Stand Up and Paddle

Stand-up paddle boarding isn’t as hard as it looks. You stand on a surfboard, but instead of waiting for a wave, you use a paddle and push yourself.

It’s like combining kayaking and windsurfing. Perfect for a lake, where waves aren’t guaranteed.

Getting Started
If you’re curious, talk to the folks at the Great Lakes Board Company. They offer lessons and rent boards at the Glencoe Beach with free parking on Hazel Road.

I went on a waveless, windless day and even though I’m not particularly athletic (yoga dropout, tennis dropout, hopeless at golf) I got up on my first try and didn’t fall in the water once. The board you use as a beginner is big and steady—think Elvis in “Blue Hawaii.” With waves, it would definitely be a more challenging, but after 20 minutes of paddling around the Glencoe beach, I was ready for a little more action.

Why Paddle?
You feel like a hot shot standing on a board. How many sports have that sexy, fun vibe? And, while you’re looking good in your sunglasses and suit, you get a serious workout. I was sweating and soon hoping to fall, just to get wet. And it’s not just for grown-ups, your kids will love it, too.

Dave, one of the instructors at Glencoe, had just given a lesson to a birthday party of 10- and 11-year-olds the day before I got there. Alyssa, my instructor, told me about a woman in her 70s who comes 2 or 3 times a week.

And according to Christy Coughlin (pictured above), owner of Real Running and a regular exercise and fitness columnist for, the advantages of paddle boarding start with your core, but can also include getting a good cardio workout.

“When you first begin, you’re learning the technique, but as you get better and go faster for longer, it can be a great workout,” she says. Coughlin borrows a friend’s board and paddles off of Gillson beach.

Experience the Water
While I was learning at Glencoe, two other women were also out on the water for the first time.

“Our kids are finally done with travel baseball,” says Donna Mitzos of Tinley Park. “We’ve been having all kinds of adventures this summer.” She had seen people paddle boarding and thought that they looked like they were walking on water, so she wanted to try it.

Diane Wolf of Oak Forest thought it was relaxing and fun. She was standing, sitting and sunning on her board. “Only thing that would be better would be if they added a cooler and a pillow,” she says.

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