Boulder isn’t just the stomping ground of world-class cyclists, runners, and triathletes. Boulder likewise strives to be at the forefront of new and exciting, adventurous outdoor recreation. To name just a few such undertakings, Boulderites trail run, they scale rocks, they scale cliffs, they dive, they cross country ski, they ski jump, they snowboard, and much more, always pushing their physical limits and the creativity of recreation. It’s not a question of what sports Boulderites can do and excel at, it’s a question of what they can’t do, and the answer is, well, nothing.
It’s no surprise, then, that Boulderites have taken to the water and gotten on board with Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP), a sport that has grown immensely in popularity in recent years. An activity that blends a challenging full-body, physical workout (great for cross-training!) with relaxing moments of zen gazing at the mountains while floating along the water, SUP embodies the blend of the work hard and play hard mentality that epitomizes Boulder.
Stand up paddle boarding is an ancient activity practiced by countries and cultures around the world for thousands of years as a practical means of transportation and fishing. Participating in SUP purely for fun, however, has Polynesian roots, specifically in Hawai’i. The Hawaiians would not just cruise on their paddle boards past the breakers taking in the sights, but would surf the waves on their boards as well, enjoying SUP and all its benefits along their bountiful coastlines.
What Boulder may lack in oceanic coastline it makes up for in tucked away lakes and reservoirs that give you the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of aquatic recreation while also taking in the mountainous scenery from a new perspective. Here are some great places to try out, practice, and enjoy SUP in and around Boulder County.
A staple Boulder getaway for outdoor recreation, the ever-popular Boulder Reservoir has a long history of being a wonderful place to both relax and get in on the fun of aquatic activities. With multiple SUP rental options that sell out quickly on the weekends (so chug that coffee and get out on the water early!) this is a great spot to get comfortable on your paddle board in the shallows and no-wake zones or challenge yourself and test your strength by cruising around the reservoir.
Just east of Longmont, Union Reservoir likewise offers SUP rentals and gorgeous views to complement your SUP outing. A natural lake (a rarity in Colorado!) carved by a glacier, Union Reservoir is a great spot to SUP and then picnic after you’ve gotten your workout in.
Also in Longmont, McIntosh Lake is a wonderful spot for beginner SUP adventurers, as it’s a non-motorized lake, meaning you won’t have to worry about any big wakes. With beautiful parks and open space all around it, gorgeous views of Longs Peak, and lots of bird life to view, this is a great place to go on one of your earlier SUP excursions.
In the mountains just southwest of Boulder is Gross Reservoir, and it is infinitely more appealing than its name suggests. Nestled in the hills with an idyllic mountain setting, Gross Reservoir can be a bit more challenging of a SUP experience, as it’s an alpine lake and can play host to sudden weather and water condition changes. If you do venture here, though, you will be treated to a SUP experience that will more than satisfy both your aquatic and mountainous wishes.
About 30 miles west of Boulder, Brainard Lake is another alpine lake and a wonderful spot to camp as well as SUP. Make camping reservations early so you can wake up and guarantee yourself a quiet, relaxing SUP session in a gorgeous natural setting.
For those who want to try out SUP or are beginners looking to improve their strength and skills on the board, Rocky Mountain Paddleboard and the Boulder Outdoor Center offer lessons to teach proper form and get you comfortable on your board and on the water. If you haven’t yet committed to purchasing a board of your own, rentals can also be found at Rocky Mountain Paddleboard and Colorado Water Sport here in town.
If you’re already an experienced SUP master and, in typical Boulder fashion, are looking to challenge yourself even more, try SUP yoga! Check out SUP yoga classes at Rocky Mountain Paddleboard for a true test of your balance and to further enhance your SUP experience and expertise.
Information and resources for SUP including safety, etiquette, weather guidance, local events, and more, is readily available at a number of websites, including Longmont SUP, Rocky Mountain Paddleboard, and the Boulder Outdoor Center.
Be safe out there, Boulder, and enjoy this awesome new sport to add to your arsenal of summer activities!