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Image: Doug Burke

As the sun slowly sinks over the Jordanelle Reservoir, people walk on the water—or so it seems from afar. More than a dozen are here this week for the Tuesday-night SUPper Club, a casual get-together with a focus on food (potluck style) and, more important, stand-up paddleboarding. “I bring a board for myself and a few more to share,” says Trent Hickman, owner of Park City SUP (1375 Deer Valley Dr, 801.558.9878, parkcitysup.com) and the man who set sail on the idea for SUPper Club several years ago. “The thing about the SUP community is that there’s a lot of aloha and good vibes. I can’t think of another sport that’s like this, and I truly hope that it stays intact as the sport grows.”

With sales increasing by 400 percent annually, by some estimates stand-up paddleboarding is the fastest-growing sport in America, Hickman says. The current trend began some five decades ago along the coasts of the Hawaiian Islands, where on low-wave days surfers would stand on their boards and paddle to stay in shape. But in inland America, the sport really only started gaining traction—er, flotation—in the past decade.

Utah is no exception. During summer months, paddlers swarm bodies of water on both sides of the Wasatch Mountains, including Midway Reservoir, Pineview Reservoir, the Great Salt Lake, and the aforementioned Jordanelle Reservoir, plus the dozens of lakes found throughout the Uinta Mountains. 

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Image: Doug Burke

SUP fever has also hit the ponds behind the Deer Valley Grocery Café, Park City SUP headquarters for the past four summers. There, Hickman maintains a rental fleet of more than 30 boards, catering to SUPers of varying sizes and capabilities. (The sport is physically challenging, so most people begin with an hour rental.) Park City SUP also operates year-round at the Park City Aquatic Center (2465 Kilby Rd), offering indoor SUP lessons as well as SUP yoga and fitness classes.

“Learning to paddleboard is a breeze,” Hickman notes. “If you can walk up to grab a board, then you’ll have no problem getting out on the water,” he says. That said, SUP is a killer workout. “The instability of the board will work your core like never before,” Hickman promises.

Back at the SUPper Club, the air is warm, and the afternoon winds have died down. The water is mostly flat with just a little chop to add to the challenge of balancing. Smiles and banter abound. What’s more, the view from atop the board is incredible: the Deer Valley Resort’s lush, green slopes and the mighty Mount Timpanogos.

“There are so many draws to this sport,” Hickman affirms with a smile, “whether you’re an adrenaline junkie cruising down rapids on a river, a little kid experiencing flat water for the first time, or a mom enjoying yoga out there. I think that’s really, really cool.”

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