5 best places to try the fastest-growing watersport

Stand-up paddleboarding– known as SUP– is one of the easiest watersports (or outdoor activities of any kind, for that matter) to learn. It’s a unique way to sightsee while testing your balance and working your core muscles.

Here are 5 great places in West Virginia to try it out:

1. Summersville Lake

Summersville Lake’s clear waters prompted Skin Diver Magazine to call it “The Little Bahamas of the East.” West Virginia’s largest lake is an ideal spot for beginners.

With 2,700 acres of water and more than 60 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty to explore. You can also go rock climbing, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, fishing and boating.

You can rent paddleboards from Sarge’s Dive Shop and Summersville Lake Retreat, or take a guided trip with one of the local outfitters to learn the ropes (and find the most scenic spots on this massive lake!)

2. Potomac River

Paddle through gentle ripples on the Potomac River as you explore the region’s rich history. It was here at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where our nation took one of the first major steps toward the Civil War: John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Overlooking the 2 rivers is Jefferson Rock, named for President Thomas Jefferson, who paid homage to the scenic view in his “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

Paddleboarders also will find a variety of wildlife on the river, including blue herons, egrets and river turtles.

River Riders has rentals and guided tours.

3. Cheat River

The Cheat River Water Trail winds 40 miles through calm, flat pools and wide, shallow riffles, so you can lounge and drift a bit before you gear up to navigate the next set of mini-rapids.

With 9 access points, you can take a quick morning paddle to a day-long excursion past quiet farmlands and wooded hillsides. Several sandbars and rocky beaches make convenient spots to take a break.

Get rentals or take a guided trip through Blackwater Outdoor Adventures.

4. Sutton Lake

If you’re looking for a quiet place to commune with nature, you’re in luck. Sutton Lake is surrounded by more than 10,000 acres of public land. Created by the Sutton Dam, the 1,440-acre lake sits along 14 miles of the Elk River.

You won’t see any houses of commercial developments– just miles and miles of pristine water and green mountains. The lake’s 44 miles of shoreline forms hundreds of secluded coves to explore on your paddleboard.

If that seems like a lot of area to cover, you can even rent a houseboat and make a long weekend out of playing on the lake! Pick up rentals at Sutton Lake Marina.

5. New River Gorge SUP Race

West Virginia’s only SUP competition rushes down the New River during Gauley Fest.

The race is split into 2 parts: an upstream attainment race, and a downriver whitewater race with several challenging rapids, up to Class IV. There’s even free instruction and equipment demos for newbies who want to try out a paddleboard. It’s so easy to learn that with just a quick lesson, you may even be ready to test your new skills on the easy rapid!

Come for the race … stay for the after party! Gauley Fest has live entertainment, a whitewater marketplace, raffle and silent auction.

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This post was last updated on July 24, 2020