saturday, October 5, 2013

September to Remember

   As season-enders go, September 2013 with its Colorado-like stretches of dry and warm days mixed with Vermont splashes of fall color proved spectacular. Oh, there were some blustery 58-degree days in there too, mostly early September. But then … 


One of the 58-degree-ers

Mid- AND Late-September

The Middlebury Men's and Women's Ski Team - preseason training

   Word from the southeast is that the typical Atlantic swell season has been consistent, if not huge. There’s nothing like that setting sun warming your face in the late afternoon on the ocean.

   Helloooo October ...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hoop Dreams

Where to begin after so many great weeks of SUP in Vermont?

How about with hooping!?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Stand Up Paddleboarding, it’s that whatever people love to do on land, they are finding that they also love to it do on a paddleboard. Yoga, Hula hooping, being with your dog … It’s all happening on boards.

We combined forces with the super-talented Green Mountain Hoop Troupe about mid-season and, well, the results speak for themselves.

In other news, summer is not over. Paddle on, Vermont!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Island Life in Vermont

   It didn’t take long after I moved to Vermont that I was presented with the reality of the Champlain Islands. You’re telling me there exists an archipelago on Lake Champlain that borders Quebec, New York and Vermont's mainland with hundreds of miles of shoreline and a quiet, lush landscape that is just 20 miles from downtown Burlington and is affectionately called “The Islands” by northern Vermonters?

   Well, color me enthralled.

   The Champlain Islands’ gravitational pull has tugged me ever since. The whole concept of a series of island towns lying in a sunny sovereign zone amid the Champlain waters captured my imagination. When I starting exploring Vermont on a Stand Up Paddleboard, a visit to the Champlain Islands was tops on the list.

   It’s taken a while, but we finally pulled off a trip to the island town of North Hero last week, launching from City Bay with a view of Knight Island State Park in the near-ground and Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, above in the distance.

Setting out toward Hibbard Point east of North Hero
   One unique aspect of paddling here is that, while you are in Vermont, you are looking east, toward the Green Mountains. The rest of Vermont’s Champlain shoreline faces west offering New York Adirondack views. The islands offer those too, but we launched from an east-facing bay and had the northern part of the Green Mountain State as a backdrop.

Island Hopping ...
   With water being such a huge part of the Vermont Island lifestyle, Stand Up Paddleboarding is poised to be as big a hit here as it has become everywhere else. Why not? Island-hopping on a paddleboard, endless shorelines, lush greenery, mountain views, coves and bays. SUP was seemingly made for this place.

The North Hero House Inn is starting things off with a program of Stand Up Paddleboard rentals, lessons and guided tours. Check out this uber-romantic Vermont spot at

See you on the water ...