Surfing the High Desert: Stand-up paddle surfing, human power in the Tumalo backcountry & more | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Surfing the High Desert: Stand-up paddle surfing, human power in the Tumalo backcountry & more 

SUP Stand-up paddle surfing

Stand up guys(SUP) is a relatively new sport making waves around the country and in Central Oregon. Stand-up paddlers make use of a long handled paddle standing on top of a longboard surfboard. The paddle is used to propel the surfer out past the surf break in the ocean and to catch waves. It can also be used like a rudder for steering once the surfer is on the wave. The sport has also taken off as a flat-water paddle sport. Stand-up surfers in Central Oregon can be found cruising the Deschutes or one of the mountain lakes. A small, core local group of paddlers has been quickly increasing in numbers. Last year, a group of 10-12 gathered on a weekly basis to paddle up and down the Deschutes after launching near Alder Creek. The group has now exploded to 45-50 folks that may show up for the Wednesday afternoon "sessions."

I met up with a bunch of SUP-ers a couple weeks ago to find out more about the sport and to learn why it's popularity is rising so quickly. A few of the initial core group were present including Peter Miller and Randall Barna and it is easy to see the passion glimmer in their eyes as they talk about their growing sport.

"Central Oregon is a great place for SUP-ing with amazing flat water. The sport has a fast learning curve, taking only about an hour to get your balance figured out," said Barna. "The real beauty of the sport is that you're positioned well above the water where the views allow for seeing into the water and all around."

Ron Thompson paddles with his dog Lucie on his board. Living on the river, he saw the group out several times last year, decided it looked like a fun activity and signed on. "It's a really good full-body workout," said Thompson. "That is why we're all incredibly ripped," joked fellow paddler Al Paterson.

Peter Miller loves the exercise on the Deschutes, but his real passion is in using this new sport to catch and ride the waves on the Oregon Coast. In late May, Miller participated in the Clean Water Classic surfing contest that had a stand-up paddle division, placing third. The sport is well routed in our community with Kialoa Paddles designing and manufacturing some of the finest SUP paddles in the country. Surfing legend Gerry Lopez is also shaping and manufacturing specialized SUP surfboards in town. According to Barna, "Gerry only does stand-up surfing anymore." To learn more about special events, places to go, and where to find the gear, go to

Tumalo Backcountry

Bend's surroundings are in short supply of backcountry skiing and snowshoeing locations far removed from snowmobile areas. A large part of the backcountry experience for many human-powered backcountry enthusiasts is a quiet, peaceful setting along with great face shots. Backcountry skiers and snowshoers are currently working with the Forest Service to secure a Backcountry Recreation Zone, encompassing all of Tumalo Mountain. As Bend grows, the numbers of backcountry enthusiasts also increases, as do the number of snowmobile users. The Forest Service has a proposal out to build a new snowmobile parking area at Kapka Butte at the intersection of Century Drive and the road to Sunriver (NF-41). This lot would result in a marked increase in snowmobile users in and around the Century Drive corridor surrounding Tumalo Mountain. Now is the time for Bend's backcountry community to speak up and be heard, letting the Forest Service know that designating new areas for non-motorized use will mitigate this snowmobile increase. To learn more about this, go to


Throughout my column the past several months, I have attempted to shed some light on why we love to recreate in the outdoors. Breathing fresh air, taking in glorious views of mountains and streams, smelling the blooming bitterbrush, listening to the songbirds as they return in the spring, and staying healthy and fit all add to the pleasures of outdoor sports. Another component I will add is friendship. Building, creating, and strengthening bonds of friendship are easily facilitated through the medium of outdoor recreation. The experience of climbing a mountain, paddling a river, or skiing fresh powder is so much more rewarding when combined with spending time alongside good friends that share the same passion. Many in the Bend sporting community, including me, are sad to see good friends and outdoor playmates Mike Powers and Carla Smith and their son Sameer move on to Spokane, Wash. You will be missed!

Editor's Note: Outdoor columnist Kevin Grove is taking the summer off to travel with his wife, Molly, before starting a new teaching job at COCC in the fall. This is his final column. Good luck Kevin, we're sure many great adventures lay ahead.

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