As the weather has gradually warmed this spring, colorful kayaks and canoes have begun to glide across the inlets and rivers along the edge of James City County.
As time has gone on, a new type of water sport has also slowly become popular along county’s waterways: Paddleboarding.
Both James City County and private businesses rent paddleboards — similar to a surfboard, but users stand up and use a kayak-like paddle to move — out for recreational use, and both have seen an increase in interest over recent years.
“The beach is what people think of when they think of paddleboarding,” said Lori Erwin, owner of Paddle On of Williamsburg. “I think I’m getting it out there that, no you don’t have to go to the beach; you have it right in your backyard.”
Erwin’s outdoor paddleboard classes started Sunday.
Alister Perkinson, James City County Parks administrator, said the county has seen a slight increase in paddleboard rentals since it first started renting them in 2015 at the James City County Marina.
In 2016 and 2017, rentals averaged about 12 per week. Last year, they were up to about 15 each week, Perkinson said.
“People enjoy them because it is a different experience and perspective than a canoe or kayak, and has many exercise benefits,” Perkinson wrote in an email.
New and old
Erwin started her Williamsburg-based paddleboard business in 2016, but said paddleboarding is by no means a “new” activity.
Stand-up paddling traces back thousands of years, to ancient cultures in Africa and South America, according to Sup World Mag, which claims itself as the “international stand up paddling magazine.”
Modern-day paddleboarding can be traced to Hawaii, according to the magazine.
Erwin decided to open her business after visiting a friend in New Jersey in 2012. That friend owned a paddleboard, and Erwin was quickly hooked.
“I grew up at the beach in New Jersey and I was around water sports a lot,” Erwin said. “But paddleboarding was not there when I was growing up.”
When she returned home to Williamsburg, Erwin rented a board from the marina.
“People were just like ‘what is that?’” Erwin said. “So I left the beach going ‘this is what I’m going to do.’”
Since first opening in 2016 and getting certifications for teaching paddleboard lessons and yoga, Erwin has expanded her business significantly.
At first, she only offered about four classes, which she taught by herself. Now, she offers nearly a dozen — including paddle fit bootcamp, paddle yoga, social paddle, full moon paddle and more — and has three instructors.
In the winter, Erwin hosts indoor paddle classes at the local YMCA and the Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex.
Erwin has found her lessons are the most popular of her classes and events. During those lessons, paddleboarders will learn how to handle currents and tides and properly balance on the board.
“I want you to come off the water wanting more,” she said.
Renting and classes
Paddleboards can be rented from the James City County Marina in hourly increments, a 4-hour half-day or a full day, Perkinson said.
They can be rented from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and must be returned by 6 p.m.
More information can be found on the James City County website.