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Live Life - Paddle Hard - SUP in Tampa Bay

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On: Fri, Jun 8, 2012 at 10:37AM | By: Sara Decker


Humorously described as ‘the love child of surfing and kayaking,’ stand up paddling, stand up paddleboarding, or SUP for short, is one of the world’s fastest growing water sports. In and around the Tampa Bay area, paddlers can be seen on nearly any beach, river, or body of water. 

On Sunday mornings, before pleasure boaters appear but after the fishermen have dropped in their first lines, the Sunset Beach Sunday Morning Stand Up Paddling (SUP) enthusiasts form a weekly “Meet-Up” flotilla. They range in abilities and ages from novices to race winners; retirees to 20-somethings. All share a passion for one of the country’s fastest growing watersports and an eagerness to begin this morning’s adventure – a group paddle to Fred Howard Park and back.

The concept of and equipment for SUP are easy enough to understand. Get on a board, stand up, dip the paddle in the water, and go! No motor, no rigging, no maintenance. Expertise is acquired with practice and targeted instruction, but even a novice with a few pointers and tips can be off and paddling in minutes. The boards are wider and more forgiving than surfboards, and nearly as much fun.

SUP can be a full body workout, a floating Zen-like experience – some SUP fans do yoga on their boards - or a bonding opportunity with a water-loving canine, depending on the objectives of the individual paddler. It is no wonder why people of all ages, abilities and outlooks can enjoy this inexpensive adventure.

Frank and Sharon Dillenburg are outstanding instructors for both the novice looking to get started and the experienced paddler looking to improve his or her technique. The Dillenburgs are SUP instructors certified by the World Paddle Association – an exclusive group of under 100. In addition to being clearly passionate about the sport, they make everyone feel welcome. Frank and Sharon teach, coach, cajole, tease, motivate, and hydrate the group. Unlike shops that “rent and sell boards” these instructors focus on safety and proper technique while still keeping outings fun and challenging. Safety means using the board leash, PFD, and staying hydrated. As Sharon reminds anyone out on the water, ‘if you’re thirsty – it’s too late.’ Technique, at the very least, means keeping your top arm straight, eyes forward, paddle at the correct angle, and knees bent! This is easier said than done at first, but soon becomes second nature.

Their Stand Up Paddle Life (“Live Life…Paddle Hard”) shop, located a 1688 Alt. 19 in Palm Harbor, hosts technique classes and is an outstanding place to learn more. Unlike shops that focus is on retail board sales, Frank and Sharon’s mantra is “Try it before you buy it.” Experience has taught them too many SUP enthusiasts have purchased on a whim, based a decision on the board's "looks", or purchased the wrong board for their weight, height, type of water they prefer paddling in, and a host of other variables. Impulse board purchases are strongly advised against.

As boards range from $800-2000 and up, it’s an investment that should be right for the individual paddler. Frank knows how a bad board investment feels – when he began paddling his first board was VERY wrong for him, and $1100 later he had a nice shop decoration, not a great board!

In addition to hosting meet ups, technique classes, and operating the shop in Palm Harbor, Frank and Sharon enjoy “bringing the boards to you.” Groups of six or more people can contact them to schedule a group outing, team building activity, or family adventure at your choice of location in the Greater Tampa Bay

This Saturday, June 9th, Frank and Sharon will be participating in the “Out of School Bash” on Sunset Beach. and are looking forward to introducing a new group of water sports enthusiasts to SUP. They place a great emphasis on community involvement, and are also active volunteers with in theSpecial OlympicsandPaddle Addictiongroups. If you are in the area, they look forward to meeting you.

As the Sunday Sunset Beach group begins to pack up after a great morning of paddling, they are treated to visit from a playful and curious dolphin. In addition to the great workout, and the fun of being out on the water, SUP gives enthusiasts a unique view of the Tampa Bay area wildlife – dolphins, manatees, pelicans, flying fish and all the others. This, perhaps is the added SUP bonus!

For those interested in pursuing this fun activity, one option is to get in touch with Frank and Sharon Dillenburg and the various meet-up groups they coordinate. Boards, leashes, PFDs, and water are provided for a very reasonable rental fee.

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