What's SUP at Captain John's Marina
Captain John's Marina in beautiful Fawn Harbor on the north shore is Big Bear's best kept secret! Captain John's is a full service Marina and the leader in Stand Up Paddleboard rentals, where quiet Grout Bay makes a serene area to learn this fast-growing sport. Electric boat tour, rentals and serene park setting. 39369 North Shore Dr., Fawnskin. (909) 866-6478.
Paddleboarding is a relaxing way to explore Big Bear Lake
Blades provide the propulsion but this is not a canoe or kayak. The board looks like something Duke Kahanamoku or Corky Carroll might ride but it’s not a surfboard.
Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) are the latest rage on Big Bear Lake and for good reason. Your arms are the engine so there’s no gas to buy. SUP helps develop balance and upper body strength so it’s a great conditioning tools. And the boards are great to explore wildlife in quiet bays and coves, though more experienced riders actually "surf" chop in the middle of the lake.
"They’re the world’s fastest-growing water sport," said Debbi Armenta, who took up paddling. "People realize that it’s easy to ride and you don’t need gas. You can burn a thousand calories an hour if you’re really paddling hard."
The quiet, calm waters of Grout Bay in Fawnskin, home to Captain John’s Fawn Harbor and Marina, are ideal to try SUP, especially with a full Big Bear Lake. It’s a Hawaiian-born sport that marina owner John Saunders brought back from the islands after a visit five years ago. At first his marina was the only one to rent the boards but others have since followed suit.
"I am not a good surfer," Saunders said. "When I jumped on a board the first time I thought it was easy and caught a little swell coming in. I got on but couldn’t get off and slammed my nose face first into the beach at about 8 mph."
SUP is easy to learn for just about everyone
Most content themselves with just getting on their knees their first outing, then standing. The paddle provides propulsion and also is a balance aid; the more coordinated you are the easier it is, but this is a sport anyone can do with a rapid learning curve.
Most of the time Saunders gives free lessons to learners who rent a board at his marina. "We had about 10 beginners yesterday and they all had a great time," he said, adding his facility has 17 rental boards for all ability levels.
"I’m a little klutzy so John advised me to stay on my knees longer," Armenta said. "Now I consider myself an intermediate and can go into the middle of the lake (where there’s chop, unlike Grout Bay). I consider people advanced who go into the ocean on real waves."
Much like skis, standup paddleboards come in all shapes and sizes and have incorporated much of the same technology that’s impacted winter. Fatter boards around 30 inches wide are more stable and easier to balance. Transition boards from industry-leader Naish offer stability and are also faster on the water. Some are even rockered just like skis, allowing them to fit between waves and literally surf.
"Surfing is really fun," Saunders said. "The white caps are the same as waves and if you have wind behind you then you really get going fast."
While many SUP boards look much like traditional surfboards, there are also hybrids that are kind of a mix with a kayak. Ocean Kayak’s Nalu design is an example on which riders can stand or sit while they paddle. Plus there is inside storage for fishing poles, tackle or other gear.
Tammy Ardigo started paddleboarding three years ago. "It’s therapeutic to me," she said. "It depends on balance and if yours is poor it may take awhile, but once you find the groove it’s pretty easy." Daughter Mazzy, 10, took up the sport this season and on just her third outing was already paddling into the middle of Grout Bay like a veteran.
Grout Bay affords more than just calm water for paddleboarders too. It’s a virtual wildlife preserve and all around there’s reeds and weeds to explore, home to waterfowl and even great blue heron. Which is the appeal to Jenny Parker, a three year veteran of the sport. "I see blue herons and baby ducks all the time," she said, "but it’s the eagles that really make it special." So does the price; just $25 for the first hour—plenty of time to get a taste of the sport—$40 for two hours or $75 for four.