Canoeing or kayaking along the Potomac River, fun as it is, can get a bit blah once you do it often enough. Looking for a new challenge? Turn to standup paddleboarding (SUPing). The popular recreational sport has grown in popularity over the past few years, but it’s actually an old form of surfing that originated in the Hawaiian Islands, where surfers used paddles to cover longer distances.
What draws people to SUPing is its exceptional core and balancing workout. While it may take some getting used to, SUPing is a lot easier to learn than surfing. And with summer heat in full swing, now is the perfect time to try out the new sport. The following places offer standup paddleboarding lessons and rentals along the Potomac.
Key Bridge Boathouse
3500 Water St., NW; 202-337-9642
Price: $20 per hour
Formerly known as Jack’s Boathouse, Key Bridge Boathouse still offers regular non-guided standup paddleboard rentals on top of its unusual fitness classes. Take the intro class, then opt for a challenging twist next time by trying the SUP Fitness or Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga class for $15 more.
408 Alstadts Hill Rd., Harpers Ferry; 304-535-2663
Price: Starts at $29 for two hours
Make a day trip of it and head to Harpers Ferry for two hours of non-guided standup paddleboarding along the Appalachian Mountains. Beginners are welcome to try the $99 three-hour standup paddleboard class, complete with a guided intro to the sport followed by a tour of the surrounding area.
Valley Mill Kayak School
15101 Seneca Rd., Germantown; 301-840-7388
Price: $70 for two hours of instruction, $105 for three
If you want to really learn the ins and outs of SUPing, sign up for one of Valley Mill Kayak School’s lessons, which come with all the necessary gear. The school uses Stride Airlite HD river boards, which are ideal for beginners since they are inflatable and provide a soft landing in case you fall. You’ll learn basic safety precautions, techniques for paddling while standing and on your knees, and effective stroke movements.
Angler’s Lot (10801 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac; 301-881-2628)
Price: Start at $125
This paddlesports outfitter and retailer offers instruction courses and memberships. A membership, which lasts for two years, includes four lessons, coached weeknight practices, board rentals, and a 10 percent discount in the store. Potomac Paddlesports offers four courses, ranging from a fundamentals class to an advanced strokes class to SUP yoga class.
This article has been updated from a previous version.