ROANOKE COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Stand up paddle boards have come to the Roanoke River, and thanks to classed offered through Roanoke County Parks and Rec, and taught by Roanoke Mountain Adventures, more people are learning how to participate -- and they are doing it on the Roanoke River.
"It's just something to do for the summer. I'm actually with a couple of co-workers and we just thought it would be fun to learn how to paddle board," said 29-year old Tracey Wright of Vinton.
We joined the eight participants in the class for some dry-land training at the Explore Park Visitor Center, where James Revercomb, owner and operator of Roanoke Mountain Adventures, based in Roanoke's Wasena Park went over the basics of stand up paddle boarding -- also know as SUP.
"With a properly fitted paddle you're going to reach up and you want to be able to just put your palm over the top." he instructed the group.
Members of the class ranged in age from late teens to early 60's. All of them interested in the world's fastest growing water sport.
Harley Truman has spent many summers at Smith Mountain Lake. SUP looked like something different to try.
"I'm usually on the lake I'm on boats and stuff and it's kind of like surfing on and away and I've always want to go surfing so it seem like it would be really fun," said Truman.
Maurice King, 63, of Roanoke County was looking for a new outdoor activity with his preteen sons.
"I first saw stand up paddle boarding about five years ago and it's always intrigued me every time I see it and this is the first real opportunity I've had to try it," King explained.
It seems a bit unusual to see people essentially standing on the river – but within minutes all eight participants -- a sold out class -- were paddling away.
Revercomb wasn't surprised.
"As far as paddling, people can be up standing, paddling around and cruising in just a few minutes but as far as proper technique and being able to really get that board to do what you want to do -- go straight when you're paddling on one side (it takes) 3 to 4 times on the board for most people," he said.
Ths class is being taught on the Roanoke River as it adjoins Explore Park. The section is flat all the way to Smith Mountain Lake. Perfect for paddle boarding, and playing nicely into plans Roanoke County has to develop the park into a major recreational destination.
"The Roanoke River in the Roanoke River Gorge area here that fronting the Explore Park it's a tremendous asset to the park and the valley at large and we plan an increased role in the future," said Scott Ramsburg, a spokesman with the County.
Revercomb agreed saying that more advanced paddle boarders enjoy the challenges of rapids and moving water in general. He says the Roanoke river is perfect all through the Roanoke Valley.
"From where we are here, almost to Smith Mountain Lake all the way up through Roanoke through Vinton and Roanoke City and Roanoke County, in Salem the Roanoke River, is a great resource for our area will see more people use it.... I think we're kind of at the tip of the iceberg so to speak and I think we're going to see more and more people not only residents, but people coming from outside our region to use the Roanoke River believe it or not," he said.
The County is offering seven stand up paddle board classes this summer. All but one has sold out according to Ramsburg. For more information CLICK HERE.
Revercomb rents the equipment from his new outfitter's shop located in Roanoke's Wasena Park. For more information on Rentals, CLICK HERE.
It looks like the popularity of this sport is only going to grow, and because the boards can be used in very shallow water, it may open up our smaller local rivers to recreational opportunities we've never seen before.