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Walk on Water

Local pros share tips for enjoying our waterways

It’s springtime and the water is calling. Who better to provide advice for where and how to get on a boat, stand up paddleboard or surfboard than our local pros? Here, a few Central Oregon water groupies share their new passions, favorite destinations and ways to have fun in the waves.

Adventure SUPing

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP), a sport which 10 years ago was still in its infancy, is maturing into a much more nuanced activity that has gone in several different directions. Among the most recent SUP sub category to surface is adventuring SUPing, which utilizes inflatable paddleboards. Thanks to design and material improvements, inflatable paddleboards are becoming the go-to choice for paddlers who want to get on the water in locations off the beaten track.

As Carrie Allan from Kialoa Paddles, a local paddle and paddleboard maker here in Bend, explains, “These inflatable stand-ups are very easy to carry and inflate at remote locations. They are made from the same materials as whitewater rafts, have dual action pumps and can be fitted into an actual backpack.” That packability has other advantages, as Nolan Wilson of Kialoa adds, “The inflatable boards are great for traveling. You can fly with them and pack the board in your rig if you’re on the road and not have to worry as much about vandalism or theft.”

Inflatable stand-up boards like the Waikiki Inflatable SUP from Kialoa and the Newport Air 11’0” from Stand On Liquid are great options for adventure-seekers, but don’t expect to win any races on these soft decks. The traditional fiberglass boards still rule the day when it comes to all-out performance, especially on flat water. “The inflatables will never replace a hard board or a traditional epoxy style board in terms of performance. But for recreational purposes they meet nearly every criteria,” explains Wilson. “They are mobile and can take a beating compared to hard boards.”

SUP Tips From the Pros

Nolan Wilson of Kialoa Paddles

“For beginners, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Go down to Sun Country Tours right in the Old Mill. Rent a board for an hour. It’s a very reasonable rate, and you can get a short, ten-minute on-land instruction session to learn the basics, like really take baby steps in going from your knees to standing up. Just try to enjoy yourself and dip your toe in the water.

After you become a little more invested, load up your board and go to the high lakes. Paddle for an hour at Hosmer Lake and just take in the scenery. Make it a day where you really check out, where the cell phone stays in the car and you unplug and reconnect with nature and your fellow paddler.”

Q Wilson at Stand On Liquid

“We do rentals for 24 hours, so you get the opportunity to go out and enjoy a few different paddle experiences. Roll into our shop between 9 and 9:15 a.m. and get your board early. Have a cooler with your lunch packed, and get your waiver signed. We’ll do a quick little 101—‘here’s where you stand, here’s how you hold a paddle and here’s some killer spots you can paddle at.’

We always recommend the Deschutes River because it’s quick and easy, but if people want to experience more of what Central Oregon has to offer we recommend Elk Lake, Sparks Lake, and Hosmer Lake. Those all have day-use beaches, so a family of four can take a couple boards up there and go paddle around, have a great time and enjoy their lunch. In the morning, before returning the boards, they can go for an early morning paddle on the river. With a one-day rental you can enjoy the flat water of the high lakes and views of the Cascades, and also float through the Old Mill down the river. It’s a great first-time experience.”

Rob McDonald at Stand On Liquid ...

“For the hardcore paddler, get an inflatable board that you can carry on your back. Backpack up to South Sister and paddle in the pool. It’s beautiful and provides a great Instagram photo. The inflatables come with a three-piece paddle, so you have everything you need to get out there—you just need strong lungs and strong legs.”

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Whitewater Rush

This season marks a pivotal moment in the history of Central Oregon whitewater sports, with the opening of the Bend Whitewater Park. While the park did open for six weeks last fall, the designers realized some tweaks were needed in order to really create a viable park that would live up to the project’s expectations, with four stationary, surf-able wave sections ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert. The park will reopen March 15, and marks the culmination of a long planning and construction process.

“We started the project 14 years ago when we first moved into this space,” says Geoff Frank, owner of Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. “We realized that there was an old dam out there that wasn’t serving any purpose—it was a huge obstruction in the river that led to injuries and fatalities. We wanted to clean it up and create something cool—there was a potential for a recreation opportunity right there.”

While similar parks exist throughout the western United States, what separates the Bend Whitewater Park from the rest is the four separate and distinct waves: one designed for river surfing, one specific to kayaking, and two intermediate and beginner waves where people from all disciplines can learn the ropes and get comfortable in bigger water.

The surfing alone may revolutionize recreation here in Central Oregon. The green glassy wave, which can be manipulated thanks to adjustable underwater bladders, will now provide a legitimate and legal way for surfers to catch a wave without having to break for the coast at the soonest report of a swell or risk arrest surfing the waves that are artificially created in the local canals (a long-time under the radar and illegal pastime for some).

Whitewater Tips From the Pros

Geoff Frank at Tumalo Creek and Kayak …

“The river surf boards carried by Tumalo Creek are shorter, fatter, thicker, and more rockered versions of ocean-going boards—the river boards have more buoyancy that allow them to handle the strong current with ease. While more experienced surfers will go without, it is recommended that riders wear helmets and body armor. There are rocks and it can make for a treacherous slam if one is not prepared. For kayakers, wear a helmet, life jacket and be in a boat that is whitewater rated.

If you’re not up for surfing the new park and big moving water is your thing, then perhaps you will be better suited to sitting down rather than standing up. Load up the whitewater kayaks—short, agile boats—and head down the Cascade Lakes Highway towards Meadow Picnic Area. There you can put in and enjoy a six mile stretch of river that runs back to town, with two miles of class 2 whitewater and four miles of continuous class 3 and 4 whitewater. It’s serious and takes some skill, but it’s a fun paddle that takes about an hour and a half to two hours to navigate.”

Photos: Stand up paddle boarding through the Old Mill District in Bend is a user-friendly waterway option. (See if you can spot JD Platt and his famous dog in this photo) – Bend Whitewater Park offers four distinct waves for surfing and kayaking.

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