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Your guide to stand-up paddleboarding in NoVA

Steve Gurney, founder of Surf Reston, shares how to start and where to find local, unique experiences on your board.

Photo courtesy of Surf Reston

“It’s on a surfboard, how could it not be cool?”

Steve Gurney, founder of Surf Reston, a stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) company that hosts weekly paddling sessions on Lake Anne, gets excited when he talks about the water sport’s presence in NoVA.

“I think, personally, one of the coolest things that we hear is that when we take someone who has lived in Reston their entire life out on the water, and they’ve never seen it from that perspective,” Gurney says. “Your vision is radically different and you can see so much more. You turn around [on Lake Anne] and look back, and [the view] is just something that everyone should take the opportunity to enjoy.”

SUP started taking off in popularity several years ago and the Northern Virginia region was not left behind. Now, paddlers can take an on-board tour past the monuments of DC on the Potomac River, enjoy a full moon during a late-night paddle on Pohick Bay or take a peaceful trip downstream on the Occoquan River.

According to Forbes, despite the occasional wait to rent a paddleboard at a local spot, the sport is seeing resurgence thanks to new technology: inflatable boards.

“Surf Reston is nothing but inflatable paddle boards, which can be deflated and taken anywhere (even in your luggage),” Gurney says. “When compared to a canoe or kayak, it’s a breeze carrying your paddleboard over a distance. It’s super convenient.”

Everyone should feel welcome to try SUP, says Gurney—even if you’re a wobbly beginner.

“SUP is relatively easy,” Gurney says. “A lot of times, people are intimidated because they think they have to stand up, but they can sit or kneel, and you can have a blast without standing up at all. When starting out, we actually encourage everyone to paddle on their knees and sit down before they even stand up.”

Photo courtesy of Surf Reston

It’s important to get acclimated with the board and your placement on it (as well as the efficiency of your paddling), says Gurney, but safety also has to be a priority.

“Safety in our area is a very important issue, especially if you’re on the Potomac River,” Gurney says. “The life jacket is a must, and one of the best safety items to also have is a leash that attaches either to your ankle or your waist, and that way you have a connection to your board.”

He continues, “From there, it’s great to make your first experience with one of the providers in the area, or with a friend who has learned how to paddle, that way you can learn how to do it right the first time.”

As for the best place to try paddleboarding in NoVA?

“In our area, there are plenty of different places in different waters. There are lakes, such as Lake Anne, that are calm nice and peaceful, and the Potomac River, which goes from slight movement to rushing rapids,” he says. “And for folks who have their own boards, you can even take it to the beach. There’s lots of variety.”

Here are a few great events to get yourself on a SUP, learn the ropes and put your skills to the test.

SUP Monument Tour
Sunday, Aug. 18, 6:30 p.m.
So you’ve already seen the iconic Washington monuments … but have you gotten the chance to view them from the water, on a SUP? Probably not. Don’t take the remaining warm nights for granted, and schedule in 90 minutes to view Theodore Roosevelt Island all the way up to the Watergate steps, all while paddling yourself. // Boating in DC, Key Bridge Boathouse: 3500 Water St. NW, Washington, DC; $45

Sunset Paddle Tour
Saturday, Aug. 24, 6:30-9 p.m.
Looking for a new place to catch one of Northern Virginia’s exceptional sunsets? Head out on the Occoquan River to sit back and enjoy the view from your board. // Occoquan Regional Park: 9751 Ox Road, Lorton; $30

Lake Anne SUP Triathlon
Sunday, Sept. 15, all day
The first of its kind, according to Surf Reston founder Steve Gurney. The event consists of a 1-mile paddleboard route (instead of the typical swimming route for a triathlon), a 7-mile stationary bike ride and a group 5K run. Participants get a Tri Finishers medal and a drink of their choice at Lake Anne Brew House. // Lake Anne Brew House: 11424 Washington Plaza W., Reston; $110 per individual, $180 three-person relay

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