Tawna takes her first spin on a standup paddleboard.

For years, I’ve wanted to try standup paddleboarding.

When I learned Bend would be hosting a brand new World Paddle Association sanctioned paddleboard race on Saturday, June 18, that seemed like the perfect reason to get my butt out on the river.

Er, not that I’m planning to race. But I am planning to spend many hours fantasizing about crossing the finish line to claim a trophy, and I can’t do that if I’ve never even tried standup paddleboarding.

Because I have the coolest job on the planet, I got to have my first paddleboarding experience with the race directors for Bend’s two major standup paddle races. Chip Booth is the guy running the Bend Paddleboard Challenge – that’s the new WPA sanctioned event I mentioned earlier. Randall Barna runs the Race for the River, another WPA sanctioned event now in its second season and scheduled for August 13.

Both guys were fabulously funny and sweet and knowledgeable about the sport of standup paddleboarding. I couldn’t have asked for better teachers.

After they provided preliminary instruction to make sure I wasn’t likely to drown or stab myself to death with the paddle, we took off from Bend’s Riverbend Park headed upstream on the Deschutes. That’s actually the starting point for both races, so it was cool to get an insider’s view of the course.

I learned to balance and turn and maneuver effectively through sections of river with a bit more current. Even better, they let me try both a regular paddleboard and a racing one. Though the racing board is a bit tipsier, I somehow managed to avoid dunking myself in the river long enough to appreciate the fact that it goes really stinkin’ fast.

Chip Booth (left) stands in front of a paddleboard used for racing, while Randall Barna (right) stands in front of one designed for regular recreational use.

I was most impressed by the number of standup paddleboarders out on the river on a Wednesday afternoon. Bend is becoming a mecca for the sport, and as Chip and Randall pointed out, it’s impressive that two out of six WPA sanctioned races in the Pacific Northwest are being held in Bend.

Overall, I loved my first paddleboarding experience. I’ll definitely try it again, though I may save racing for another time.

For those of you with a bit more experience under your belts, you’ll definitely want to register soon for the Bend Paddleboard Challenge on June 18. Newer paddlers might be more interested in the two-mile short course, while the hardcore folks will likely gravitate toward the six-mile course. There will even be free demos for newbies like me. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Bend Parks and Rec’s Recreational Scholarship Fund and the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance’s efforts to raise money for the Colorado Dam Improvement Project.

If you’re curious about standup paddleboarding in general, check out Visit Bend’s page on standup paddleboarding. We offer plenty of info and links to the great outfitters in town who can get you set up with lessons and rentals.

Questions? Comments? A burning desire to give me a trophy even if I don’t participate in the race? I welcome all of the above!

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